UK warns drivers over Calais migrant crisis

UK warns drivers to be cautious while passing French port as migrants eager to cross border

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

British truck drivers and tourists have been warned to be cautious and avoid stops near the French port Calais with hundreds of migrants trying to pile into UK-bound trucks and cars.  

During this year’s summer tens of thousands of Britons are expected to go in and out of France through the port of Calais.

According to The Local, Paul Watters from the UK’s Automobile Association (AA), said that “Having to run the gauntlet on the roads through Calais is not exactly a great way to start or end a holiday in France.”

“These are desperate people and they are taking desperate measures,” he added.

Watters also advised that mobile homes and caravans are generally easily accessible and that stops in motorways should be avoided.

“We are advising drivers with caravans and mobile homes to take precautions are make sure their doors and windows are locked, said Watters.

“Filling up on petrol in advance is a good idea and give yourself plenty of time to get to the port,” he added.

The warning came a few days after a video recorded by tourists in Calais showing migrants trying to climb into a UK-bound truck in order to cross into Britain went viral and gained more than 500,000 views on YouTube.

Seeing the migrants, one of the tourists in the video asked, “don't they police this stuff?”

A guide responded that "they are not allowed into the country.”

According to the date the video was recorded, the migrants likely tried to cross the French border when transportation was prevented due to French officials trying to defuse a World War II bomb in Calais.

Currently the French police have increased patrols in and around Calais to prevent migrants climbing aboard trucks and making the illegal crossing into the UK.

Calais has long attracted immigrants who want to escape from wars and poverty. There are around 3,000 refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and Syria in Calais at the moment.

Mayor of Calais, Natasha Bouchart, said that the migrants use trucks and boats to enter Britain due to its loose surveillance system and generous welfare system.

Bouchart said that “they [the immigrants] want to go to England because they can expect better conditions on arrival there than anywhere else in Europe or even internationally.”

“There are no ID cards. They can easily find work outside the formal economy, which is not really controlled. Calais is a hostage to the British. The migrants come here to get to Britain. The situation here is barely manageable,” Bouchart added.

“The UK border should be moved from Calais to the English side of the Channel because we're not here to do their jobs.”

The Local has reported that Eurotunnel, which operates the shuttle service through the English Channel which divides Dover and Calais, has announced that there will be high security controls and more room available for trucks to avoid the long queue on roads.

Tensions between British and French authorities have escalated as Mayor Borchardt threatened to block Calais’ borders if Britain does not provide further financial aid to help tackle the problem.  

However, Britain's ambassador to France Sir Peter Ricketts - speaking to The Local - reiterated that it is solely France’s responsibility to ensure sufficient security at Calais.“Our top responsibility here as the British rep in France is to ensure the safety of British travellers and British lorry drivers using Calais,” said Ricketts.

“It’s a French responsibility to ensure security in Calais. Its not a problem that has an easy solution, but that reflects the problem these people won’t accept the French offers and they are not entitled to come to the UK.”

Rickets also stated that “these people [migrants]” need to understand that there is no way in the UK and that it is possible to gain asylum in France or simply go back to the countries they have fled from.

Immigrants and refugees

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on June 9 that almost 103,000 people have taken deadly boat trips across the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe, where the issue of migrants and refugees has raised domestic and international concern.

Over 1,800 people have died trying to take on the perilous voyage with still hundreds of bodies not recovered following the most horrific accident when a boat with multiple floors capsized on April 19, claiming the lives of an estimate of 800 people.

In order to find a solution to the high influx of migrants reaching EU shores, the European Commision recently proposed the redistribution of 40,000 new migrant arrivals among EU member states within the next two years in accordance with a “distribution key” that considers a country’s population size, unemployment rate and number of asylum seekers previously accepted.

However, Hungary, Spain and Estonia are strongly opposed to the suggestion while the UK and Denmark are opting out.

According to Euroactiv, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz has clearly opposed any sort of redistribution and has stated that it should be voluntary, yet following the commission's announcement Poland will agree to take in 60 Syrian families on the condition that all the refugees are Christians.

Italy, Germany, Austria and Sweden are key supporters of the proposal, however, there is uncertainty if it will go ahead as the suggestions must be agreed upon by all EU member states.  

TRTWorld and agencies