EU must act now on Calais security problems, says road transport union chief

EU and national policymakers must take urgent action to address the deteriorating security situation on the approaches to Calais, argues Jan Nemec.

Truck drivers and operators  are facing violence and criminal damage from desperate migrants in and around Calais  | Photo credit: Press Association

By Jan Nemec

21 Sep 2016

The recent upturn in violence around Calais is a serious concern. Actions to further improve security are urgently required if the violence and criminal damage being faced by truck drivers and operators in Calais is to be halted.

Organised attacks on moving vehicles and attempts by clandestine migrants to stow away on board vehicles are unacceptable. Further urgent and immediate action to improve the security situation on the approaches to Calais is essential if the free movement of goods is to be ensured.

Improvements in terms of security have already been made but these are apparently insufficient to stem the tide of attacks on vehicles. As security is improved in one area, the attacks move to another.


Following yet another visit to Calais last week, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) saw first-hand the dreadful humanitarian situation being endured by huge numbers of migrants.

This cannot however justify the savage attacks on moving vehicles, the increasing number of thefts against drivers or the damage to trucks, their cargos and depots.

Promises of increased numbers of security personnel by French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, are welcomed but must take place quickly.

The recent protests by truckers, operators, local business people and trade unionists in Calais, although not supported by IRU, are a reflection of the deep concern and real frustration felt over the increasingly violent attacks on vehicles and drivers. An increasing number of professional drivers refuse to work on the routes to the UK or around Channel Ports.

Already we have seen a number of stowaways being seriously injured or tragically lose their lives. The fear is that it is only a matter of time before truck drivers or indeed other road users are seriously injured or killed.

We cannot have a situation where professional drivers risk serious injury just by doing their job. This would not be tolerated in any other industry and should not be tolerated now for those working in road transport.

Recent attacks have not just focused on trucks but have also targeted private cars and, frighteningly, passenger carrying coaches. For people smugglers, the end seems to justify the means. The aim appears to be to cause a halt in the flow of traffic on the main A16 motorway or port approach roads in order to then allow migrants to attempt to enter trucks bound for the UK.

The desperation felt by many migrants also leaves them prey to organised crime. Increasingly, organised gangs are orchestrating attacks in the Channel port area but they are also operating much further along the transport chain.

Truck depots are being broken into and truck stops and rest areas deep inside Belgium, France and beyond are being targeted. The pressure from organised gangs also appears to be behind the increase in the number of robberies on road users as migrants attempt to raise the cash demanded by people smugglers.
Better securing of the approach roads to the Calais area, as well as increased numbers of security personnel, are urgently required.

There must be closer working and information sharing between EU member states, coordinated by the European Commission, to tackle the issue at source, as well as coordinating immediate security responses. It should be understood that as one member state takes action, others may be easily affected, so coordination and cooperation are essential.

More secure truck parking areas on Europe's core road network are crucial to tackling the problem. Secure parking areas are an essential element of a safe and secure road transport system.

Europe's road freight transport industry is the lifeblood of Europe's economy. The free movement of goods between member states is essential for a growing economy that benefits Europe's citizens. Already some operators and drivers are refusing to take deliveries to the UK.

Operators must be free to conduct their legitimate and essential business. We must see real action now to address the deteriorating situation.