Mike Hookem: A Ukip MEP’s account from the migrant camp front line in Calais

Afghan migrants stay inside a tent as they cook food at a camp set near Calais
Afghan migrants stay inside a tent as they cook food at a camp set near Calais
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IT was after a local constituent contacted my office to ask for help highlighting the daily dangers lorry drivers were facing in Calais that I first came over to northern France on a fact-finding mission.

What I saw was horrifying, as queues miles long of lorries trying to check in to the Eurostar or the ferry become sitting ducks for gangs of migrants wielding crowbars who openly tried to break into the backs of the vehicles and threatened the drivers.

I was sitting alongside one as he waited in the queue and we heard banging from the back as they tried to get into the soft sided lorry. Up ahead, one driver was alerted to illegals stowing away in his truck by others honking their horns and he got out to investigate. Two minutes later he returned, to find someone had smuggled themselves into his cab and were lying in his bed.

Usually, drivers don’t leave their cabs, which are secured with deadlocks that cost £300 each. When you’ve witnessed what they have to go through, you understand why. The BBC and so-called ‘humanitarian’ charities would have you believe every single person living in ‘The Jungle’ is a one legged victim of torture escaping terrorism in a country that Britain has bombed and made dangerous.

That is simply not true.

While there are a few who will genuinely have been fleeing, what I have witnessed is people trafficking on a huge scale organised by Arabic gangs making thousand from each person they get into Europe and into the UK.

With security being tightened around the ferry port, and following an increased in police – and now Army – presence around the Channel tunnel following the media reports of how unsecured the terminal was, migrants are moving to ferry ports further along the coast of France and into Belgium.

On Monday, I visited a camp outside Dunkirk to see if any of the people staying there would talk to us. While we found some to be friendly and open and not at all shy about their sole aim being to get to England, inside the camp we met with outright hostility from a group of smartly dressed Arab men who told us in no uncertain terms to get out. One of their group decided to express his feelings in another way, and pulled out an automatic pistol before they chased us down the road back to our cars.

The reason for the difference in reception I put down to one thing: the difference between migrants and people traffickers.

The camp, where I returned the next day with the mayor of the town having reported the incident to the police, is run by smugglers. Set up by a priest in the town, it benefits from converted shipping containers partly funded by the EU, running water and loos. It receives regular visits from members of a charity called Médecins du Monde who also provide showering facilities and medical care. One of their number openly admitted that the migrants she was helping were living at a camp run by, in her words, “the English Mafia”. She pointed to a smart black saloon car with British plates who drove to the site, its Arab drivers clearly familiar with the set-up.

It’s horrifying to see British people taking part in people trafficking, especially as they are also in possession of weapons which will also have made their way into our country. And it wasn’t just a one-off: the cars which arrive here, mainly smart and shiny, driven by people with British passports, all have British number plates. Sometimes they are joined by a white van, where the driver is dressed like a workman. It’s all designed to get illegal immigrants into the UK without raising suspicion which freight drivers are subjected to.

But equally alarming was the attitude of other organisations, including BBC presenters who accused me of ‘intimidating’ the migrants so much they felt they had to draw a weapon and the French police who expressed a level of disinterestedness which make you want to weep – until they realised the British Press were onto them. Their attitude in general is that the British need to sort it. They send out police units and now soldiers to the main problem areas but they insist the problems won’t stop with a few extra fences.

The mayor agreed with me that what needs to happen must happen before these people enter Europe. Once they land in Italy or Greece, countries overwhelmed with the numbers who know they are not the final destination of choice, they are lost. The French can’t detain people who are, because of the EU, legal in France. Even if they find them stowed away they only send them back onto the streets to try again.

We need to take the same action as Australia and turn boats around in the Mediterranean. By picking people up on decrepit fishing boats, we are only assisting the criminal gangs who wish our country harm and, as I have witnessed, these are hardcore criminals with access to weapons.

Mike Hookem is a Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.