Don't make up your mind about the Calais Wall until you've read this lorry driver's view
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The dark, dimly-lit motorway into Calais was punctured by a speck of light. As Marty Hirst drew closer in his lorry, he saw flames licking the tarmac from hay bales placed at the side of the road. It wasn’t a wholly unexpected sight at 3.30 in the morning. Smugglers trying to get their charges across the Channel had staged a spectacle to slow traffic, thereby creating the opportunity to leap onto the back of passing lorries as they rolled past. Marty manoeuvred past the police cars and continued on his way, but it turned out that the fire was a diversion for something bigger. “Two kilometres further on, there’s a section of road which is an ‘S’ shape with no lighting and bushes and trees on both sides. “There, a tree had been felled and laid in the road. It wasn’t massive, but big enough that you couldn’t drive over it. “I stopped my van 50-100 yards back to consider my options, and a short while later a group of people came running out of the bushes… and started climbing up between the back of my cab and the front of the trailer.” Marty did not want to leave his vehicle and was reluctant to drive away, knowing he could put the stowaways’ lives in danger. After calling the police and waiting 20 minutes (he says they did not arrive), he eventually decided to very slowly drive the final 7km to the tunnel portal. When he reached Calais, Marty alerted security, who removed 17 people from the inside of his truck. The men had cut a hole in the canvas roof in order to gain entry to the trailer. Even with searches, staff can’t be certain that all stowaways have been removed. “For that 10 or 15-minute window [the group are in the truck], they are burying two or three of them in the load,” says Marty. “The others cover them up and make it look untouched, knowing the rest will be chased out.” Despite the incident, which occurred two weeks ago, Marty, who has been working as a haulier from Holland to the UK for 14 years, feels the wall proposed by Theresa May’s Government this week isn’t the right solution. The Government said the wall would be 4m high and 1km long, along the main motorway to the ferry and tunnel terminals in Calais. It is expected to cost £1.9 million and will form part of £17 million-worth of measures to prevent refugees attempting the journey across the Channel to the UK. Improvements have been made and are working. At the start of the crisis, Marty says, traffic management issues led to jams on the motorways into the ferry and Eurotunnel terminals. Stand-still and slow-moving traffic made it easy for smugglers to place people in trucks and under the axles of coaches, putting them in severe danger. Public pressure has come to bear on this though.
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