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Northern Ireland hauliers facing dangers as protesters bring Calais to a standstill

By Rachel Martin

Published 06/09/2016

French farmers block roads
French farmers block roads

Northern Ireland hauliers are risking assault, fines and prosecution transporting goods to central Europe.

One terrifying incident saw migrants ambush a Northern Ireland driver's lorry as he made his way back to the UK from Calais.

And this week protests calling for the demolition of northern parts of the so-called 'Jungle' camp, brought the area to a standstill, blocking the main route into the French port.

Seamus Leheny, head of policy for Northern Ireland at the Freight Transport Association, said several local hauliers were stuck at the port.

"The Eurotunnel hasn't had an incident in several months, so with that route effectively stopped, migrants are becoming more and more desperate to get on to lorries," he said.

"Because security is now so high within the dock, the only way for them to get in is on a lorry. Guys will climb up on top of the trailer with Stanley knives and cut into the material.

"If lorry drivers are found to have a migrant on board they are charged with people trafficking and the fines are into the thousands - there's very much an attitude that you're guilty until proven otherwise."

The attack on the Northern Ireland driver's lorry - which happened around three weeks ago - saw several men block the road and force their way on to the lorry, ripping the tarpaulin.

The incident caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the white goods carried and left the driver shaken.

Blair International managing director Colin Taylor said it was not yet known if insurance would cover the cost and added that his staff were frequently repairing damage to the sides of the lorries.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he that said his firm could have up to 15 drivers in Europe at any one time. At the time of print, the company had five drivers waiting to board ferries at Dover and six in France.

Mr Taylor said: "It's terrifying for the drivers. Some of them are afraid to go over now. They'll block the road and come running out from the sides of the road, bashing the sides of the lorry or hitting the windows of the cab with branches."

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