Leeds & West Yorkshire

Trucker faced threats at Calais from illegal immigrants

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Media captionA Yorkshire lorry driver said he fears for his life due to the behaviour of people at French ports trying to enter the UK illegally

A lorry driver who uses cross-channel routes has said he is "frightened for his life" by illegal immigrants trying to board his lorry in Calais.

Michael Pearson, of Maru International in West Yorkshire, said the problem was the worst he had seen in 40 years.

The Road Haulage Association said drivers felt vulnerable and security should be improved at European ports.

The Home Office said more than 40,000 attempts by illegal immigrants to get to the UK had been thwarted in 2014.

The managing director of Maru International, Vaughan Woolfitt, which is based in Dewsbury, said the firm was now routing lorries through Zeebrugge and Hull to avoid the French ports.

'Fear of my life'

Trucker Michael Pearson said: "A group of maybe 20 or 30 people, crowbar in hand, broke the padlock off the truck in front, broke the [security] seal and opened the doors.

"If I think about it now, I'm in fear of my life and I'm not by myself on this, several of my colleagues also spoke about that.

"Their [illegal immigrants] attitude, their whole goal is just to get to the UK irrespective of what damage, or damage to persons, vehicles, property they cause, it doesn't matter.

"They were raising fists, there was a bloke with an iron bar because I was blowing the horn to alert the driver in front that they were getting into his trailer. That's the bit they don't like, blowing your horn.

Image caption Driver Michael Pearson said he feared for his life by illegal immigrants trying to get on to lorries in Calais

"That threat was directed at me personally.

"I was terrified because I'm on my own and if you get out - you can't get out - because your life's in danger.

"It's only a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured, killed or windows are smashed and people are dragged out of their trucks. It's an unbelievable experience to go through."

'Strengthen borders'

Mr Woolfitt said: "It is extremely intimidating and I think the French and UK authorities should be working really hard to make sure that trade is unhindered and our drivers shouldn't have to go to work fearing for their safety."

The Road Haulage Association, which represents haulage firms in the UK, said northern European port security needed improving, particularly fencing on approach roads to ports and the EU borders in Greece and Italy needed to be secure.

The Home Office said: "We continue to strengthen the security of our borders to stop those who have no right to enter the UK.

"Using some of the best technology in the world, together Border Force and the French authorities prevented more than 39,000 attempts to cross the Channel illegally in 2014/15 —more than double the number prevented the previous year."

Image caption Driver Michael Pearson filmed illegal immigrants forcing open the doors of a lorry at Calais

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