The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says urgent action is needed after a driver described how hundreds of migrants were marched from trucks in Calais and lorry roofs were slashed to shreds as stowaways tried to escape from queuing vehicles.
Tony Henderson said his own truck’s lock and seal were carefully removed and replaced so 10 migrants could be hidden inside – at a secure lorry area 70 miles from Calais. He only realised when police at the port spotted they had been tampered with.
Tony, who works for FTA member Blair Transport based in Belfast, said: “This was organised people smuggling – they knew what they were doing. The lock had been carefully cut behind the seal so it wasn’t visible and the lock and seal were then replaced.
“At Calais I saw at least 200 migrants taken from trucks in three hours – it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it was just mayhem. They were being marched out in blocks. The French police were doing a great job, and were working flat out. But where does it all stop?”
Tony parked his refrigerated truck at a 24-hour péage in Arras and checked the lock and seal were intact on his return. But when he reached Calais, police pulled him over and 10 Iranian men were found inside.
Chris Yarsley’s, FTA’s EU Affairs Manager, said: “How can it be acceptable for our members to work in such extreme conditions on a daily basis? No other industry would be expected to put up with these kind of situations on a daily basis.
“Drivers are putting themselves at risk just trying to do their job and deliver the goods. As well as threats to their personal safety, they face fines of up to £2,000 per migrant found in their trucks.
“Calais handles 17% of all the UK’s imports and exports – it’s a vitally important trade route – and this can’t be allowed to continue. Governments need to work together to tackle the problem at ground level. Genuine asylum seekers should be properly processed and economic migrants repatriated to combat the growing trade in people trafficking.”
FTA has called for the Jungle Camp in Calais to be moved away from the port and has been working with Border Force and the Government to improve safety and security for its international members. Hauliers are encouraged to sign up to Border Force’s Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme, which offers protection if stowaways are discovered on board their trucks.