AN Irish lorry driver who was faced with a nine-hour delay at the Channel Tunnel in Calais believes that “lives will be lost” as the migrant crisis escalates.
Thousands of drivers have been stranded in Dover and Calais in recent weeks with reduced inbound and outbound train services to Europe as a result of desperate foreign migrants trying to reach Britain illegally.
Wexford native James Druhan, 64, who drove from southeast Italy to Ireland over the weekend for haulage company Drumur Transport, was saddened by the scenes he witnessed during his voyage.
Speaking to The Irish Post, Mr Druhan said: “The situation for these migrants is desperate, it’s a humanitarian problem. A European problem.
“These people don’t have food, clothes, social welfare. They’re ready to try anything. There’s tented villages where these migrants are staying, and at roundabouts when the lorry has to slow down, they’re not afraid to try and jump on.
“They’re putting their lives at risk, and those of the lorry drivers. It’s a matter of time before lives are lost, but it will be too late.”
Mr Druhan, a retired civil servant, was driving a load of fresh turkey and chicken with a value of €80,000.
He explained that nine or 10-hour delays at Calais create a knock-on effect to the companies receiving the produce.
Lorry drivers themselves are also facing increased fear and distress with the continued threat of migrants boarding the vehicles.
“We’ve had to use extra locks to secure the lorry,” he said. “It’s an added stress, when we’re taking toilet breaks we need to get someone to watch the lorry.
“On Sunday when we had boarded the train there weren’t any migrants to be seen. About 15km into the journey it appeared that five of them had boarded the train. The train’s going at around 130km an hour, they’re risking their lives.”
Some haulage companies are finding alternative routes to reach Europe.
Mr Druhan explained that Drumur Transport used a ferry from Holyhead to Portsmouth, and then to Cannes in France, but it was at an extra cost of €300.
President of the Irish Road Haulage Association Verona Murphy told The Irish Post that lorry drivers are growing increasingly frustrated with severe delays to journeys.
She said the Irish Government must increase efforts to bring the situation under control.
Operation Stack — an emergency measure used to protect the safety of the road network — is still in place along the M20 near the Port of Dover.
Lorries here are queuing for lengthy periods due to both industrial action involving ferry workers in Calais, and foreign migrants disrupting Channel Tunnel services.
“Drivers are vulnerable, they have to sit and wait during the delays and are exposed to the desperation of the migrants,” she said.
“There’s a growing fear that migrants and drivers could kill each other if the situation is not resolved.”
As a result of the crisis in Calais, Ms Murphy explained that there is a detrimental cost to Irish hauliers, with some vehicles being impounded when migrants are found on board.
Drivers and haulage companies are facing £2,000 fines for each migrant found on a vehicle as they cross the border into Britain.
At present, Ms Murphy claims that the total cost in fines to Irish hauliers and drivers during the current crisis is €500,000.
One lorry carrying pharmaceutical goods worth €250,000 was impounded in Belgium after travelling from Ireland through Britain and into Calais.
“Some of the migrants get confused and think that they are coming to Britain and Ireland due to the Irish registration plates. There’s confusion and they end up in Europe,” she said.
The Calais and Dover route is essential for Irish transport, with around 40 per cent of Ireland’s exports and imports relying on crossing this border.
“If the situation continues, there’s also a real fear that Irish lorry drivers will quit, and we’re fearing a real employment crisis.”
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