3,522 penalties totalling £7.8 million were handed out in 2016/17, an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year, according to a report in The Sun newspaper.
Drivers complain of “facing a gauntlet of intimidation and fear” en route to Britain, as migrants armed with baseball bats, iron bars, and even guns attempt to storm their vehicles from their bases in and around Calais.
The violence deployed is frequently extreme, with one driver narrowly escaping death in when a sharpened stake was hurled through his windshield in November 2015, and another actually being killed when his vehicle collided with a migrant roadblock and burst into flames earlier this month.
Many drivers are now “too scared” to inspect their vehicles, according to Road Hauliers Association (RHA) spokesman Rod McKenzie: “The Calais run is now a stressful, dangerous and sometimes downright terrifying experience for UK-bound lorry drivers.”
“We’ve got gangs of highly organised migrants and people smugglers setting up roadblocks to slow them down and stowaway on board … drivers just want to get away as quickly as possible. Many fear for their lives and many are met with threats of actual violence,” he said.
Yet failing to check vehicles can see hauliers hit with fines of up to £2,000 per stowaway – a potentially crippling financial penalty.
In an official statement on the fines, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said the situation had “escalated to the point where the frustration on the part of migrants and the ever increasing number of violent attacks has reached the stage where the drivers themselves are, in effect, having to police their own vehicles to establish if a migrant incursion has occurred”.
Burnett said this “cannot be right”, and that The Clandestine Civil Penalty scheme, designed in 1999 to penalise “lax and careless” drivers, was clearly out of date.
“We now regularly hear of hauliers who are throwing in the towel. They just want to do their job – not face regular acts of intimidation or violence. And who can blame them?” he asked. “Every day thousands of UK-bound hauliers are suffering because of the migrant mayhem at Calais.”
The RHA has called for on the French government to deploy soldiers to the area, so they can be protected whilst they try to carry out their jobs.