Truckers, port workers and farmers blocked a major highway in northern France on Monday to demand the closure of a nearby migrant camp known as “the Jungle” in the port town of Calais.
Other protesters formed a human chain to call for the closure of the camp, which is home to about 7,000 people, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Many of the migrants hope to sneak onto trucks to cross the nearby English Channel and enter Britain.
Authorities closed half of the camp earlier this year and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Friday that the government would dismantle it as soon as possible. The protesters want him to set a date and say that some migrants have attacked truckers and damaged crops and farms.
Jean-Pierre Devigne, an official at the FNTR, France’s largest trucking union, told BBC radio that truckers and tractor drivers would take part in two go-slows on freeways from Dunkirk to Calais before stopping the trucks at Calais.
"The farmers will join us on the way. We are determined to show that we are not happy with the situation. We are determined to stay on the (freeway) for the time we need,” he said.
Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association trade union in Britain, said the action would cause traffic problems in England.
"We have been told that those taking part in the protest are in it for the long haul and they will stay there until they see action to dismantle the camp," he said.
"While we understand the reason for the action, we cannot condone it," he said , citing the knock-on effects for truckers, the southern English county of Kent on the other side of the English Channel and people returning from their vacations in Europe.
Last week, Britain and France agreed on ways to work together in Calais including boosting security at the port, improving humanitarian aid to homeless migrants, and returning illegal immigrants to their home countries.