POLITICS

Calais Migrant Crisis: Minister Philip Hammond Under Fire From Hauliers After Claiming Government's 'Got A Grip'

04/08/2015 09:04 BST | Updated 04/08/2015 09:59 BST

Lorry bosses have urged David Cameron to witness first hand the "severity" of the migrant crisis at Calais after Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond claimed the Government "has a grip" and problems "peaked" last week.

The Road Haulage Association urged the Prime Minister to break off his first holiday of the season and inspect the French town for himself as Eurotunnel bosses said that 5,000 migrants are trying to get to UK.

Meanwhile, Labour will seek to embarrass the Conservatives by sending Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer to visit the Eurotunnel railhead in Coquelles to hold meetings with officials from Eurotunnel ahead of any government minister.

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Mr Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May have this week begun their summer breaks, leaving Mr Hammond to chair the Cobra emergency summit in Whitehall.

Following the meeting, Mr Hammond sparked anger when he said: "I think we have got a grip on the crisis.

"We saw a peak last week, since when the number of illegal migrants has tailed off.

"We have taken a number of measures in collaboration with the French authorities and Eurotunnel which are already having an effect and over the next day or two I’d expect to have an even greater effect."

philip hammond cobra

Philip Hammond: "We saw a peak last week."

But Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said: "Without witnessing the mayhem at Calais first hand, neither the Prime Minister nor his advisers can fully grasp the severity of the situation."

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Lord Falconer will also meet officials from Road Haulage Association in Calais to discuss Labour’s call for Mr Cameron to put pressure on French authorities to offer compensation to hauliers who lose income due to delays.

The Government has attempted to appear in control of the situation as it announced jail terms for rogue landlords who fail to evict illegal migrants and looking to remove benefits from failed asylum seeker families among a series of crackdowns and shoring up security at the border.

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But Eurotunnel public affairs director John Keefe warned there was a "major problem" taking place now with the "5,000 or so migrants living and moving around the Calais area at will".