Conference identifies impact of migrant actions on cross-border trade

During the recent two day Pan-European Freight Security and the Migrant Crisis conference, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire MP, expressed his concern over the safety of freight drivers when faced with migrants trying to enter vehicles bound for the UK – Charlotte Dawson reports.

During his speech, The Home Office minister also outlined the UK government’s action and talked about what he thought was most concerning, whereby drivers who were in traffic, had stopped to fill up with petrol or to rest, were then being attacked and harassed by migrants in order to get a ride through the border.

“The message I got was the need for secure ports in which traffic can flow,” stated Mr Brokenshire.

The well-attended event, held at the Park Plaza in London on 27-28 April, was chaired by Tim Standen, commercial director at DB Schenker.  Delegates also heard from a wide range of keynote speakers.

Christopher Chope MP, broadened the road freight discussion by mentioning that all vehicles should be checked at point of entry into UK, Germany, France and Sweden, as these are the most popular destinations for migrants, as well as cities such as London.  The MP for Christchurch further estimated that there could be a total of around one million people living illegally in the UK alone.

James Hookham, deputy chief executive, Freight Transport Association, continued the road freight by informing the audience that drivers and their operators can be fined £2,000 per migrant found in their vehicle in the UK, and will be penalised.

Mr Hookham also showed some migrant-related statistics, such as the value of trade through the Port of Calais is £90 billion a year, the number of truck crossings in Calais each year is 250,000.

Gilles Debove, deputy secretary general, SGP Police Unit Force, initiated the Calais police strategy on mitigating disruption to ports, terminals and cross border freight services, by showing a chart informing the audience that during 2015, migrant population skyrocketed in Calais from 2,000 to 6,000.

Besides utilising shocking graphs and diagrams that showed a ratio of 0.06 police officers specialised in border control per migrant in December 2015, Mr Debove also said in 2015, the number of migrants found smuggled in heavyweight trucks into Calais was 55,000, whereas in 2012, it was just 8,500.

The alarming increase has been brought about because migrants are storming trucks on the East bypass of Calais, during traffic on the A16 motorway Tunnel access.  “The number of migrants is massively increasing as the migrants lack the means to pay the smugglers,” said Mr Debove.

Kevin Hurley, Police and Crime Commissioner, Surrey, spoke about the law enforcement side of things, he started off by saying that if you are a returning jihadi, and you come through the boards with the immigrants and say that you’re from Syria and don’t speak English, if the police don’t have your fingerprints on record from previous offences, there is nothing they can do in terms of sending them back to their original country.

“This is not anti-immigration, we got wealthy from the ones that arrived here legally, but we must know who is here,” he reiterated

Franck-Eduoard Tiberghien, head of business development, Port de Calais, talked about the European ports security, spoke about how difficult it is to tell if a vehicle is carrying migrants, as it is against the law to X-Ray vehicles for purposes other than to find drugs or weapons, in case there are people inside as that would be an invasion of their privacy.

He also mentioned that you’re not allowed to check the back of a vehicle unless you have actually seen someone close by or go into the back of the vehicle.

Besides hearing  more expert views from other speakers, the audience was left in no doubt of the impact of migrant action from short and long term and that continuing action was needed to address the issue – both short and long-term.