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Calais, viewed from the cab…

Care 4 Calais
This is a page for British lorry drivers (or their families) to blog about their experience in Calais. If you’d like to contribute, please contact us.

The truckers who make the journey through Calais, see a very different side to this humanitarian crisis. For this reason, their attitude to the Jungle is generally very different from the view of the volunteers. They don’t see the families, or the children, as we do. They don’t see desperate people in need of help. They see marauding groups of men, who threaten them, damage their loads and put them at risk of a heavy fine. Their trips are often delayed for hours and their families are constantly concerned for their welfare. They feel unprotected by the police and abandoned by both the French and British governments.

The complex reasons for most people making their way to Calais are rarely even mentioned in the UK press; there’s some understanding of the situation in Syria, but when do we ever hear an analysis in mainstream media, of the impact of that conflict on the Kurdish people? Why would anyone in the UK, who is not directly involved, have any understanding of the war in Sudan, or the persecution in Eritrea? Why would a British Lorry driver know about these situations? Truckers see “economic migrants”, most of whom appear not to be Syrian, attacking their trucks.

Britain First and the EDL are fully aware of the potential provided by these circumstances. They prey on drivers’ websites, cynically targeting specific aid websites and news stories, with inflammatory comments and URL links. We’ve all seen the results…

This is not a page for arguments (you’ll find plenty of those elsewhere online). There is no facility to reply, here. This is an opportunity for us to take a look at the crisis in Calais through the eyes of a British lorry driver.

Any blog that contains any abusive language, will not be published. The comments below are unedited by Jungle Canopy.

Peter – Lorry Driver

By | Lorry Drivers Blog

I am a former European Lorry driver with over 8 years experience. It is now my time to add my story of the worse trip I had coming back to the UK.

It was back in 2008 heading back from Italy on my weekly run, as usual in Italy I left late on a Friday night I managed to get through the Mont Blanc tunnel.

So on Saturday morning I had a nice run up, I knew it would be hard to make it back to the UK, so that on my mind I took the decision to stop at a services the north side of Reims. Even back then most driver knew that people wanted to get to the UK illegally hiding in the back of a trailer.

I should say when you leave any destination in Europe and you are heading back to the UK, you lock your trailer and have a cord which goes all the way round the trailer then it’s sealed with a id number. You fill out a form when you leave with all the relevant information, time of leaving, seal number which will also be on the CMR.

Then every time you stop for a break you will fill out the form with the time date and place you stopped. This if done correctly will match your tachograph if any problems arise.

So I’ve stopped at a services just north at Reims called ‘aire de service du champ roland’ the reason for this is because it was three hours from Calais hoping I was far enough from Calais but had enough time to get into the port without going over my driving time.

Not sure if you knew not being a Lorry driver but in France and some other European countries that at 2200hrs on a Saturday night you have to be parked up as then for 24hrs you are not aloud to drive in France( yes there is exceptions to this rule like you can drive into and from Belgium, and if you have perishable goods on board). Well I stopped at the services on the Saturday night knowing I would be leaving in the early hours of Monday morning, I remember the weekend as clearly as it was yesterday as it was a miserable weekend, the rain and wind was lashing against the truck.

So after a uneventful weekend, you can only walk around a service area for so long. I left at four am local time, before I left I did my usual checks, including the back door seal and cord all was okay, but as I looked up at the back doors I noticed something, the back doors had marks near the top which seemed odd as I had been driving all week and had been parked up for the weekend and with the bad weather. so seeing two clear white marks on a dirty back door starts ringing alarm bells.

Like I’ve said I had done my checks so I doubled checked, pulled the cord nothing broke and seals all in tact.

I decided that if anyone is in the trailer then they got in through the roof, remember it’s 4am in the morning and no one is around, I was not going to open my back doors and get over run my people in the trailer. So I thought I would drive to Calais get in to the port then get the back doors open by the French authorities, so when they break the seal it can all be documented.

So I arrive in the port of Calais, and go straight into a shed this is where you get checked by the French they put what can only be described as magnets but they are not they are are supposed to monitor if anyone is in the trailer, even with me saying to them about the marks on the back door and they have mirrors on the roof of the shed you can see if any holes in the trailer roof, not great lighting in the shed but they waved me on saying all was okay. I was not happy but at least I had it all on record. So I go through to reach the British passport side, passport shown all ok. When you go pass this part there was two more sheds for the the UK border force. One border force bloke there either telling you to go round the sheds or go in, I was told to go round, but I said to the bloke about my feeling and what happened in the French shed, and I wasn’t happy. He wasn’t to happy but he decided by probing the side of the trailer what happened next was very quick, he yelled out to open the shed and get me to drive in to their shed, doors closing very quickly behind me. They again probed the side of the trailer and all there readings went of the scale.

