Migrant crisis: Irish hauliers in Calais need support - FF

Transport spokesman Timmy Dooley in France to meet Irish hauliers

 Lorry drivers stretch their legs outside their trucks on the M20 in Kent late in July amid delays due to the migrant crisis in Calais, France. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Lorry drivers stretch their legs outside their trucks on the M20 in Kent late in July amid delays due to the migrant crisis in Calais, France. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

 

Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley has called on the Government to support the easing of restrictions on driving hours for hauliers because of the migrant crisis at Calais.

Mr Dooley, a member of the Oireachtas European Affairs committee, highlighted the difficulties for truck and lorry drivers who have been fined for driving excessive hours and not adhering to rest hours regulations, despite delays of up to 48 hours at Calais with “massively” increased processing times.

The Clare TD, who travelled to France on Thursday to meet hauliers and members of the Irish Road Hauliers Association (IRHA), also raised concern about fines imposed by the UK on hauliers who he said were found to have unintentionally transported migrants into Britain.

The party’s transport spokesman will discuss his proposals for bilateral meetings between the Irish and British governments regarding the imposition of the fines.

Humanitarian crisis

He called on the Government to engage more proactively at EU level to address the humanitarian crisis facing migrants and said there should be a more co-ordinated EU approach.

Mr Dooley called on Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe to take steps to ease the pressure on hauliers. He said Britain had moved to temporarily ease the restrictions imposed on the tachograph, which records the driving time on a vehicle. This would give drivers time to safely park and store their trailers, he added.

Mr Dooley also called on the Minister to arrange a meeting with his British counterpart “to discuss the unfortunate criminalising and fining of hauliers whose trucks are found to have migrants illegally passing into the UK”.

He added: “The Government should also be pressing the case for a more comprehensive solution to the crisis at EU level.

“While addressing the economic impact on our own country, we must remember the plight of the people who have fled war, famine, violence and poverty in the hope of a better life in Europe.

“The EU needs a comprehensive and compassionate strategy to the migrant crisis.”

Crossing on foot

Ten people have died since June trying to cross the tunnel on high-speed trains or on foot.

Médecins du Monde, a non-governmental organisation, treated 300 people in July for injuries received attempting to walk the tunnel. It assists more than 3,000 migrants in the French camp outside the port of Calais.

Calls have been made for the tunnel to be closed at night but Eurotunnel warned the British government it would sue if the authorities attempted to close it down.

An estimated 2.5 million vehicles transport goods between the two countries each year.

The transport bottleneck from migrants trying to cross the tunnel is costing the British economy £250 million daily, according to some estimates.

Last week IRHA members spoke to The Irish Times about being fined for unknowingly transporting migrants who had stowed away in their vehicles. They also suffered penalties for breaking rest rules for drivers.

Drivers have been threatened at knifepoint or robbed, and others have lost thousands of euro transporting perishable goods.

Haulier Seán Maguire from Dundalk, who has transported fresh mussels, said that if migrants got onto a truck the load would be written off as contaminated.

“ And if you report they are on board, you are branded as a trafficker and fined when it isn’t your fault,” he has said.