Two convoys of trucks and tractors slowed traffic to a crawl on the main approach road to Calais on Monday in a protest against the impact of growing numbers of migrants disrupting the French port.
Answering an appeal from drivers and farmers unions, the vehicles set off from different assembly points towards Calais at around 8am (7am Irish time). Calais residents would also form a human chain along the port road, said protest organisers.
Thousands of people fleeing war and poverty are waiting in in Calais for a chance to reach Britain, regularly trying to force their way onto vehicles heading there by ferry and rail tunnel.
The attempts have continued in the face of extra security staff and the construction of high fences along road and rail routes.
“We have to do this. We have to escalate things, because for months now the situation has been getting worse and worse,” said David Sagnard, president of FNTR national truck drivers’ federation, as the convoys, each with about 40 vehicles, set off.
“Before, it was just attempts to get on trucks. Now there is looting and wilful destruction, tarpaulins are slashed, goods stolen or destroyed. . . Drivers go to work with fear in their bellies and the economic consequences are severe,” he said.
Calais is one of the flashpoints of Europe’s migrant crisis, resurgent in recent weeks as more people arrive on the continent’s southern shores.
About 7,000 migrants are living in the remaining northern half of the camp, up from 4,500 in June, according to local authorities. Humanitarian groups put the number closer to 9,000.