Northern Ireland

Calais strike: NI lorry drivers 'threatened with knives'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJohn Graham from Bangor said he has to keep his doors locked to stay safe

Two lorry drivers from Northern Ireland have been describing the travel chaos in Calais and how they have been threatened with knives.

Travel is being disrupted for a third day as a strike by French ferry workers causes problems on both sides of the Channel.

Tony Henderson from Larne said a group of more than 100 migrants ran at him with iron bars and machetes.

John Graham who lives in Bangor said he has to keep his doors locked.

MyFerryLink workers walked out on Monday for the second time in a week over the sale of the company's ferries to the rival firm DFDS Seaways.

The strikes forced the Port of Calais's closure and left thousands of Dover-bound trucks stuck on the M20 in Kent.

Mr Henderson is stuck in about 10km of traffic with a lorry load of paper since early on Wednesday. The drivers have no proper toilet facilities and are dependant on the contents of their own fridges for food.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lorries are parked on the M20 in Kent as Operation Stack is in place due to a strike in Calais

He said migrants were "running riot" on the main road.

"They feel quite at ease opening doors and forcing padlocks off because... the police can't be everywhere at one time. They know if we get out we're outnumbered.

"They try and force padlocks, they secret bars approximately 18 inches long and about half an inch in diameter in a bag or something, then they walk along and put it inside the padlock and smash them off."

Mr Henderson said the drivers watch out for each other.

"It's threatening, yes, It's been worse," he said.

"It's not funny watching 100-plus people coming running at you with iron bars and machetes and you are the focus of their sole attention to get into your truck.

"They have machetes. They hide them quite well from the police."

He said the economic impact of the delay was "catastrophic" for the companies involved.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Members of the Coastguard hand out water to stranded lorry drivers on the M20

"This was loaded yesterday. I should have been on a boat yesterday or a train and I should have been delivering today, so at this present moment in time, we're not even in England.

"The strike has made the situation worse."

Another driver, John Graham from County Down, has been stuck in traffic since 10:00 BST on Tuesday.

"You don't have any facilities. You're expected to sit on a motorway, you can't get out anywhere, you can't do anything - all you can do is sit there and look at the traffic.

"You've no information, whatever information you get is normally distorted, it's second-hand."

He said he had also been "threatened by migrants, banging on the door trying to get in. You can see they've got knives."

"Not just one, there's maybe eight to 10 of them, all at once, and you have to look down the side of your trailer to see if they're trying to get in and you're looking down the other side to see if there's any trying to get in through the passenger side. You have to keep your doors locked.

"I slept on the side of a motorway last night, because I couldn't get out of a queue, doors locked.

"I got about four hours sleep last night in total because of the noise of the motorway, the heat - you can't open your windows because of the heat - or you're worried that somebody tries to gas you or put something into the lorry so you have to open it. If they put a lit rag in through your windows, you'd have to open your doors."

The industrial action is expected to continue until Thursday.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites