Call for Irish officials to police illegal migration at French ports
Hauliers want an Irish, British and French taskforce to target break-ins to trucks
The Irish Road Haulage Association wants the Government to work with British and French officials to catch migrants who conceal themselves in lorries. Photograph: Franck Robichon/EPA
The Government should consider posting Irish officials to French ports to help detect migrants hiding in Irish lorries, a haulage industry group has said.
The Irish Road Haulage Association wants the Government to set up a taskforce with British and French officials to catch migrants who break into and conceal themselves in lorries without the knowledge of the drivers.
The group has written to Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney seeking an urgent meeting to push for the taskforce to consider solutions to the rising problem of migrants breaking into lorries for illegal passage into the UK and Ireland.
The idea of posting Irish officials to overseas ports to help with border inspections would be similar to existing arrangements between the British and French authorities which post inspection officials to each other’s ports.
Irish hauliers are calling for changes, particularly in the UK where drivers who are found to be carrying migrants face on-the-spot fines of £2,000 (€2,343) for every migrant found on board and risk having their lorries impounded.
“The primary target is the UK but the Irish Government cannot be mere onlookers and allow Irish drivers to be terrorised and Irish businesses continue to suffer,” said association general secretary Tony Goodwin.
Greater resources of manpower and research should be invested in more effective technology and “possibly the presence of Irish authorities on the ground in the French ports to support Irish trucks”, he said.
Mr Goodwin said the law and authorities should recognise “the bona fides of the vast majority of licensed hauliers”, who want to transport goods to and from their destinations with minimum hassle and in a safe and timely fashion.
“A reputable licensed haulier whose vehicle has been hacked and illegally entered by migrants is also an unwilling and unwitting victim of traffickers and should be treated as such,” he said.
“The driver is left traumatised by the ordeal, disillusioned and fearful for their safety and livelihood. There are too many stories of how drivers have been physically intimidated and attacked when they open the doors. When they inform the police, they face arrest and almost certain fines: guilty until proven innocent.”
The IRHA has put the cost of break-ins by migrants into Irish trucks “in the millions” and described it as a “daily problem” for Irish operators.
Drivers are reporting increased incidents of migrants breaking into refrigerated units of trucks undetected, by cutting through their roofs or by peeling back doors or taking doors off their hinges, assisted by traffickers in France.
Irish operators involved in international haulage face “an impossible task” stopping “clandestine immigrants”, said Mr Goodwin. French ports and surrounding roads are “the scene of a chaotic, round-the-clock battle of wits between border force and migrants”, he added.
“For border forces, it is a losing battle akin to shoring up a dam with a bucket and spade,” he said.