The uncertain journey of the Salamanca truckers to the United Kingdom

I am 52 years old, 25 dedicated to the truck, and I have never been out on New Years. It is possible that now it happens to me ”. This is how Jesús Gil faces the trip to the United Kingdom that began yesterday to take merchandise to Birmingham. He works for a Salamanca transport company that, to avoid the truck jam in Calais and Dover, takes a detour to the French port of Caen. There, eight hours by ferry await you to reach the English port of Porstmouth. “I think that to go up there will be no problem. The worst thing is that to return they ask you for a negative test for coronavirus and with 17,000 trucks stuck they cannot cope, ”explains the professional, a few hours after taking the vehicle. You have heard on the French news that in a couple of days the traffic jam caused by the closure of the border with the United Kingdom by a new variant of COVID will have disappeared. “Now the ferry operator does a test with the purchase of the ticket, just as those of us who left today have no problem.”

At this time the queues continue, although they have been considerably reduced. But his boss, Emilio Fiz, admits that they are going blind. “If the situation is ugly when arriving, the trucks will turn around. What we transport is not perishable and we have no problem ”. Other colleagues have told him about the difficult situation in Dover. “They give food to the truckers at the port, but if you are stopped 20 kilometers away, how do you get there?” Asks the businessman. His workers got rid of the pre-Christmas Eve traffic jam because he told them to turn around on time. “So we got rid of the cap, but now several clients need the merchandise before the end of the year and I have to send it despite the risk,” he confesses. Meanwhile, Jesus resigned himself to the journey that began from Irún at night. “Staying on New Years Eve in the UK is not a problem from a family point of view. I am divorced twice. With 25 years of work it is impossible to support a family ”. He gets along well with one of his exes, who has asked him not to date. “There is no other choice, the boss puts his shoulder in and so do we.

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He started the trip with three other companions. “We go at different times but we will arrive at the same time.” They have already booked boarding and will have to queue to cross the English Channel. “The ports we go to have less traffic, in Calais boats leave continuously, but in Caen only two or three depart daily”, explains Emilio Fiz.

“In Caen the menas stop us at roundabouts to sneak in like stowaways”

Although now the news is the thousands of carriers trapped especially in the port of Dover by the new British strain of the coronavirus and Brexit, in Caen, further south and in France, truckers have long lived shocking scenes because of the bitter face of illegal immigration. “There are more than a hundred boys between 16 and 17 years old, from Africa, who camp at roundabouts and get in the middle of the road to stop trucks, try to open them and sneak in like stowaways,” says Jesús, driver of a Salamanca company.

“In Calais it is different, there are many controls and fences, but in Caen the scenes are impressive,” says the professional, who hopes to re-experience them throughout this Monday, before embarking for the United Kingdom. “Those who make the route for the first time are frozen when they see 100 guys trying to open the doors of the moving trucks. They are not aggressive, but seeing them the first time is scary ”.

Professionals close the doors with padlocks because taking a stowaway to the United Kingdom from the beginning has a jail, “after a fine of 5,000 pounds, whether you are at fault or not,” says the trucker.

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