Thursday 29 September 2016

Irish truck driver held at knifepoint by migrants in France

Cormac Fitzgerald

Published 23/07/2015 | 10:32

A migrant goes inside a lorry to attempt to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France. Photo: AP
A migrant goes inside a lorry to attempt to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France. Photo: AP

An Irish lorry driver has said that he was held at knifepoint by a migrant while his iPhone was stolen in a French port city.

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Graham Lowens was transporting Irish Mussels to the Netherlands when he stopped for the night at the city of Calais in the northwest of France which has been affected by a huge influx of migrants trying to make it across the English Channel.

He was awoken by the sound of men outside his lorry, who knocked on his window to ask for cigarettes. While he was distracted by one man, another broke into his lorry and held him at knifepoint.

“I had one guy at the driver’s door with the knife roaring at me in Arabic- I don’t know what he was saying but he was hysterical,” Mr Lowens told Newstalk Breakfast this morning.

“As he was keeping all my attention, the other guy crawled in the window and tried to rob my bag,” he said.

The men eventually with Mr Lowens' iPhone, leaving him terrified.

“These guys came to the truck, not with the intention of getting into it - they came to the truck with the intention of robbing me,” he said.

Read more: Irish truckers in fear of attack from Calais migrants

Migrants

There are around 3,000 migrants living in a refugee camp in Calais. The city is on the edge of the English Channel and a huge amount of lorry traffic passes through on the way to England, via the Euro Tunnel or on board ferries.

Strikes at the port have led to huge traffic problems with a back-log of trucks trying to cross. These delays make it easier for desperate migrants to try and hitch a ride on the lorries.

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Newstalk ran a special report and spoke to some of the migrants living in the crowded refugee camp in Calais, known as Jungle Two. 

“It’s an absolutely atrocious place - it is like being transported to some destitute third-world refugee camp,” reporter Kieran Cuddihy told Newstalk Breakfast.

“There’s no running water… there’s no electricity, there’s 20 portaloos for 3,000 people, so that’s one for every 150 people in the camp,” he said.

Migrants looking for better opportunities have been jumping on lorries and trying other desperate measures to make it to England. Four migrants have died in recent weeks trying to make it across the channel.

On Monday, three men were electrocuted trying to make it into the Channel Tunnel. One of them died on Tuesday of serious burns. 

It is reported that migrants are climbing onto the axles beneath lorries when they are stopped, or trying to climb into the back of them as they board the ferries.

However, for Graham Lowens the men weren’t looking to escape in his lorry but to steal from him.

“It was the first time I’ve had an experience like that where someone has put a knife to me,” he said.

“I think the best way to protect drivers at the moment is not to have them in Calais.”

“Anywhere within an hour or a 100 Km from Calais is a no go area.. Police in Calais are overwhelmed,” he said.

The French authorities put the responsibility of preventing the migrants from crossing on the driver. If any migrants are found to have made it through the control area on a lorry, the driver and their company are landed with a fine.

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