Calais 'secure zone' to protect UK-bound lorries, government says
A secure zone is to be set up in Calais to protect lorries from migrants trying to climb on board to enter Britain illegally, the UK home secretary has announced.
Theresa May told MPs the move came after authorities at the French port had intercepted more than 8,000 attempts by migrants to enter the UK illegally in the last three weeks.
She said the secure zone for freight vehicles queueing to cross the Channel would provide protection for the equivalent of a 2.5-mile queue of lorries on the open approach roads, where they have been targeted by criminal gangs.
The move follows reports that , and that an Eritrean refugee had died last week when he tried to board a freight train.
May said that extra fencing should also be in place by the end of July to enable more tourist cars and vans to queue within the the port and to help secure the approaches to the Channel tunnel at nearby Coquelles, where repeated incursions have taken place in the last few weeks.
She said the new lorry park would provide a secure waiting area for 230 lorries: “This should transform protection for lorries and their drivers, removing them from their open road where they can become targets for migrants attempting to board their vehicles.”
The home secretary said she would also meet Kent MPs and acknowledged the “forbearance of the residents of Kent, who suffered disruption due to the buildup of traffic on local roads caused by the French strike”.
May linked the situation in Calais directly to the refugee crisis in north Africa and the migrant boats risking the journey across the Mediterranean: “The government is clear that we must break the link between people making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean and achieving settlement in ,” she said.
“And we must target and disrupt the organised criminal gangs who profit from their fellow humans’ misery, selling them false promises before loading them onto dangerous vessels and sending them – in many cases – to their deaths.”
She told MPs that 90 officers were being deployed as part of the task force in the UK and the Mediterranean to target the smugglers.
She also reassured her backbenchers that she would not heed pleas from the mayor of Calais for Britain to take more of the migrants who had gathered at the Channel port. That would only act as a pull factor for many more to come, she said.
Mayor Natacha Bouchart has declined an invitation to give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee on Tuesday on the situation. MPs are due to hear from representatives of Eurotunnel, the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Association.
Richard Burnett of the Road Haulage Association later criticised the fact that the new secure zone will not be in place until the autumn. “This isn’t fast enough. We’ve got drivers being threatened with bars and knives. We’ve had an example of a driver being threatened with a gun,” he told the Commons home affairs committee. “We’ve got a problem right now. This is unprecedented and it’s escalating. We need action now.”
Asked if he believed his organisation’s drivers have been let down by
the government, he replied: “Absolutely.”
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