Following a night of violence which saw a truck driver threatened with a chainsaw, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is backing a Home Affairs Select Committee report calling on the Government to maintain juxtaposed border controls at Calais to protect the UK against terrorism and criminal gangs.
The Migration Crisis report – the result of a year-long enquiry by the committee – covers humanitarian and security issues including the Jungle Camp in Calais and the Le Touquet agreement which allows UK border controls to operate on French soil. The report says maintaining the agreement “must be a priority for the UK Government” because post-Brexit calls for it to end would be counterproductive and not in the interest of France or the UK.
FTA agrees that moving the controls to Dover would create major disruption on Channel crossings as infrastructure on the UK side is not scaled up to handle 100 per cent checks on vehicles entering the country. These checks are vital as lorry drivers are often threatened as they approach the French port and migrants slash curtain sides and prise open doors to stow away on their vehicles in an attempt to reach the UK.
Chris Yarsley, FTA’s EU Affairs Manager, said: “FTA recognises the pressures on governments on both sides of the channel in terms of domestic security. However, the juxtaposed border controls and security investments must continue to help guarantee the security of UK-bound drivers and vehicles who simply wish to perform their job and continue to deliver the UK economy.
“A lot of bilateral cooperation and investment has already taken place – it would be against both nations’ interests to remove what is already in place and functioning. Improving what is there is the key – not taking it away.”
FTA says changing the current arrangement would cause major congestion in Dover port and lead to Operation Stack being recreated at sea with ferries instead of HGVs. The UK and French governments have developed strong links and FTA is urging them to continue working together unchanged.
The Migration Crisis report also highlights the need for proper processing of migrants at the Jungle Camp to identify genuine refugees and reunite unaccompanied children with family members in the UK – something FTA has been calling for since the problem escalated last summer.
FTA has participated in workshops in Brussels to assist the European Commission in its work to produce guidance for commercial drivers to help prevent people smuggling. It is hoped that this will come to fruition next year. FTA has fed into this process its knowledge and experience of the Calais crossing and also its knowledge of the Codes of Practice issued by Border Force.
Mr Yarsley said: “FTA welcomes the continued investments in security around both the Port of Calais and the Eurotunnel facility. The Association understands the extreme pressure the French government is under at the moment but would ask them to continue to deploy police and gendarmes to ensure the safe passage of drivers and their vehicles in the coastal area.”