Calais migrants ambush Britons at knifepoint in terrifying 'highway robberies'
By James Slack and Ian Sparks
Last updated at 8:19 AM on 21st July 2009
Migrant gangs in Calais are targeting British holidaymakers in terrifying 'highway robberies'.
Would-be illegal immigrants are forming human roadblocks to force motorists passing through the French port town to stop.
Travellers are then robbed at knifepoint by the migrants, who are desperate for funds to help them sneak into the UK.
Last night police in Calais issued a warning to the nine million Britons a year who pass through Calais – the equivalent of 25,000 every day.
They urged motorists to keep their windows closed and doors locked until they are safely inside the ferry terminal.
Officers said they had received several reports from holidaymakers of having to 'run a gauntlet' of migrants between the town and the ferry port.
One British couple reported being forced to stop by bedraggled refugees on the port approach road last week.
A Calais police spokesman said: 'Frontier police received a report from a British couple who said the gang formed a human chain across the road to stop them.
'Around six of them then surrounded the car and waved a knife in the male driver's face and demanded cash. He threw his wallet out of the window and sped off. The refugees fled into the woods on foot.'
Police said several days later another British family ploughed through a refugee roadblock, knocking down and injuring one of the migrants.
Robert Moncrieff, 80, following in a car close behind, said: 'There was a refugee lying in the road who looked injured. He was surrounded by several of his accomplices.
'We drove straight past and when we reached the port, the driver told us the refugees had tried to flag him down but he had driven through them and knocked one over.'
The police spokesman added: 'We advise drivers to drive slowly at anyone blocking the road, giving the clear intention you do not want to be stopped.
'If the road remains blocked, keep the windows closed and doors locked, and call the police. Drivers should take any opportunity to drive away once the road is clear.'
He added: 'We are stepping up security and police patrols in the area around the port, especially over the busy summer months.'
Since the closure of the Red Cross refugee centre at Sangatte in 2002, would-be migrants have been sleeping rough in and around Calais while they attempt to sneak on board cross-Channel trains and ferries.
There are currently around 2,000, many living in a squalid camp known as the Jungle, which the French government has said will not be cleared away until next year.
In April immigration minister Eric Besson vowed to bulldoze the litter-strewn shanty town – where a London journalist was raped by a migrant last year – after admitting it had become a hotbed for people smugglers and criminal gangs.
But he has now said the camp must remain in place until it can be dismantled 'in a dignified manner'.
French politicians have blamed Britain for the return of migrant camps to Calais.
The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said the lure of the UK's 'enormous' state handouts to asylum-seekers was the reason why thousands of foreigners are using the French port as a staging point to get across the Channel.
Mrs Bouchart said the UK Government's policies were 'imposing' thousand of migrants on the town, costing the local economy millions of pounds.
Earlier this month, Gordon Brown agreed to give France 15million for new technology to search vehicles heading for Britain.
In return, France undertook to step up the repatriation of illegal immigrants.
Last night a UK Border Agency spokesman said: 'We are confident the French authorities will take any action necessary to protect those travelling back to Britain.'
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