Calais: Van driver killed in crash caused by migrants’ motorway road block

A van driver was killed on a motorway near Calais on Monday night after crashing into a truck that had been blocked by a makeshift barricade set up by migrants hoping to jump aboard, local authorities have said.

Calais: Van driver killed in crash caused by migrants' motorway road block
Photos: AFP

Haulage groups had long warned about the dangers to drivers caused by migrants placing obstacles in the road in a bid to slow lorries so they can jump aboard in the hope of making it the UK.

Their fears that one day a driver would be killed in an accident were realised on Monday night when the driver of a Polish registered van died after crashing into an HGV that had been forced to stop because tree trunks had been placed across the road.

The accident happened on the  A16 motorway at Guemps, 15 km from Calais.

The driver's truck reportedly burst into flames on impact.

“The van hit one of three HGVs blocked by the barricade and burst into flames,” a statement from the local authorities read.

The identity of the driver is not yet known.

Nine migrants of Eritrean origin were arrested at the scene after being pulled out of one of three lorries that had been blocked by the barricade.

The driver's death is the first of its kind despite the hazardous make shift road blocks being a feature of the migrant crisis in Calais since it began in 2014.

The barricades, mainly erected at night were a regular hazard for drivers during the height of the migrant crisis in the summer of 2015.

Back then UK's Road Haulage Association chief Richard Burnett called for France to send the army in to protect its drivers.

'The UK and French governments must acknowledge their responsibilities to all Port of Calais users, move in and act. If this means deployment of the armed forces then so be it,' he said at the time.

The British government agreed to pay to build a 13-feet high, one kilometre-long wall along the main motorway into Calais to prevent migrants from encroaching on the road. But many suggested the wall would just move the problem elsewhere.

French authorities also responded to the crisis by closing the sprawling Jungle migrant camp, that at one point was home to almost 10,000 refugees. Since the closure last October the problems eased somewhat.

However there are reports that the roadblocks are emerging again in a sign that more and more migrants are returning to the Calais region.

At the end of June some 20 migrants built a burning barricade on the A16 motorway at Marck, a few kilometres from the port, Le Figaro reported.

Charities say there are now hundreds of migrants in the area around Calais and the numbers appear to be increasing as the warmer weather returns.

Charities have battled with local authorities, who have barred them from handing out meals to refugees.

That ruling was later overturned in court. Authorities have also ordered showers to be removed from the area.

On June 14th France’s rights activist Jacques Toubon denounced the “inhumane living conditions” in Calais.





How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.