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Chaos in Calais as clandestines attack queuing trucks

Sep 01, 2015
On 1 July Matt De Machen, Managing Director of Matthew James Removals phoned The Mover from the cab of his road train. He was sitting in a 13 km queue on the approach to the Channel tunnel; he’d been there all day in the sweltering 35 degree heat. Hundreds of illegal immigrants – mostly of African appearance – were making the most of a strike that had closed the sea port at Calais and overwhelmed the French authorities’ efforts to maintain some kind of order. “There are people all around the truck trying to get on board,” said Matt. “It’s absolute chaos and no one is doing anything about it.  Some of them are carrying crowbars and breaking the locks off trucks to get inside, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I’ve got six of my trucks over here and I’ve no idea when we’ll get home,” Matt continued. “There is no information, no food, no water, no toilets – nothing! I reckon there must be at least 3500 trucks queuing on the motorway trying to reach the tunnel.”

The previous day, French strikers angry at the threat of job losses following the sale of MyFerryLink to DFDS, had set fire to tyres dragged onto the Eurotunnel track, stopping trains mid-tunnel and causing delays and distress to stranded passengers. Ferry sailings from the Port of Calais were suspended for several days following the industrial action by strikers.

The chaotic scenes in July are a graphic example of the lawlessness that has become the norm at the main crossing point between the Continent and the UK and of the unacceptable risks drivers now have to take just to do their job. As if this weren’t enough, drivers and their employers are being blamed by the British government if any so-called clandestines manage to stowaway in their vehicles, and are hit arbitrarily with potentially ruinous fines.  In 2014, fines totalling over four million pounds were imposed on drivers found to be carrying illegal immigrants.

The French, purely because of their proximity to what the clandestines misguidedly see as the Promised Land, have been saddled with the task of controlling a never-ending stream of desperate people hoping to find a better life in the UK. So far they have failed, and the situation has become much worse following the recent conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East.

There is no easy answer to the problems caused by illegal immigrants and the militant strikers selfishly adding to the misery of drivers passing through Calais, but it is the responsibility of governments to seek a solution and protect working people who are simply trying to earn a living.

Photo: Top: Illegal immigrants approach Matt's truck. Centre: Matt estimated there were as many as 3,500 trucks waiting to get into the tunnel. Bottom: Illegal immigrants roam freely among the queueing trucks.

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