Van driver killed in fireball crash after migrants block Calais road with tree trunks
A van driver was killed when he crashed into a tail-back on a motorway near Calais, northern France, where UK-bound migrants had blocked the road with tree trunks, sparking calls for higher security measures.
The Polish-registered van burst into flames when it crashed into trucks.
A spokesman for the Prefecture du Pas-de-Calais said the fatal crash took place at around 3.45am on Tuesday, between junction 49 and 50, near the town of Guemps.
He said: “This van hit one of the three trucks stopped by the block and set alight. The identity of the driver is not known at this stage, considering the state of the body.”
“Nine Eritrean migrants found in one of the heavy goods trucks held up by the roadblock were arrested. They were taken into custody.”
For years Calais has been a base for migrants from the Middle East and Africa trying to reach Britain illegally. Last year the French government shut down a sprawling camp known as “The Jungle” that housed thousands, insisting it had dealt with the problem. Its residents were relocated.
But it has seen a return of migrants to the area in recent months.
They regularly try to stop trucks bound for Britain via Calais, throwing branches or other objects onto the roadways to slow or bring vehicles to a halt so that they can slip into the cargo-section and hide.
Such roadblocks have caused accidents in the past but this is the first time they have been linked to a death, according to the official.
One police source said there had been an increase in such incidents in recent weeks. In turn, a French rights watchdog warned last week that migrants in the Calais area were being denied the most basic of human rights.
The death comes on the eve of the British school holidays, during which thousands of families are expected to cross through the port at the start of their overseas break.
The UK-based Road Haulage Association has previously warned of the risk drivers face passing through the area.
Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Our worst fears have become a reality. We have been predicting this for two years.
“The lives of innocent people, who want no more than to be able to go about their daily business in safety, are being put at risk by those whose only aim in life is to reach the UK.
“The security forces currently in place just cannot cope. It’s not just Calais itself that need protecting; it’s the approach roads too.
“President Macron must get a grip of this situation and we urge him to deploy the French military to provide safe passage for the thousands of UK-bound hauliers that use this route every day.”
The death also prompted two French road haulage groups, TFL and FNTR, to call for extra public measures to ensure the safety of the thousands of lorry drivers who cross the Channel every day and to “avoid another tragedy occurring”.
Both deplored what they called an “an unfortunately all too predictable accident” that occurred after years “sounding the alarm” over the dangers to drivers in the area, which “will undoubtedly worsen in the summer period”.
Gérard Collomb, the new interior minister, promised to visit Calais “soon” after the “tragic incident”, along with Ventimiglia, a migrant hot spot on the Italian border to France where tensions are also high.
“We cannot allow these violations of the law to continue. Those responsible must be pursued before the courts, whether migrants or French, one respects French law.”
Since Calais’ “Jungle” closed, hundreds of migrants have been gathering in Paris, notably at Porte de la Chapelle, prompting Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, to write to Mr Collomb calling for “other welcome centres” around France.
Failing that, she warned, “several thousand” migrants risk camping out in the streets of the French capital this summer.
Mr Collomb responded by saying the solution “cannot simply be to multiply the number of welcome centres”, even if, “naturally”, that was “part of the response”.
Original article courtesy of The UK Telegraph.