THE growing migrant mayhem in Calais is putting holidaying families and British businesses at risk, it was feared last night.
THE ESCALATING migrant crisis in Calais last night prompted new demands for action to restore order.
British truckers passing through the French port fear their lives and businesses are now at stake.
And dangerous new “ambush tactics” from desperate migrants are regularly bringing Eurotunnel train services to a grinding halt.
The increasing lawlessness in Calais is likely to cause problems for thousands of families heading off for half-term getaways in the coming days.
Warnings about the growing desperation of the estimated 7,000 migrants now camped in northern France were issued yesterday.
Truckers trade body, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said it feared family-run firms were facing financial ruin because of the damage to their lorries caused by the rampaging mobs.
In one case a stowaway took revenge on a lorry driver who threw him off his vehicle by cutting vital cables.
British drivers were being “very badly let down” by a lack of action and the ongoing crisis could have a catastrophic effect on the economy, the RHA said.
The organisation demanded the authorities step-up and restore order at Calais.
Britain has already pledged more than £22million to help guard the port and has sent sniffer dog teams and fencing across the Channel in a bid to maintain order.
The Home Office has also spent £7million on security at the tunnel terminal at Coquelles.
But the RHA’s chief executive Richard Burnett yesterday said: “The issue has not gone away. The threat to drivers and to international haulage services is once again on the increase.
“RHA members and staff have seen intimidation of drivers and attacks on vehicles first-hand. It is mostly focussed on the Channel Tunnel but has also affected the ferries using the Port.
The continued intimidation is causing “long-term damage” to the industry in the UK and increasing numbers of drivers are now refusing to do jobs that take them through northern France, he said.
“Smaller hauliers are finding it increasingly difficult to stay in the market as alternative routes are being block booked in advance by larger, regular users. The impact on these companies and their customers should be of real concern to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.”
Calais is now reported to have the largest police presence in France except for Paris with 1,100 officers.
Earlier this week, the Mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart called for President Francois Hollande to deploy troops to the area in a bid to bring the situation back under control.
Mr Burnett, who called for army support in Calais six months ago, added: “We constantly advise members on truck security but the authorities are letting our members down very badly. Delays and damage are now becoming the norm and this represents a cost that the UK supply chain simply cannot accept. The UK may be ‘open for business’ but there are continuing problems getting through the front door.
“It is abundantly clear to the RHA and to our members that the measures taken so far, while welcome, are inadequate and we need to understand what more can be done to protect our drivers, our international haulage businesses and the UK economy as a whole.”
UKIP MEP, Mike Hookem warned that the problem would continue “all the time we have open borders with the EU.”
He said: “The problem isn’t going to go away with a quick fix. It’s going to take an end to the Schengen agreement, a change in the EU’s response to people traffickers and a change in how the UK is perceived by migrants if we’re to stop this flood of people making their way here.
“We have to stop these people before they arrive in an EU country.
“Britain is perceived to be a soft touch for migrants where people can get free education, housing and benefits.
“Meanwhile, our haulage industry suffers, trade suffers and prices for goods coming in from the Continent will continue to rise.”
The truckers’ concerns come as migrants in Calais desperate to reach the UK have resorted to disturbing new tactics in a bid to get on trains through the Channel Tunnel.
Eurotunnel, which has doubled its security team at Coquelles to 250, said the new ambush method involves small groups risking their lives by sitting on the tracks so train drivers are forced to slam on the breaks.
When security teams are distracted and trying to clear the disturbance, mobs of others storm the stationary carriages.
Frightened train drivers say the situation has become uncontrollable and is worsening by the day.
French authorities have now deployed a dedicated police unit to guard the area 24 hours a day – the Gendarme Mobile – in a bid to protect the Eurotunnel site from the nightly assaults.
Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe said he hoped the new policing team would bring an end to the regular disruption caused by the invasions.
On Monday this week Eurotunnel was forced to suspend services in both directions after hundreds of migrants stormed the terminal and platforms in France.
At least 16 migrants have died in or near the tunnel since the start of the Calais migrant crisis in the summer.
Mr Keefe said the new ambush method was just one of the “distraction” techniques used by the people smuggling gangs paid to get migrants into the UK.
“They send two or three people to stop or slow the train so others can jump on the back.
“From the driver’s point of view seeing someone on the track in front of them is the worst thing they can imagine. They are rightly worried in case they hit someone and have to stop.
“It’s something the migrant population are well aware of. They are well informed and tactically aware.”
“We hope the Gendarme Mobile can deal with it and diminish the disruption. We can’t go on as we were before.”
The booming influx of migrants to northern France trying to get to Britain has come as a direct result of the wider refugee crisis engulfing the EU.
Around 775,000 asylum seekers and economic migrants have entered the EU this year.
Many are fleeing bloody civil wars in Syria and Iraq while others are taking advantage of the chaos to escape poverty-stricken homelands to have a shot at starting a new life in richer European countries like Britain.
Last month, hundreds of Eurostar passengers were left in dark, hot and stuffy carriages for up to five hours, after services were suspended due to migrants walking on to the tracks of the tunnel and clinging on to train roofs.
There were also severe delays on a number of occasions over the summer, as refugees attempted to break through the barriers in Calais in order to get to Britain, often causing delays to holidaymakers heading to the continent.
In July, French riot police were called to the scene after 150 migrants tried to storm the tunnel.