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Hauliers 'threatened' at Calais


A general view of the migrant camp near Calais, France, known as the 'Jungle'.

A general view of the migrant camp near Calais, France, known as the 'Jungle'.

A general view of the migrant camp near Calais, France, known as the 'Jungle'.

British lorry drivers are facing daily threats of violence, intimidation and fears of being fined if migrants clamber aboard their trucks, amid a "catastrophic" situation in Calais, it has been claimed.

Some truckers are taking long detours to cross the Channel to avoid the northern French port town altogether, hauliers have said.

British lorry driver Tommy Harrison said the migrant issue in Calais reached crisis point two years ago, but he has noticed a recent escalation.

He said: "Drivers are being stabbed. I had a friend who suffered a cracked rib and broken eye socket as a result of being attacked.

"The problem is, if migrants are in the back, you can't really do anything. You've got two choices - get them out on your own, and there could be 30 of them, or take them to the border and let the police deal with them.

"But then drivers could face a fine of about £2,900 per person for having migrants in their vehicles. You can't win. You either face violence or face losing your home."

Mr Harrison spoke of an escalation in the violence used by migrants and bolder tactics in their attempts to stow away in vehicles. He said: "Before, they would be timid. You'd say: 'Get out,' and they would.

"But now they are trying to board trucks during the day and are kicking off. It's quite intimidating, particularly when you're faced with 10 to 15 of them.

"On Monday, they created their own roadblock, so truckers had to stop, then suddenly they found themselves surrounded by 150 migrants."

For many British hauliers, who are older and saddled with mortgages and families to look after, they feel they have no choice but to carry on despite the risks, he said.

"I'm young enough that I could switch jobs if I wanted," Mr Harrison said. "But for most who are from the older generation, with mortgages and families, they can't afford to change."

The Fresh Produce Consortium estimates that some £10 million of fresh fruit and vegetables have been thrown away since the start of the year as a result of the problems.

Its chief executive Nigel Jenney said: "The key point is not whether the figure is eight or 12 million, my concern is that 12 months ago such occurrences were rare, six months ago they were rising and now it's happening regularly."

He said the consortium - which has around 700 business members - has taken steps, including drafting guidance and meeting ministers, but more needs to be done.

"That's all great but we need urgent and fast action because the current situation is not sustainable," he said. "I don't think it's about apportioning blame, but about apportioning responsibility to tackling the situation."

European home affairs ministers met in Luxembourg this week to try to hammer out a joint strategy for dealing with the flow of people crossing the Mediterranean, with many ending up camped in Calais.

Save The Children has urged the Government to take in a "fair share" of youngsters who make the crossing to Europe and increase the number of families fleeing Syria that are offered sanctuary in the UK.

The charity said that more than 5,000 children, many of them travelling without their parents, were among the 54,000 people who have landed in Italy so far this year.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has written to Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart calling for her to support in lobbying the French and British governments and the EU Commission.

And Port of Dover officials have called for hauliers to be protected, with its chief executive Tim Waggott saying they were "vital to keeping the UK and Europe moving".

Trade on the routes from Dover to French ports has grown by 20% in the past two years, and Mr Waggott said this sign of economic recovery must not be jeopardised.

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