Report: hauliers to be liable for transporting migrants – even if lorries are fully secured

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UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is today expected to announce amendments that will grant Border Force officers more powers to prosecute haulage companies, writes the Daily Telegraph. The plans appear to be reflective of the UK Government's spring policy document, which covered measures to prevent migrants crossing the channel in lorries. It is reported that the amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill will mean hauliers will be fined £2,000 for every illegal migrant found in their lorry - even if they have done full security checks.

Report: hauliers to be liable for transporting migrants – even if lorries are fully secured
Photo credit: Hampshire Constabulary

As it stands, hauliers already face fines of £2,000 for every illegal migrant found in the vehicles. However, this only applies when all the required steps to secure trucks and trailers have not been taken.

The Daily Telegraph claims that Home Office officials have said the existing laws are not effective, citing research that found over 1 in 3 lorries had failed to take any security measures whatsoever. The newspaper writes that is believed as many as 8,000 migrants arrive in UK via lorry, even though there are now strict cross-border checks and scanners being used.

It is said that the new rules will make drivers and hauliers liable for the illegal transport of migrants – even in the event the lorry has been fully secured.

The plans referred to by the Daily Telegraph somewhat mirror the UK Government policy document that was published in Spring of this year. In particular, it recommended the following three measures:

  • The introduction of a new penalty for failure to secure a vehicle, regardless of whether an illegal migrant is found on board or not
  • Expanding the scheme to entail levying a penalty on all hauliers where a migrant is found in their vehicle, regardless of load security
  • Reviewing accreditation for hauliers who are repeatedly found in breach

In a statement reacting to that policy document, Chris Yarsley, Policy Manager at Logistics UK,  said that in the event truckers are not protected, yet more drivers will give up the profession – making the current driver shortage even worse:

“Logistics UK strongly opposes the government’s proposal to expand the existing penalty scheme to any haulier found with an illegal migrant in their vehicle, regardless of their compliance with load security standards or accreditation schemes. When an individual takes all reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of illegal entrants, it is unfair to deprive the vehicle operator of any defence and simply issue an automatic penalty, the cost of which will be prohibitive for many smaller operators. The detection systems used in ports are not themselves fully effective in locating people hidden on board a vehicle,; it is unrealistic to expect hauliers and drivers, who are neither trained security staff nor immigration officials, to outperform government agencies. These proposals could have a significant impact on supply chain operations by deterring businesses from bringing goods into the UK, in addition to reducing the attractiveness of HGV driving as a career option, at a time when the industry is suffering deeply from a worker shortage.”

The RHA also expressed concern over the plans in the document, stating:

“It is vital when considering the operation the border that there is not an unrealistic expectation by Government that the onus is always on the driver and haulier to ensure security, regardless of what is within their control or not.”

Onboard footage recorded from a Whites Transport Services HGV back in May shows just how checks must be conducted by drivers on a continual basis. Within the short space of time that one of the company’s drivers had spent paying for his petrol, one migrant had snuck into the truck’s side locker. The truck driver nonetheless performed all the necessary checks and was able to leave without any additional passengers – thus avoiding any penalties.

Not everyone is so lucky, however. Templar European Logistics, which is registered in Poland but owned by Englishman Matt Garnett, is one example. The company revealed on its Facebook Page in May that despite its driver conducting all necessary checks, 5 migrants were found in the truck’s trailer. In the aforementioned Facebook post, Templar European Logistics said that it had lost over £40,000 as a result of the incident – a £4,000 fine from the government on top of £4,000-worth of damage and £34,000 for the lost load.

In late July, the haulier then revealed that the fine had risen to £5,000. The company has vowed to fight the decision and has lodged an appeal.

Besides having to deal with the threat of punishment for unwittingly and unknowingly transporting migrants into the UK, truckers moving goods across the English channel may also face attacks from the migrants themselves.

In May of this year, video and photo footage, as well as driver witness reports, revealed how migrants had thrown objects at truckers’ windscreens in an attempt to slow down and then board passing HGVs. A Polish driver who experienced the attack told a local newspaper that he had even feared for his life during the incident.

As recently as last month, there were also reports in the French media regarding 20 migrants who had attempted to break into trailers during the congestion caused by issues at the new Calais Port terminal.

Photo credit: Hampshire Constabulary

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