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FTA repeats call for better protection for truckers before some die in Calais

Nov.17--THE Freight Transport Association (FTA) has repeated its call for better protection for truck drivers after violent battles broke out last week between police and migrants near the migrant camp in Calais, France.

The association said it warned weeks ago that the situation in Calais would continue to escalate if action wasn't taken. It now demands safe passage for truck drivers and other port users as French Channel port 'is back in crisis and truck operators and drivers are again in the firing line'.

Local residents described the clashes last week, in which at least 26 officers were injured, as "like a war" as 250 French riot police were sent to the area on two nights to deal with rioters stopping traffic on the port ring road, the FTA reported. Rocks were thrown at police, who used tear gas to break up the gangs.

"This is utterly unacceptable. The reported actions of migrants have crossed a line. Whatever your views on the plight of migrants and asylum seekers, no-one has a right to threaten, intimidate, or physically attack drivers and other innocent bystanders," FTA's deputy chief executive James Hookham said.

"This must be the primary concern of French and British governments before someone gets seriously injured, or even killed."

FTA said GBP89 billion (US$96 billion) worth of UK trade passes through Calais on a yearly basis, and said that in the past 12 months, FTA had written to the Mayor of Calais and to the UK's Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister calling for action on the worsening situation for its members at the port.

The Association estimates that around GBP750,000 a day was lost to the UK freight industry at the height of the crisis in June and July when 'Operation Stack' was put in place on the M20 for 28 days.

FTA said it warned of the worsening problem in Calais in May and called on the French government to take urgent action in June. As the situation deteriorated through the summer, FTA members described the area as "like a war zone".

According to UK media reports, French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the recent riots had been provoked by a group called 'No Borders' an anarchist organisation that campaigns for all immigration controls to be scrapped.

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said "it is No Borders" who "take advantage of the disarray of the migrants and push them into rioting",N the UK's Daily Mail reported.