Footage has emerged of a migrant wielding a hammer at the driver of a German lorry as he attempts to climb aboard, en route to England. Around a thousand migrants yesterday stormed the Channel Tunnel in a coordinated effort to enter lorries headed for England.
Witnesses say the police were “overwhelmed” by the sheer number of migrants, some of whom were brandishing weapons.
Calais locals, fed up with their town being overrun by lawless migrants have taken to policing the streets themselves. They have described the town as being at “war” with the migrants, and have called on concerned citizens to “please come and help”.
Meanwhile British lorry drivers, who are unable to carry pepper spray as a deterrent for would-be violent attackers as it is illegal in the UK, have taken to Facebook message boards to discuss what precautions they can take. Among the options proposed are fly spray and deep heat spray, which would not be confiscated by the authorities.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has condemned the situation as “unacceptable”, and have demanded safe passage for lorry drivers, who they say are “in the firing line – sometimes literally”.
According to reports on Facebook by a local group known as “The Angry Calaisians”, gangs of 50-60 migrants were working in tandem to slow lorries approaching the Tunnel while others jumped on board. Mattresses, tree branches, and other detritus were thrown onto the roads in order to force traffic to slow.
The thoughtless actions of the migrants caused at least one accident, a collision between a lorry and a car. The driver of the car later contacted the group to say that he had been “more frightened than hurt”.
The group has also posted footage filmed during daylight hours, showing the migrants forcing lorries to slow by standing in the road before helping others climb aboard. They also lit smoky fires, allowing the smoke to drift across the road in order to reduce visibility for drivers.
At one point, a migrant can be seen climbing alongside the cab window, brandishing a hammer, before attempting to climb behind the cab to hitch a ride.
The Prefecture of Calais confirmed to France3 that migrants had been blocking the roads, but seemed unconcerned, brushing it off as a regular occurrence during periods of heavy traffic.
“It is a phenomenon encountered during the days of heavy traffic (especially mid-week and some weekends) in the run-Channel devices. The migrants try to slow traffic to break into the trucks heading to Britain,” he said.
His attitude is not shared by Chris Yarsley – Manager Road Freight & Enforcement Policy with the FTA. Mr Yarsley, who is based in Brussels, happened to be in Calais yesterday for a roundtable discussion on security at Calais, hosted by Eurotunnel, when he witnessed the havoc for himself, HGV UK has reported.
“I am flabbergasted at what I have seen today; there were literally thousands of migrants benefitting from the queue of slow moving traffic on the roads around Calais,” he said. They were attacking vehicles; breaking the locks of trucks, slashing roofs of the lorries and climbing in the back of them.
“French Police were highly visible and were taking extreme measures to break up the crowds including using tear gas and closing the motorway in order to control the situation, but appeared to be overwhelmed by the numbers. The migrants appeared to be organised in their attacks, as we were told of disturbances in the town centre which diverted police attention allowing opportunities for incursion attempts, and migrants took advantage of traffic being slowed on the road outside of the security fencing.”
According to the FTA, £89 billion worth of UK trade passes through Calais yearly. The period leading up to Christmas is traditionally the busiest of the year. The FTA has written to the Mayor of Calais, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to demand more is done to protect drivers passing through the port, as has the Road Hauliers Association, which has called for the French Military to intervene before a driver is killed.
Mr Yarsley continued: “The situation in Calais is totally unacceptable – the area is clearly in crisis. Truck operators and their drivers are in the firing line – sometimes literally. Whatever your views on the plight of migrants and asylum seekers, no-one has a right to threaten, intimidate or physically attack drivers and other innocent bystanders.
“FTA expects and demands safe passage for truck drivers and others going about their lawful business. This must be the primary concern of French and British governments before someone gets seriously injured, or even killed.”
This morning freight drivers took to Facebook to discuss ways to protect themselves, as the attacks are growing more frequent, and more violent.
One person suggested “Start carrying pepper spray”, but drivers quickly pointed out that, while legal in France, pepper spray is illegal in the UK and is confiscated by police if found.
Trevor Horsley commented: “I carry various (cleaning) sprays but to be honest I would never open my window to use it. It beats me how the French police can spray them and drag them off trucks but then they let them go. Why not arrest them and then deport them?”
Roy Kershaw suggested: “Fly spray does the trick, and it’s legal to carry it.”
Another driver said a policeman advised him to carry deep heat, saying “A copper told me to buy some back relief spray. Thats as nasty apparently. Got two cans and im legal [sic].”