Freight trucks, migrants hampered as ferry workers continue blockade of Calais port

Ferry workers continue to block the port of Calais, forcing the closure of the Channel Tunnel leaving trucks and migrants hoping to get to the United Kingdom stranded in France.

CALAIS, FRANCE (JULY 1, 2015) (REUTERS) – Ferry workers on Wednesday (July 1) continued their protest after blocking Calais’ port for two days, forcing the closure of the Channel Tunnel linking France and England for several hours.

Workers at ferry service MyFerryLink are trying to prevent job cuts after their company was sold to a Danish firm earlier this month. MyFerryLink was previously owned by Eurotunnel, the company that operates the undersea cross-Channel rail link.

“We are blocking the highways which lead to the tunnel for the next 48 hours by staging different actions, it’s not to be nasty, there is no access to the tunnel for the moment. We are going to block the highways, we will continue to hamper the regional economy, as the transporters have already indicated, we need things to change, things need to change more so that the President takes things into his hands,” said trade unionist Eric Vercoutre of the MyFerryLink works council.

Protesting workers on Tuesday blocked the tunnel’s entrance by setting fire to tyres thrown onto railway tracks. Traffic in both directions, halted on early Tuesday afternoon, resumed at around 1500 GMT, Eurotunnel said.

On Wednesday freight trucks lined up on the highway waiting for access to the tunnel to open up, one truck driver saying the problem was more than just the long wait to cross the Channel.

“We always have some trouble, the other week a colleague said that some people tried to get into the lorries, they damaged all the goods, they caused damages, now the client may refuse to pay for goods, we have to bring it back to Italy, there are huge economic damages,” said Italian truck driver Elso.

Calais is a magnet for migrants, many from troubled parts of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, who use it as a jumping-off point to try to get across to Britain. The chaos of the past week has seen an increase in attempts to stow away on trucks heading across the Channel.

But the stalled trucks meant migrants wanting to make the clandestine trip to the United Kingdom had to wait for their chance.

“I’m waiting for the lorry, I want to go inside, I want to go to England because I don’t want to stay here. It’s very difficult, very hot because I’m, I’m fast. I’m tired. Maybe I try many many times, I try go back, bring back, go, sometimes when police catch you then they bring you two, three hours and then you come back again, one day you come back again. What happens I don’t know. I come from Sudan, I want to stay good, eat good, go good, not like this. I don’t think this is Europe,” said Ibrahim, from Darfur.

SCOP Sea France, the co-operative of workers that runs the ferries, asked a commercial court to extend its contract with Eurotunnel and prevent it from being dissolved after the sale. The court on Monday rejected that request.

DFDS, which is set to take over operation of the ferries on July 2, has pledged to keep 202 out of 577 workers, a level the union sees as unacceptable.

The ferry workers had initially tried to buy the business of operating the two ferries from Eurotunnel themselves but failed.