The UK immigration minister has confirmed a wall will be built along the Calais port’s main dual-carriageway approach road, which passes adjacent to the Calais Jungle refugee camp.
Construction of the wall is part of a £17 million Anglo-French security package, which includes safe spaces for trucks to wait at the port. The security measures are a result of the impact of the Calais Jungle camp on motorway safety, which also led French unionists, haulers and farmers to hold a protest on the main freight and passenger route in Calais on Monday.
“Before, it was just attempts to get on trucks. Now there is looting and wilful destruction, tarpaulins are slashed, goods stolen or destroyed. Drivers go to work with fear in their bellies and the economic consequences are severe.”
Extreme measures taken by smugglers and traffickers to reach the UK, including causing serious accidents in order to then create road blocks and board stationary trucks, have left the freighting industry with serious safety concerns. The financial significance of the freight route, as reported by the IISA Refugee Report in March 2016, is a major factor in the pursuit of the current Anglo-French security measures.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) commented that £89 billion passes through the affected region annually, with disruption caused by refugees costing the freighting industry an estimated £750,000 a day in 2015.
Though current structures, such as high wire fences, are already in place, the Immigration Minister stated: “People are still getting through. We have done the fences. Now we are doing the wall”.
French authorities agreed to protesters’ demands for the demolition of the refugee camp to be accelerated, with increased police presence in the area also being promised. Police presence has been noted previously in the Jungle in July 2016, with raids on shops in the camp which were determined to be illegal and “unfair competition” to legal shops outside of the camp. Similarly to previous decisions made to partially demolish the camp, humanitarian organisations and volunteer groups in the region and across Europe have shown opposition to the security measures, stating that the true solution to the problem lies in tackling criminal groups carrying out trafficking.
“In a misguided effort to save themselves from real dangers of trafficking and looting, French farmers and truck drivers have staged a blockade demanding the demolition of the “Jungle.” Although the threats for safety of truckers and their cargo are real, aid workers warn that a hasty dismantling of the camp would bring about much worse humanitarian crises.
We would add that this anger, as well as the demands for safety are once more directed to the wrong culprit, the refugees, as opposed to the traffickers, who form the real threat. Indeed, it’s the refugees themselves who are most menaced by the trafficking industry. The only way to ensure safety in Calais is to allow people to travel freely to the UK, without the use of smugglers, to apply for asylum there.”
The French Auberge des Migrants group operating in Calais stated the walls would be ineffective at securing the roads:
“This wall is the latest extension to kilometres of fencing and security surveillance already in place. It will just result in people going further to get round it.
When you put walls up anywhere in the world, people find ways to go round them. It’s a waste of money. It could make it more dangerous for people, it will push up tariffs for people smugglers and people will end up taking more risks.”
The Road Haulage Association also deemed the current strategy to be insufficient, calling for the structures to be built in different areas; a spokesman stating: “It is imperative that the money to pay for a wall would be much better spent on increasing security along approach roads”.
“We need to stop the spending of £1.9 million of UK tax payer money on building a pointless wall in Calais, the first border wall to be built in Europe since the Berlin wall…
The camps exist in Calais because the UK has pushed its border controls into France, to try and stem migration into the UK. Since the defenses were built in 2014, net migration into the UK has increased, as have the residents of Calais and the documented border crossing attempts. This proves that these controls have little or no impact on migration into the UK.
The UK demonstrates a rigid, racist border control policy by not allowing migration form outside the EU into the UK where people can seek asylum through legal means. This results in people being trapped on the border in Calais living in slum conditions, attempting dangerous crossings to try and reach family and asylum in the UK.
Building walls and increasing border defenses has yet to be proven as an effective means of dealing with refugees and migration. Instead it puts pressure on neighbouring countries and fractures international relations with these countries.