Desperate migrants make Calais a 'war zone' for lorry drivers en route to Britain

Migrants attempt to gain access to a lorry in Calais. Credit: ITV News

By Dan Rivers: ITV News Correspondent

Lorry driver Lee Croson describes Calais as a "war zone" these days.

Lee has been a long distance driver for more than 20 years, but he's never known the situation in Calais to be this bad.

I accompanied him on a typical run, meeting him near Lille and staying on-board until we board the ferry at Calais.

As we approach the channel port we notice more and more apparent migrants at the side of the motorway.

Many are of Somali origin; having risked their lives and considerable sums of money to get to the UK, they are not going to give up now they are so close.

We see a truck coming the opposite way with its canvas roof ripped and flapping in the breeze.

Lee is certain there will be migrants inside, who are no doubt hoping the lorry is heading to Britain. It's actually heading the opposite way.

Lee found a group of migrants in his trailer before who only agree to get out once he told them he was on his way to Italy, not Dover.

As we approach Calais, Lee tells me he'll take me along a notorious road nicknamed "diesel alley".

It's a back road near the port with several refuelling stations - and hundreds of migrants.

As we slow down to make a right turn, a group swarms around the back of Lee's lorry, one man trying to open the door. It's a scary experience.

Lee says he knows plenty of drivers who have been threatened with knives if they stop to confront the would-be stowaways.

Lee said he tries to avoid Calais because of incidents like this. Credit: ITV News

So now he tries to avoid stopping anywhere near Calais. Anywhere within three hours drive of the port is considered a risk.

If a driver is caught with migrants in his vehicle it is the driver, not the company, who is liable for a £2,000 fine.

Then there is the potential damage to the load. Lee has plenty of stories of migrants urinating on cargo destined for the food industry, writing them off at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.

We make it inside the port without anyone getting aboard, but footage later posted on YouTube shows the mayhem that is now a regular occurrence in Calais.

Migrants seen running towards a ferry in Calais. Credit: Mark Salt

A large group of migrants broke into the port forcing a ferry to raise its ramp as French police struggled to detain them.

But when the migrants are caught they face no action in France.

We obtained footage showing migrants caught inside the port simply being released.

John Vine, the chief inspector of borders, has already expressed concern about the fact that migrants aren't even fingerprinted in Calais when they are caught.

It means there is no way of checking whether an asylum claimant in Britain has in fact come from France and how many times he or she has been caught attempting to illegally cross the channel.

Of course, if it could be shown they have spent considerable time in France without claiming asylum there, it would significantly weaken their argument for asylum in Britain.

Watch Dan Rivers' report in full below:

The French police around the port watch on impassively as the repeated attempts to board lorries play out right in front of them.

The day before we were in Calais they used tear gas to disperse the crowds, but it's only a temporary measure and within hours the migrants are back.

The mayor of Calais is so fed up with the situation she has threatened to blockade the port.

Watch this space: the issue of migrants in Calais is getting worse, not better, and I suspect it's about to once again dominate the political agenda in Britain and France.