Trucks bound for the UK continue to run the gauntlet of migrants desperate to reach the UK from European west coast ports and Belgium, writes Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association, in the latest issue of Freight Industry Times.
Burnett said migrants are becoming increasingly bold in their attacks on UK-bound drivers. "They operate in gangs, many armed with weapons such as knives and many attempting the crossings are at the mercy of people smugglers to whom they have paid vast sums of money.
"Despite this, not enough is being done to protect HGV drivers," said Burnett. "The French authorities have tightened security in Calais and tougher measures are having some success in deterring people-traffickers and migrants from using the port. But this has come with the unintended consequence of displacing the problem elsewhere – in particular to the Normandy port of Ouistreham (Caen), 200 miles west of Calais.
"We’re now hearing from an increasing number of members that Caen is fast becoming a migrant hotspot due in no small part to the fact that security there is not as tight as in Calais, but the stories are just as familiar.
"Migrants wait in ditches for UK-bound lorries and run out in front of them hoping that if they get the lorry to stop they can break into the trailer. Some migrants will throw rocks at the lorries or put obstacles in the road – anything to force a driver to stop. And it’s becoming so bad in Caen that some hauliers have stopped using the port, fearing for their drivers’ safety and worried about damage to their trucks.
"In the past their actions were for the most part limited to the hours of darkness. But now their level of desperation has increased to the point where they can be spotted looking for easy truck targets in broad daylight.
"We recommend that no driver should stop within 150 miles of their intended port of departure but even that doesn’t guarantee them a safe passage. The last 30 or so miles of the port approach roads can be the most dangerous of all.
"This problem isn’t confined to the Normandy coast," continued Burnett. "A member recently reported that 16 migrants were found in the back of a trailer in Brussels. In another incident in Dunkirk a driver was slashed when he confronted two migrants he caught breaking into his trailer. We’ve even heard that truckers are banned from stopping overnight at a truck stop in eastern Belgium.
"The RHA has always argued that the authorities across the Channel must take responsibility and protect drivers who have a right to do their job safely, moving goods to the UK. We constantly hear of the human rights issues surrounding those who want to escape their particular country of origin. But are UK-bound truckers not subject to the simple human right of being able to do their job safely without fear of attack?
"Calais has been a mess for years and now we’re seeing the situation in European west coast ports. There’s no question that the dangers are significant, so we believe the French government should deploy its military to bolster local police who are doing what they can with the limited resources they have.
“This is the fourth summer of discontent for UK-bound hauliers. The authorities on both sides of the Channel must work harder to ensure that 2019 is not another repeat."
Posted on: July 18th 2018