Friday, July 24, 2015

The news from France...

So, last week we were in France. After a fabulous weekend in Amiens (one of our favourite cities on the planet), we went to Le Pas Opton, Spring Harvest's French base, for Dutch week. We had a great time with some wonderful Dutch believers.

We went to France through Calais - our usual route - but were being warned ahead of leaving that our journey would be a nightmare and that we might never get there! Well, we did. However, on the Friday we were sailing we set off extra early and went to Dover on the M2 rather than the M20 because operation stack was in operation on that road.

We left extra time because we expected to hit traffic and had been warned that passport control takes longer than it used to. There was nothing on the M2/A2 so our journey took just over an hour. We sailed through passport control with no one manning any of the booths and so no one looking at our passports. We were so early we could not check in for half an hour. On disembarking in Calais we left the port in modest traffic with no disruption.

We expected the return to be worse. True passport control was slow - mainly because there were not enough lanes open - and the timetable was disrupted. But we were sailing within an hour of check-in, which is relatively normal. Admittedly, we were on a ferry that should have left an hour and half before we arrived in the port! Most travellers seemed cheerful enough, however.

So, today on the BBC news there were reports of chaos in Calais caused by an ocean of migrants forcing their way into Britain by any means they could find. This was not what we saw. In fact we didn't see any evidence of the migrant invasion at all on our trip. What the BBC failed to mention is that the main disruption in Calais is caused by an on-going industrial dispute between workers of the company My Ferry Link and the company's owners, the channel tunnel company (hence the disruption to the tunnel over recent days).

The only person who mentioned the industrial action was the man from the Freight Transport Association who thought strikes should be outlawed in the industry. Perhaps a better solution would be what the French government appear to be proposing at a meeting next Monday which is that they take control of My Ferry Link. This would ensure that capacity on the cross channel is not reduced (the dispute is over My Ferry Link's current owners shutting the company down and taking the boats out of the water, thus reducing available space and allowing prices to rise).

It is the industrial action that has given the migrants desperate to get to the UK a chance to risk making the crossing. The result has been a rise in the number of deaths in the water and on the tracks of the channel tunnel (the latest was the body of young man found on top of a train this morning). So part of the solution to the migrant issue would be to settle the industrial action swiftly and justly, increase the capacity of the carriers on the route (either under or over the sea).

There is talk of a big lorry park being built in Kent to free the M20 from becoming a car park from time to time. That sounds good. How about also building a reception centre on this side of the channel so that we could take our fair share of the migrants coming to the EU and not leaving them in the hands of people traffickers?

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