Around 200 illegal migrants are arriving in England each week smuggled aboard lorries, according to French officials. The figure represents a huge step up in the number of “lorry drops”, being nearly double the number arriving in this way last year.
The roads around Calais port have become a “no-go area” between the hours of midnight and 6am, Philippe Mignonet, deputy mayor of Calais has said, thanks to the gangs of migrants who pull branches and debris onto the roads to halt traffic, allowing their comrades to climb aboard.
“Each lorry is packed with dozens of migrants and many are stopped before they reach England,” a regional security official said.
“But we are certain that a few get through. The estimate is around 200 a week. We know others are crossing in small boats or vans,” the official added, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph.
If the estimate is correct, it means some 10,000 migrants are on track to enter Britain illegally by smuggling themselves on lorries, nearly twice the 2015 tally of 6,400 – which itself was double the previous year’s figure.
Numerous reports have emerged from the Calais region in recent weeks of drivers being threatened with makeshift bats, knives, and even a chainsaw. During one night of violence in early August, a lorry was torched. Meanwhile locals have warned each other to stay away from main roads even in the daytime, as migrants smash up cars on the roads just for fun.
The Home Office officially keeps no figures on the number of illegal crossings taking place, but suggested the figure was “exaggerated.” However, increasing numbers of migrants are now flocking to the notorious migrant camp The Jungle, suggesting they think the chances of making it across The Channel are good.
Despite ongoing gang violence inside the camp resulting in the murders of at least two people in the last few months, numbers have swelled to 9,000, making it unofficially the Calais regions third largest ‘town’.
Many travel to the camp via Italy and other European countries, having made their way north into Europe, but evidence is emerging that some are travelling south from Germany in a bid to come to Britain, apparently having grown disillusioned with what Germany has to offer.
Xavier Bertrand, the conservative president of the Calais region has urged the French government to crack down on the migrants targeting lorries in a bid to reach Britain.
“When migrants are found in a lorry, they’re usually escorted by police a few hundred metres (yards) away, but most of the time there are no legal proceedings and that must change,” Mr Bertrand said.
And he pinned the ultimate blame for the problem on the British border controls, which he described as “lax”.
“Have you seen a lot of migrants expelled from England? No. Because there are no identity cards and there are certain employers who are happy to hire them and underpay them, knowing that they won’t make a fuss because they’re illegal,” he said.
Rob Whiteman, a former head of the Border Agency has suggested that up to a million illegal immgrants may be living in the UK and are unlikely to be deported. But an immigration judge, writing anonymously recently, said that the figure was likely to be in the region of a million illegal migrants in London alone, with another half a million scattered across the rest of the UK.
The judge reported that just five to ten percent of the migrants they recommend for deportation ever actually leave the country, with the rest either successfully appealing the ruling or else merely slipping out of the system.
“[T]o describe [those who need our support] as a minority of those who appear before me is a tragic understatement because the truth is that the great majority of the claimants at my tribunals are not attempting to escape persecution at all. They are economic migrants, pure and simple,” he said.
Commenting on the French estimates on illegal lorry crossings, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: “It shows that we need to redouble our efforts to secure our borders – that will remove the incentive for migrants to remain in the camps in Calais. We need more use of heat sensors to detect illegal migrants in commercial vehicles – 200 a week is nearly 30 a day.”
“Surely the French can help us? They don’t want the jungle camp there in Calais either,” he added.