Just when you thought it was safe(r)
It seems a very long time ago that I last wrote about the dangers facing truck drivers (and migrants) at the French port of Calais. In actual fact it was just over a year ago, the notorious migrant camp known as ‘the jungle’ having been closed in October 2016. It seemed as if the problem would disappear with the closure of the camp but, alas, this is not the case. A recent report from the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) alleges that some French officers are turning a blind eye to migrants seeking to gain access to the UK by turning off heartbeat monitors at the French border. These monitors are designed to detect the heartbeats of people hidden inside trucks or other vehicles bound for Dover and are often the only way of finding them short of exhaustive and time-consuming examinations of every vehicle.
The RHA says that cross-channel trucks are still being attacked on a daily basis. People traffickers are attempting to block the roads around Calais by whatever means necessary, whether that is by placing boulders in the roads or even by physically lying on them. Rocks are regularly being thrown at UK-bound trucks, placing their drivers at serious risk of injury or worse. These drivers are just ordinary men and women going about their daily business. They didn’t choose this line of work in order to run a gauntlet every time they attempt to cross the Channel.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the UK last week saw the British government pledging nearly 45 million pounds to enhance security measures at the channel ports. The boost in UK funding will be spent on fencing, closed circuit television and detection technology at Calais and other ports. This is all well and good but why should it be incumbent upon the British to foot the bill for immigration controls on what is, after all, French soil?
The RHA has called for both governments to do more to alleviate what is, in truth, largely a humanitarian issue. One cannot help sympathising with genuine migrants who are enduring appalling conditions whilst trying to establish better lives for themselves away from the persecution visited upon them in their native countries. One has to ask, however, why it is always the UK which is the promised land? Why are they not content to stay in France or Belgium? Could it be that we are regarded as the soft touch of Europe?
Simon Duval Smith
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