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Calais – lives, livelihoods and the UK economy at risk warns RHA

Road Haulage Association

3 min read Partner content

One year on and the migrant crisis at Calais has escalated to unprecedented levels of violence and intimidation to the point where the safety of UK-bound drivers and the UK economy is at grave risk. That’s the stark warning from the Road Haulage Association.


“This is a totally unacceptable situation,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett. “In July last year we called for the deployment of the French military to assist the authorities in their efforts to secure the Port area but now the latest reports from Calais claim that the Police just can’t cope. Despite the partial dismantling of the camp earlier this year, current estimates claim that the number of migrants in the area has doubled in the past 12 months to 9,000.

“These people have travelled vast distances, from mainland Europe and much further afield. But regardless of their country of origin, they all have the same goal – to reach the UK by whatever means possible. And in the vast majority of cases, that means on the back of a truck. Such is their desperation to reach our shores that many fall victim to unscrupulous people-smugglers, and pay them vast sums of money for what they are told will be a ‘guaranteed’ passage across the Channel. They are told that as a result of the UK’s Brexit decision, now is the time to make the crossing. If they wait, the crossing will become impossible. The people-smugglers have no interest in the safety or welfare of those who pay for their services – they are just in it for the money.

“We have seen other serious changes in the past twelve months,” Richard Burnett continued. “When I visited Calais, most migrant action was confined to the hours of darkness. But drivers now face attacks 24/7. We are seeing migrants, in broad daylight, setting fire to trees in the middle of the road, using the flames as protection as they throw missiles – rocks, bricks, even petrol bombs – at innocent drivers. Drivers who are just trying to do their job.

One RHA member, an owner driver from Essex has told the Association that he and his family are desperate for him to stop using the Calais route home but, as he said, ‘I can’t afford not to do it. I have a family to feed.’

“The time for talking has run out,” Richard Burnett continued. “If the situation reached the stage where the police and other security personnel can’t cope, surely the obvious, short-term solution must be the deployment of the French military to secure the Port area. Thousands of HGV drivers use the Calais crossing each day. How much longer can lives and livelihoods be put at such risk? HGV drivers, especially those using this particular route home, appear to be forgotten. But they’re not just drivers; they’re mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. They are absolute heroes.

“What other occupation includes running the risk of being threatened with a chainsaw, having a chain tied around your neck, or worse, by increasingly violent migrant hordes? It has now reached the unacceptable stage where these drivers are, quite literally risking their lives each time they approach the Port on the last leg home.

“We are calling on the major Dover/Calais route stakeholders to stand together and demand urgent action to address what has become an untenable situation for all Port users; HGV drivers and motorists. The lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Calais are now also at extreme risk.”

In conclusion, Richard Burnett said: “First and foremost, lives are in danger. But, as more and more drivers refuse to make this journey because of personal safety risks, the movement of freight from mainland Europe to the UK will slow and the subsequent economic impact of this intolerable situation will soon begin to bite”.

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