While much of the world's focus this year remained on the migrant boat disasters of the Mediterranean and the Rohingya refugee crisis in Southeast Asia, an equally important migrant issue went largely ignored.
Hundreds of migrants from the French coastal town of Calais have become a headache for both French and British authorities – as well as truck drivers.
Due to the wars in Afghanistan, Libya and the Horn of Africa, thousands of migrants are entering Europe, mostly via Italy, and dispersing across the continent, only to head toward the U.K. – almost 21 miles away across the English Channel.
Squalid conditions in makeshift camps – aka The Jungle in Calais – further force these refugees to flee aboard trucks as stowaways headed for Britain.
Aid workers working in Calais claim health conditions “have worsened” in the past few months due to lack of basic necessities such as food, blankets and shelter, all leading to “growing tensions.”
“It is much worse than it was before,” Martine Devries, from Médicins du Monde, told the Guardian. “There are more people and they are becoming more desperate and are taking more risks. Last year people would only make attempts to get on to lorries at night, now there are so many and they are so desperate people are trying in broad daylight.”
Earlier this month, dozens of migrants were filmed trying to smuggle themselves onto a U.K.-bound truck in northern France, shocking onlookers. Here’s a video of the incident:
Often, these dangerous journeys end up in violence.
In a separate video posted to Facebook – now deleted – by a Romanian truck driver, several migrants were shown being dragged from a vehicle before being brutally beaten purportedly by a group of truck drivers.
But such incidents have not been able to dampen the spirits of desperate asylum-seekers.
"My future would be better if I get to England. I came here via Turkey and Greece and now I’m living in the jungle in Calais. The situation here is very bad. But life in Syria was worse. Our homes were destroyed and our government used chemical weapons against us. I need a better life in England and I will do whatever it takes," a migrant named Yazan told the Irish Examiner.
"We don’t want benefits, we want to be citizens. We have energy and education, we want to be able to work and contribute to society. I left Afghanistan in 2008 because I faced many dangers. I hoped when I got here I would be able to live as a human being, to rebuild my life and future. But I am still struggling," another named Kahn told Vice.
However, truck drivers have a different story to tell. They claim migrants – some allegedly armed with knives – are “torturing" them on a daily basis in their quest to reach Britain.
"They’ve been torturing us the whole day. We’ve chased them but they don’t run away, they’re not scared anymore. It’s time something was done about it," one driver told Good Morning Britain.
"They broke my padlock, broke my seal. Up in my truck are around 10 or 11 people," lamented another.
The Freight Transport Association’s Natalie Chapman has said the migrant crisis is creating "a perfect storm” of strikes, closures and tailbacks.
"When you combine that with the current crisis we're having with migrants trying to get on board vehicles, it's caused some real issues for drivers. I think some drivers certainly the other side of the Channel have spent a very disturbed night of sleep really just keeping one eye open to see who's trying to get on board their vehicle."
Addressing the recent incidents of stowaway migrants from Calais, British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to bolster the border with France after television footage showed large crowds of migrants trying to board queuing trucks. He added that ministers need to take measures to make sure Britain becomes a "less easy place for illegal migrants to come to and work in."