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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
tractor protest

Farmers and truckers blockading Calais in protest at migrant camp "The Jungle"

Around 70 trucks have begun a go-slow on the main motorway into the French port.

Migrant crisis Chris Radburn Tractors blockade a road near Calais, France, this morning Chris Radburn

FRENCH FARMERS AND truckers have this morning launched a joint operation to block off main routes in and out of Calais to call for the closure of the sprawling “Jungle” migrant camp there.

Around 70 trucks began a “go-slow” on the main A16 motorway – the main artery for freight and passengers heading for Britain either via the Channel Tunnel or the Calais port.

Farmers are expected to join the demonstration later on their tractors and the organisers are hoping for up to 500 people to join a “human chain” protest at the main entry to the port later today.

“We’ve had no answers, so we’re blocking things up,” said Frederic Van Gansbeke, who represents businesses and shop-owners in Calais.

The Jungle, a camp of makeshift tents and shelters, is home to around 7,000 migrants but charities say the number might be as high as 10,000 after an influx this summer.

Migrants from the camp often use tree branches to create roadblocks to slow trucks heading for Britain, their destination of choice.

France Britain Migrants AP / Press Association Images Truckers, one with a banner reading We are truckers, not migrants traffickers; together free Calais, block a highway near Calais this morning AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

When the trucks slow down, migrants try to clamber into the trailers to stow away aboard.

Some drivers say migrants have attacked their vehicles with metal bars and that the overstretched police are unable to protect them.

Nicolas Lotin, who runs a logistics company in nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer said: “Every day, we have to wonder whether our working day will be ruined, whether a migrant will sneak under the truck’s canvas.”

“If the goods are damaged, they have to be immediately transported back to the home depot,” he said.

France Britain Migrants Michel Spingler People wearing tee-shirts reading I love Calais during this morning's demonstration in Calais Michel Spingler

‘Closure as rapidly as possible’

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve promised during a visit to the camp last week to close it down “as rapidly as possible” but said it would be done in stages.

But disgruntled Calais residents want the authorities to set a date for the entire camp to be shut down.

Bars and restaurants in Calais – which is also the main gateway to France for millions of British holidaymakers – say their trade has been severely hit by the presence of the “Jungle”.

France has made repeated efforts to shut down the camp.

Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart, who has often clashed with the government over the issue, claims the camp may soon contain as many as 15,000 migrants if authorities take several months to dismantle it.

Migrant crisis Chris Radburn Tractors slowing traffic on a road near Calais this morning Chris Radburn

Earlier this year, authorities cleared shelters in parts of the site in a bid to persuade migrants to move into more permanent accommodation or camps elsewhere on France’s northern coast.

Last week France and Britain pledged to work together to increase security at the port of Calais and to improve the situation for the residents of the Jungle.

But the British government has dismissed as a “complete non-starter” a proposal by Xavier Bertrand, the president of the region which includes Calais, to allow migrants to lodge British asylum claims on French soil.

The population of the Jungle includes large numbers of Sudanese, Afghan, Somali and Syrian residents.

© – AFP, 2016

Read: Merkel’s refugee policy under pressure after poll defeat to anti-migrant party

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