Thursday, July 30, 2015

Seeing the issues through the smoke

And so the Calais saga continues and instead of constantly shouting at the radio - 'what about the industrial action?' - to the annoyance of my wife and anyone else within earshot, I thought I'd return to the story here.

Yes, there are a lot of migrants in Calais and yes, they are trying to get to UK (because despite our repeated warning that they will not be welcome here, they feel a bit of racist abuse is preferable to being blown up, shot at, rendered homeless by armed factions, or whatever horror they are fleeing|). And yes, we have got to address this issue which is taking on crisis proportions.

But the situation is exacerbated, inflamed, stoked up by the industrial dispute affecting the port of Calais. On 1 July the Channel Tunnel company closed My Ferry Link, a service it owned that operated three boats offering twelve or more sailings a day. One of those boats was a dedicated commercial vehicle carrier. 600 workers stood to lose their jobs in a region of France that already has 13% unemployment

On top of that another ferry operator, DFDS, who were prepared to take on the boats but not their workers, found itself drawn into the dispute. The upshot of this is that the my ferry link vessels are permanently docked in Calais (having been disabled by their redundant crews) and port staff have refused to handle DFDS boats (which are now mostly sailing to Dunkirk).

So there are fewer places available on the ships that are still running and fewer berths for those ships to dock at in Calais. Hence the delays. If you remove twelve or more crossings a day on the busiest route into France, it's quickly going to lead to tail-backs on either side of the channel. Those delays cause queues of stationary vehicles which become a target for people desperate to cross to England by any means they can find.

Channel Tunnel security has not been helped by the striking dock workers demonstrating in the mouth of the tunnel, causing damage, burning tyres, disrupting the operator's business.

So, I wonder if the BBC, other news organisations, and the press, could focus a little more on this story in a bid to put pressure on all those involved in the tangled industrial dispute to get that sorted out. If it is sorted out, the port of Calais could fully open, ferries could sail on time, and more commercial vehicles could get about their business rather than joining the longest car park on the M20 and disrupting the lives of people in Kent.

Settling the dispute is not the whole answer to what we're seeing. We have to do something more than wring our hands about the migrant situation and call for the army to be deployed. But settling the dispute would get the port open, the traffic moving,and would enable the operators to focus more on sorting out their security than assuaging the anger of tourists and truckers.

It would also mean that when we go to France in early September, we won't be held up.

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