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European hauliers who unknowingly carry illegal migrants (“clandestine entrants”) into the UK face fines (“civil penalties”) of up to 4,000 pounds per illegal migrant.

Every year, many thousands of illegal migrants hide inside trucks heading for the UK. In most cases, the driver and haulier will have no idea that they are on board. If one of these trucks is stopped by the UK customs authorities (known as the “UK Border Force”), the haulier and the driver can usually expect to pay a fine. UK law allows the Border Force to impose a fine even if they accept that the driver and haulier did not know that the illegal migrants were inside the truck.

It is important that all hauliers who operate trucks into the UK understand:

– what the risks from illegal migrants are,

– how these risks can be reduced,

– how any fines can be appealed.

How much are the fines?

For every illegal immigrant discovered, the UK Border Force can issue the haulier operating the truck with a fine of up to 2,000 pounds.

They can also issue the driver of the truck with a further fine of up to 2,000 pounds. If the driver does not pay, the haulier will have to pay both his own and his driver’s fine.

This means that a haulier can pay up to 4,000 pounds for each illegal immigrant found in their truck.

In one recent case we have dealt with, a haulier was issued with over 20,000 pounds in fines all from a single inspection of a single truck and trailer.

How to appeal a fine

If illegal immigrants are found on board, a haulier can avoid a fine if they succeed in demonstrating that they have a defence. Even if a full defence cannot be demonstrated, it is often possible to succeed in substantially reducing the amount of fine payable.

In general, there are two main routes of appeal:

1. The first is a written appeal. Detailed submissions and evidence must be provided, in English, to the UK Border Force. These should be prepared with reference to the relevant UK law and Codes of Practice and should set out in detail the legal basis of the appeal. A good knowledge of the UK law in this area is helpful.

2. It is also possible to appeal directly to court. This involves attending a court hearing in the UK at which a judge will hear evidence from both the haulier and UK customs before reaching a decision.

Strict time limits apply and it is always wise to take legal advice from a UK transport lawyer.

What happens if you don’t pay the fine?

If you have been given a fine and neither successfully challenge it or pay it within the time limit, the UK Border Force can seize and hold any of your vehicles in the UK until the fine is paid. If you still do not pay, they can sell your trucks to recover the debt. They also have the power to pursue the debt in Europe through an international collection agency.

How to stop being fined again

Once a haulier has received a migrant fine, their vehicles are far more likely to be stopped and inspected in the future. If illegal migrants are found again in vehicles belonging to that haulier, the amount of fine per migrant will be far greater. It is therefore crucial that all hauliers transporting loads into the UK are able to demonstrate that they have an effective system in place for the prevention of migrants, and that the system works.

Unfortunately, the risk to European hauliers of migrant fines (civil penalties for clandestine entrants) is only likely to increase after Brexit. It is important to take advice and to act now before it is too late.

Chris Powell is a road transport lawyer at Rotheras Solicitors in the UK. 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Philafrenzy/CC BY-SA 4.0 



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