They asked for my passport and paperwork then asked me to open the back doors, I broke the seal and opened the back doors, this is when we noticed five people just sitting on the industrial fans which I had in the back. Out they come, in the mean time I get asked to pull the side curtains open on both sides so they can check further in the trailer. Another three are found in the middle of the trailer out they come, another two found right at the front of the trailer. If I hadn’t been there and seen it with my own eyes I would not believe what happened next. We all looked and thought all was clear until the box on top slightly wobbled, we all looked and decided to open the box, inside was a male adult inside, we all had to laugh at the cheek of these people. We all looked around by the back doors wondering how they got in when we noticed the tear in the roof about two foot long, but had been sewn back up with a white lace or string so it was hard to spot until you got close to it.

Then it all stopped and the UKBA tell me I’m under arrest for people smuggling , as back then if you was found with more then ten people on board then automatically you as classed as people smuggling.

I was taken to a side room and asked question after question out of the window I can see the migrants being processed in a room and waiting for the French police to come and take them away. In the end and give the UKBA credit they where good and could see that I had done everything in my powers to stop them getting in the trailer, but warned me that it was £2000 per illegal and I was still looking at a hefty fine. I was then told after two hours that the French police wanted to speak to me, so I get taken around to the police station which is in the port, into the station I go and who do I see but the 11 illegals in the station.

I get told I must wait, but in the first hour I’m waiting I see the 11 being released after being processed, so I’m there and seeing the people who broke into the trailer, who broke the law going free before me…. Would you be happy.

Five hours in the station I had to wait before they start getting around to question me. Not once did I get asked if I wanted a drink or food, as they wouldn’t let me back to my truck to get anything.

Apparently they where waiting for a translator which made this all the more amusing if it was not worrying, they asked loads of questions and I showed them the form with all my check list in order and my tachograph they all matched up.

We were getting no where with the questioning as he was repeating themselves but I just kept going back with all my paperwork saying it was all in check.

In the end the officer told me to tell my boss that all his trucks should be fitted with metal sheets in the roof to stop this happening, and again threatened that a fine will be heading our way. After 13 hours in total of being held I was released.

A few weeks later I got a fine of £6000, luckily for me I had a fantastic transport manager and owner of the company who fought this fine for me, writing to the UKBA. In the end I was let of the fine as they had nothing to prosecute me with as everything they tell you to do I did.

I apologise to all who read this I did try and make it short. I’m sure it won’t be the last story a Lorry driver will write about his experience and I’m sure a lot are worse then mine but this is the one which I remember so well to this day. I can’t even imagine what they go through on a daily basis now.

My question to other people is would you go to work if you had this trouble going about your work, what would other people do in this instance. Remember this was 2008 it was happening even years before this. Peter

Chris – Lorry Driver

By | Lorry Drivers Blog

To give you a flavour of the issues we face, we run into Calais and regularly face what seem like gangs of marauding young guys trying anything to get on our trucks. They damage them, smash our mirrors so we can’t see our trailers, slash curtains and break locks to get in. They then threaten us with violence and seemingly get away with it. It’s getting worse and worse and I personally have had rocks and bricks thrown at me and been threatened because they cannot get in my secure truck. I have had guys run the fingers across their throats whilst looking at me because they cannot get in. I’m a 17 stone ex 2nd row forward who is still fit and also box so not much spooks me but this situation does. We are powerless and defenseless against these attacks because we dare not get out of our trucks to protect them and no-one will help. If the migrants do manage to get in to our trucks, we face huge fines of £2,000 per migrant. Just recently, a pal of mine found 2 migrants in his trailer in Dover. They got in through the roof despite his best security efforts. This has cost him and his company £4,000 in fines, £800 trailer repairs and a load written off because the migrants urinated and defecated in the trailer. His insurance premium will now go up markedly as well. The 2 guys were taken away and are probably sitting in a bedsit somewhere happy to be here whist my mate picks up the tab. I think you will agree this is wrong. If migrants are found in a trailer, the load is generally written off especially if it is for the food industry or clothing. The mess these migrants leave has to be seen to be believed but why should they care? They know that they won’t be charged with criminal damage and can just walk away.

The recent case of Rob Lawrie and the child he tried to smuggle into the UK just made things worse. OK, I understand his compassion here, but they also found 2 migrants in his vehicle. If that had been a truck, we would have had up to £6,000 in fines if we had crossed the channel. He was caught with 3 people in the back of his van. Can you imagine how we feel when we get hammered, in identical circumstances?

