Van driver dies in Calais crash caused by migrants’ blockade

Vehicle burst into flames after crashing into HGV forced to stop at barricade of tree trunks

Migrants gather near lorries  heading towards the ferry terminal in Calais on October 3rd, 2015. A van driver has died near Calais after migrants blockaded a motorway with tree trunks. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Migrants gather near lorries heading towards the ferry terminal in Calais on October 3rd, 2015. A van driver has died near Calais after migrants blockaded a motorway with tree trunks. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

 

A van driver has died near Calais after migrants blockaded a motorway with tree trunks, causing a crash in which the vehicle caught fire.

The vehicle, reportedly registered in Poland, ignited after ploughing into a lorry that had been forced to stop because of the obstruction, early on Tuesday morning.

French authorities said it was the first time such a makeshift roadblock had caused the death of a driver since the arrival of large numbers of migrants and refugees in the area in 2014.

The accident happened at about 3.45am on the A16 motorway near Guemps, a farming community five miles south-east of Calais.

“A roadblock of tree trunks was set up by migrants on the A16 between junctions 49 and 50,” the local prefecture said in a statement. “This caused the death of the driver of a van registered in Poland. The van hit one of three HGVs blocked by the roadblock and caught fire.”

Officials said the identity of the driver was difficult to establish because of the extent of the burns.

French police said they arrested nine Eritrean migrants found aboard one of the blockaded lorries. The A16 was closed.

In May, refugees desperate to cross the Channel to the UK began to regroup near France’s eastern ports and the Channel tunnel . Last autumn the French authorities cleared thousands of refugees and migrants from the so-called Jungle camp near Calais.

Touquet agreement

By blocking roads leading to the Calais ferry port, refugees aim to slow lorries and other vehicles enough to jump aboard and hide. However, police had believed the problem had been stopped by the closure of the camp.

At least 8,000 migrants, among them about 1,200 minors, from the Jungle and other impromptu camps in the coastal region, were redistributed to cities, towns and villages across France last October. Most had made their way to Calais after long land and sea journeys from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea.

Still desperate to reach Britain, many have since returned. Their hopes of doing so have been thwarted by increasingly higher walls, razor wire and security around the port and Channel tunnel.

During his successful presidential campaign in April, Emmanuel Macron said he would renegotiate the Touquet agreement that allows British border police to operate in Calais.

“I want to put the Touquet border deal back on the table. It must be renegotiated, especially the parts that deal with the fate of isolated child migrants,” Mr Macron told French television. “There is no easy solution to the migrant crisis. If there was one, it would have been found.”

Guardian service