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Calais comments

Hardly a day passes without news of the latest ‘migrant activity’ at Calais hitting the headlines as more details are unearthed on the desperate measures taken by migrants in their bid for sanctuary in the UK, writes Peter Jackson, pictured, CEO of Jacksons Fencing.

Much of the media focus in recent weeks has been on the industrial action by the former employees of MyFerryLink in Calais resulting in the repeated use of ‘Operation Stack’ and the plight of the residents, local businesses and tourist traffic affected by the closure of the M20 motorway and disruption to the estimated £100bn of annual trade transported via the Dover-Calais ferry route. But one of the other consequences of the strike is that the Eurotunnel Freight and Le Shuttle services in nearby Coquelles have been overwhelmed and it’s here that migrants in large numbers have openly been taking advantage of the ensuing chaos by scaling, cutting through and storming security fences in attempts to access the cross channel trains. The Guardian reported that over one particular night, there were about 2000 attempts to breach the fences at the Eurotunnel terminal. In the first six months of 2015 alone, according to BBC News, Eurotunnel has spent £9.2m on reinforcing security, which include fencing, infra-red CCTV and more guards – and earlier this month the UK Government announced it would be providing and additional £7m to fund immediate measures to improve security in Calais and Coquelles, including new fencing at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel and terminal.

There are around 5,000 homeless, hungry, scared and desperate men, women and children who find themselves existing in a state of uncertainty in camps and sleeping rough in and around Calais. They are determined to gain entry into the UK at virtually any cost and their attempts inevitably lead to conflict and confrontation with those responsible for keeping them safely where they are until they can be ‘processed’ through a system operating at breaking point. What’s the solution to this problem?

Clearly, the situation in Calais represents more than a short term immigration problem for the UK or irritation to the residents of Kent from Dover to Maidstone. It is part of a global humanitarian crisis which the UN cites as ‘the worse migration problem since World War II’, with some 38 million people displaced outside their countries; and one it is one that needs to be addressed holistically and with sensitivity and compassion in a comprehensive and sustainable response. But while governments, regimes, NGOs, aid agencies and some of the brightest and most influential people in the world attempt to make progress from the same agenda, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that UK security services and the security industry already plays an important role in helping the authorities in Calais and Coquelles to at least better manage the situation.

Speaking as CEO of a manufacturing businesses located minutes from the M20 and under six miles from the Channel Tunnel entrance, the events in Calais resonate strongly with me personally and have certainly made an impact on the company – we rely on the cross-channel services to receive materials and to ship finished products to customers on the European mainland, while the M20 and M2 motorways provide us with access to the national motorway network which we use to make deliveries to UK customers and to other sea and air freight ports. And with my ‘perimeter security expert’ hat on, I can see that what’s needed at Eurotunnel is a fencing solution with the capability to help diffuse some of the tensions.

A well-engineered and fit for purpose security fence can act as a great mediator – it doesn’t take sides, it’s apolitical and it does not get angry or react in frustration. It simply is what it is – a barrier to unauthorised access to an area. If it performs no more than that function with complete reliability, acting as a physical deterrent, withstanding determined attempts to cut through its fabric, burrow under its base, storm its structure or scale over its defences, it will reduce the risk of exposure to serious injury or worse to migrants and police officers, which benefits all parties. However, as recent news footage has been quick to highlight, if it fails then it could exacerbate the problem because it gives desperate people false hope and promotes higher risks being taken to exploit its weaknesses.

There’s no doubt that the existing fencing systems would have been perfectly serviceable for the threats identified at the time of specifying, but have proven to be inadequate against the different, more aggressive and frequent attacks carried out by greater numbers of people over the recent past. The lessons have been learned, all too publicly, and I’m certain that the next generation of fencing will be specified to cope with any foreseeable escalation in means, force and frequency of attacks. I don’t believe that any of us involved in the higher end of the perimeter security industry subscribe to the idea of creating an ‘anti-immigration fence’, but rather to providing a ‘protect and defend barrier’ which serves to keep everyone safe. Respective Governments have yet to arrive at a solution to the systemic causes for the global migration crisis. The new perimeter fencing will be just one of many individual actions which collectively make a small but worthwhile contribution to help in what is a very real and ongoing humanitarian crisis.

About the writer

Peter Jackson is CEO of Jacksons Fencing which is headquartered in Kent and Group Vice Chairman of the Site Security and Access Control Group for The Data Centre Alliance. Jacksons Fencing designs, makes and installs security fencing and access solutions and currently offers Approved for UK Government Use, LPS1175 Certified and Secured by Designs’ Police Preferred Specification products.

Gary Trotter, co-founder of Sunderland-based security specialists, Hadrian Technology, believes CCTV can help bring order to the border.

We’ve all seen disturbing images on the news of suspected illegal immigrants attempting to get into Britain, while many people have been unlucky enough get caught up in delays and gridlock caused by the migration crisis at the Channel Tunnel.

Seeing thousands of lorries queuing on the M20 after all the disruption was a worrying sight. Unless this issue is tackled effectively, it is not going to be a problem that affects only the South East of England; it will have a serious impact on every part of the country and potentially be very damaging for many businesses.

It was encouraging to see the Government announce £7m in extra funds to help police at the border and secure key sections of the site. A lot of that money has been earmarked for CCTV cameras, and that will be an extremely effective way of bringing control to our borders. Hadrian Technology, and anyone else operating in the CCTV field, have greatly welcomed this development and we are pleased to see this technology being identified as a top priority to try to bring order at the Channel Tunnel.

The advantages of CCTV in these circumstances are massive. The images will give security officials and police a bigger field of view, more coverage, along with better monitoring and analysis. By constantly focusing on new ways to innovate and grow, companies like ourselves have used pioneering technologies to develop CCTV with analytics that offer the highest quality images possible.

We take the best camera and combine it with the best software so a CCTV system becomes a one-stop shop that manages itself, which is what this type of challenging situation at our ports is calling for. Crystal clear images will help to make monitoring and detection much easier at the border – a benefit that will hopefully act as a deterrent to migrants attempting to come into the country, as well as giving police and security officials a faster response time.
Security personnel will be able to monitor incidents, react quickly and advance to flashpoints in Calais and Coquelles, where migrants are attempting to smuggle their way over the border. Thermal imaging on cameras, combined with analytics in the software, allow the CCTV operator or police to respond far more quickly to incidents as they are about to occur, rather than having to react after migrants have breached security fences.

It has also been revealed that sales of CCTV systems for lorries have risen by 400 per cent since the Calais migrant issue began. This will help companies who want to secure their goods and protect their staff, as well as their reputation in the process. Using CCTV technology will have a tremendous impact in tightening up security and helping to catch migrants attempting to make their way into the country illegally, but it is important to stress that this is also about saving lives.

There are many benefits of using a CCTV camera. The biggest advantage of installing cameras at the Channel Tunnel will be the deterrent to migrants attempting to board lorries. If they know they are being monitored and will be caught as they attempt to stow away on vehicles, they will think twice. Prevention is always better than a cure – something we always impress on potential clients in retail, leisure and commercial sectors.

Through our expertise in dealing with large industrial environments, being able to manage the whole site is key to solving this issue. Migrants are using smart phones to update each other and “spotters” are on hand to target vulnerable HGVs and establish where police are located. Having a network of CCTV cameras would remove this problem as they would locate where stowaways are congregating.

Our experience of crime prevention and public protection would suggest that, once security is stepped up in Calais, it will be only a matter of time before the migrant problem is transferred to other sites, so it is vitally important other ports start looking at tightening up security in advance.


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