Massive travel disruption brought chaos to Channel ports in France overnight as French truck drivers, supported by shopkeepers, police, trade unionists and farmers, began action to force their government to close down a huge and growing migrant slum camp on the coast near Calais.
The shantytown camp on the French north coast, nicknamed the Calais Jungle, is inhabited by approaching 10,000 migrants, mainly from north and sub-Saharan Africa. Desperate to enter Britain illegally by any means possible, gangs have been hurling large rocks at cars. In the ensuing tailbacks, they try to sneak onto trucks.
Some in the Jungle are refugees and others are opportunists. Locals in the area claim scavengers, gangs and criminals from the Jungle are damaging their livelihoods and threatening their safety. Reports say people traffickers and violent criminals are going to extreme lengths to reach Britain, torching vehicles, hurling petrol bombs and cutting down trees to block roads before threatening drivers with chainsaws and machetes.
Migrants from countries including Sudan, Syria and Eritrea are living in squalor in the Jungle and numbers are steadily increasing. In past decades, the Jungle would have been dismantled and its inhabitants deported, but the EU is powerless to do this and France is reluctant to do it.
Natacha Bouchart, Calais mayor since 2008, attended the protest to demand “the fastest possible dismantlement of the camp, before the end of the year, once and for all”.
Bouchart demanded that the French government change the law so that perpetrators of “mass attacks involving 100, 200, 300 migrants” could be prosecuted and deported.
French protesters were reportedly converging on Calais from the north and south last night (Australian time). They plan to effectively block roads in and out of the port “causing huge disruption for travellers and freight”, as the Guardian put it.
French drivers plan to block access until they see action to dismantle the Jungle camp.
The right to cross borders within the EU without showing passports, a European dream for decades, works only when external borders are secure. Now they are not. With hundreds of thousands of people entering Europe unchecked, national border checkpoints are going back up. That has obvious implications for tourism.
The inability of the EU to control its borders was a factor in the UK’s recent decision to leave the EU, in the so-caled ‘Brexit’ referendum, after having joined the Common Market (the EU’s predecessor) in 1973.
Written by Peter Needham