Irish hauliers fined €300k for migrant stowaways
Truckers 'treated like criminals' by Britain's Border Force at Calais
Fifteen Irish haulage companies have been left reeling after being fined almost €300,000 following the discovery of migrants hiding on their trucks at French ports, the Sunday Independent has learned.
One company is facing a fine of almost €90,000 after 16 migrants were found in a trailer. Others face penalties after between two and five stowaways were located in their vehicles.
Company owners say they are worried about the futures of their businesses as growing numbers of drivers refuse to travel through the Channel Tunnel at Calais.
Last week, industry representatives travelled to Brussels to seek support for the easing a piece of UK legislation that fines drivers and hauliers £2,000 (€2,700) for each migrant that is found on their trucks.
Verona Murphy, the president of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA), said: "There is just nothing we can do, we are securing our property and our trailers but the migrants are well able to infiltrate.
"We feel we shouldn't be fined because a secure area should be a secure area, so it's not our fault."
Although the IRHA says there have been vast improvements by French and UK officials to fence off terminals, giving migrants less opportunities to sneak on board, they are still penetrating secure areas.
"It would be the equivalent of trying to secure Dollymount Strand.
"The French are not being fined because they have allowed the migrants into the secure area and that's why they are getting into our trucks," she said.
The IRHA has given details of the 15 haulage companies facing massive fines to the Department of Transport here, which is negotiating with the UK Border Force on their behalf.
"The UK Border Force is blaming the haulage industry and wants us to make our equipment more secure, but it's the French ports that the migrants are in that need to be secured.
"Each truck must be checked and X-rayed for migrants," said Ms Murphy.
Although the IRHA is hopeful that all sides will soon reach a satisfactory resolution, company owners and drivers are still under severe pressure.
David McArdle, director of DG McArdle International, said his drivers felt no safer than earlier this summer, when they were stuck in long queues with no food, no water and no toilet facilities, while desperate migrants circled their trucks with knives and bars.
"Every day this week, there have been big problems with migrants and delays in the tunnel. Drivers don't feel any more reassured and they're getting hassle from the Border Force," said Mr McArdle.
Like many international fleets that depend on the Channel Tunnel, Mr McArdle said he is worried about the future of his business.
"It's very stressful. A lot of money is being spent by transport companies in Ireland to secure the vehicles and we're being made do the UK Border Force's job for it.
"We are made to feel like criminals. We've been presented with two fines over the past month and the industry just doesn't have the money to keep taking these hits," he said.
Although none of Mr McArdle's drivers have been attacked so far, some have quit their jobs because the route is too dangerous.
Others are using alternative routes during daylight hours in order to avoid Calais.
"Your driver is paid to drive a truck and look after the customers' product, but now they have to be a security man and that is really not what a driver's job is supposed to be," said Mr McArdle.