A haulage firm is set to end its work on the continent after migrants caused thousands of pounds of damage to its lorries as they passed through Calais.
On Tuesday traffic in the key port ground to a halt amidst strike action by French workers. Disgruntled employees of MyFerryLink blocked key roads into the port and later forced the suspension of Channel Tunnel services after causing a fire.
Migrants were quick to try to take advantage of the travel chaos, seeking to board slow moving and stranded lorries backed up for several miles on nearby roads.
But when Swalcliffe businessman Sir Adrian Cooper saw images of burning tires blocking motorways and rail tracks he decided it was the “final straw”.
“We have been struggling for a little bit to make a profit and now we just can’t go on,” Sir Adrian said. “We spend a day trying to get across the channel and margins are tight enough as it is.”
Sir Adrian, 54, has run his small firm ferrying agricultural produce in and out of Europe for over 12 years in association with Eurobulk, based in Kent.
But he said over the past year he had been hit by mounting costs caused by longer delays at the UK border and thousands of pounds worth of damage caused by migrants seeking to stow away on board his two 44-tonne trailers.
He said: “There have always been a few migrants, but it has gotten absolutely dire over the last year.
“Now, if you drive down the motorway you see them just about everywhere. If we get immigrants in to our goods containers the load could be rejected.
“It makes me frustrated. I don’t blame the immigrants, they are desperate people wanting a better life. But I don’t think the authorities are helping the situation.
“I am surprised it has got so out of control. It has been a dramatic escalation and as far as I can see it will get worse. It is a very tight business already.”
Sir Adrian said his lorries typically made four trips in and out of Europe each week. Authorities recommend truckers avoid stopping within 60 miles of Calais, but delays have meant that his drivers have repeatedly been forced to stop for the night after they reached the limit of 9.5 hours they are allowed to drive freight each day.
Sir Adrian said he would now seek a new contract within the UK.
The UK has agreed to provide £12million of extra funding over the next three years to help ensure the security of French and Belgium crossings into Britain, as well as extra detection technology and an increased budget to carry dog searches.