The majority of migrants we see attacking, and I use the word attacking deliberately, our trucks are not Syrian. They are mostly of African descent and as far as I’m aware not fleeing barrel bombs and IS. They seem to be economic migrants who have no rights to just wander about Europe picking and choosing where they want to live. It just doesn’t work like that and they are using the Syrian and Iraqi situation to their advantage. They are very, very aggressive and seemingly not bothered about the dangers of breaking into trucks or being caught by the police. The situation has got the the point where a driver will be killed by a brick, hammer or scaffold tube through his screen. All the time when this happens, the police sit back and watch and nothing happens. You have seen the pictures and videos on social media so know it’s true and it is happening on a daily basis.
Most of us have the utmost sympathy for the Syrians refugees and would gladly do all we could to help them but these aggressive and fearless economic migrants are watering down any compassion we have for the genuine refugees. From figures I have read, up to 70% are economic so therefore illegal immigrants. I see the jungle from my vantage point and living there must be horrendous and I understand the aid organisations trying to help the genuine refugees.

But, and it’s a big but, all we see is by helping to make the camp permanent, you will attract more and more illegal immigrants to Calais and almost invite them to try and get in our trucks. I know for a fact that some aid workers have stated that this is their aim and they have been seen aiding the migrants. I have questioned a few about it on ferries and I got the normal responses of “you are racist and bigoted and don’t understand”. I have also been told by 2 of the leading aid organisations that I should “change my job” and more bizarrely “it’s only an inconvenience to you”! Really? Why should anyone have to go through what we do regularly? It’s 2016 for goodness sake! I have to bite my tongue and walk away as they won’t give me their address so I can send them the fines and bills for damage to my truck!

I personally rarely do European work now as my family and friends are worried for my safety. The delays at the ports are horrendous when there is an attack on the trucks and there is real physical danger for me and my colleagues. In fact, a good number of us highly experienced and hard working guys have just had enough of the hassle. We are being replaced with underpaid Eastern Europeans who don’t care about their load, their truck or who the hell gets in the back. It’s a bad situation all round. You may be taken aback sometimes by the anger and bitterness some of us truckers use when talking about this situation but we are just utterly frustrated by the lack of understanding and action taken to protect us going about our daily jobs.

Chris

Simon – Lorry Driver

By | Lorry Drivers Blog

In the past couple of years the journey through Calais has taken a turn for the worse for truck drivers. No driver in their right mind sleeps anywhere near Calais nowadays. Now we take a chance on going over our driving time spending hours queuing for a train or boat. Upon arrival in the UK we are then at the mercy of Kents lorry haters with nowhere to park. If we are found to have any migrants sneaked on to the truck we are fined £2000 per person. That’s our fine, not the company’s and don’t think for one minute the checks we do make any difference. Our tacho cards are then subject to police scrutiny over the next few weeks in every EEC country where we are subjected to further fines. Print outs of port delays are no defence on the side of the road in Italy three weeks later. The machine shows an infringement and that is finite. Driving into the port can be a nightmare. There are plenty of pictures and videos showing bricks, rocks, pieces of wood thrown at windscreens. Pallets, trolleys and other large objects are regularly thrown into the road in front of the trucks to get them to stop therefore creating traffic jams allowing the migrants to break into the trucks. I saw an exit dividing sign in the road one night. If the driver had followed the sign and stayed left at 90kph then he would have crossed the central reservation into oncoming traffic, maybe into a coach load of school kids. Thankfully his experience taught him all was not as it seemed and he avoided the situation. That experience is gradually disappearing as drivers like myself are not prepared to put up with this just for doing our job.

Years ago we could easily eject any clandestine from our trailers, nowadays it’s not a chance anybody would take. They are armed with knives, bats and even guns, fake or otherwise. We cannot protect ourselves as we are not allowed to carry any defensive weapons. We simply have to sit there while they slash our trailers and shop freely inside. A call to the police results in being told to report the issue at the port Millions of pounds worth of goods have been contaminated and destroyed, pharmaceuticals, aircraft parts, fruit, and vegetables etc. Drivers are threatened and physically attacked. Just last week a driver was robbed down diesel alley, alleviated of his phones, laptop, credit cards and money, even his boots, taken at knifepoint. Another driver I know is still waiting for further surgery after having a brick thrown at him a year ago. He lost all his teeth on his lower jaw. There are many, many similar reports. Time and time again drivers are told that these attacks on us are because the “refugees” are desperate but if a genuine refugee is fleeing violence then why repeat it elsewhere and expect sympathy. Accepting violence against truck drivers to be used as a mitigating circumstance to further ones cause is not acceptable.

Simon

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