Thousands of angry Calais residents, truck drivers and farmers blockaded the Channel Tunnel and ferry port on Monday to demand the demolition of the sprawling “Jungle” migrants’ camp, blamed for rising insecurity.
Tractors and trucks blocked the main route to the tunnel entrance, the A16 motorway, and the road to the ferry terminal, causing severe delays for holidaymakers and goods vehicles.
The people of Calais are furious that the motorway has become a no-go area at night because of a surge in attacks on vehicles and motorists by increasingly aggressive migrants and people-smugglers, often armed with clubs, knives or chainsaws.
Former president and now in a bid to return to power, Nicholas Sarkozy said, “France must stop being so lenient with those who do not fulfil the criteria for asylum and are not eligible to obtain refugee status. They must be sent back to their countries, which the current government is not doing.”
David Sagnard, a local hauler and union delegate who helped to organize the protest, said anger was “above boiling point” as drivers faced injury and damage to goods and vehicles.
“To say we’re fed up is an understatement. Things have been getting worse in recent weeks. Enough is enough, even if we do feel some sympathy for the migrants.”
The protest went ahead despite a pledge by the French government last week to raze the “Jungle” camp by the end of the year.
“We’ll believe the government when we see that the camp has gone,” Mr Van Gansbeke said. “It’s damaging the economy, putting off tourists and disrupting transport. Unemployment is high here and it’s getting worse.”
Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, who joined the protesters, said: “It’s intolerable for the people of Calais and for British people who use the port and the tunnel. The government is no longer ensuring security.”
Mrs Bouchart, of the opposition centre-Right party, The Republicans, welcomed the latest assurances by the Socialist government, but added: “I’m remaining vigilant. They must do what they’ve promised and it must be done fast.”
Among the protesters was Maxence Crapoulet, who was left with head injuries and a limp after being attacked at a service station by about 15 migrants.
“I stopped to use the toilet and they beat me with sticks and smashed the windscreen. They were so angry, but I couldn’t help them,” said Mr Crapoulet. 22. “There are attacks every day on the motorways in this area.”
Christophe Delacourt, a Eurotunnel maintenance technician, said migrants had also smashed his car windscreen. “About 20 to 30 of them tried to get on a truck,” he said. “When it didn’t stop and they failed, they grabbed tree branches and started attacking my car. Of course, I was afraid.”