Government urged to stop penalising hauliers for unwittingly transporting migrants

Leading law firm Moore Blatch has called on the government to waive fines for haulage companies and drivers who find they are unwittingly transporting ‘clandestine entrants’ in their vehicles, until the escalating border control situation in Calais has been rectified.

It is concerned that the dangers of intimidation, personal violence and a threat of fines are fuelling a health and safety issue for drivers and their employers.  Drivers forced to check their vans or trucks can find themselves in danger of being attacked by migrants desperate to cross the UK border.  They are then in an increasingly impossible position risking injury when tackling migrants, or fines for ignoring them.

Currently, drivers and haulage companies are legally obliged to protect their vehicles from people coming into the UK without going through proper immigration controls.  In April the UK Border Agency imposed a mandatory £2,000 fine – known as a civil penalty – for each illegal migrant found in their lorries.

In addition, a code of practice set out by the government must be adhered to by both driver and employer in order to prevent clandestine entrance.  This calls for appropriate security measures, such as padlocks, seals, tilt cord and recording checks on a vehicle’s security checklist.

Moore Blatch is calling for the government to revisit its advice to lorry drivers, which calls for those who suspect that somebody is in, under or on a vehicle, not to go through UK Border Control but to contact local police.  It is clearly unsustainable for every lorry driver approaching Calais to summon police every time he sees a migrant in his rear view mirror.

The law firm also argues that in the event of fines not being suspended and employers continuing to insist on checks, new ways will have to be found to support drivers, such as investing in security safeguards or extra personnel.

David Thompson, managing partner, Moore Blatch, explained: “This is a Catch-22 situation for the hauliers and drivers, many of whom have to cross the borders several times a week – some even daily.  Either they risk a hefty fine by the UKBA for every illegal migrant caught hiding in their vehicle, or they risk their lives confronting determined migrants.

“It is all very well for politicians and civil servants sitting in Whitehall setting out these regulations, but we have to recognise that, in reality, if a driver is threatened physically at the point of embarkation, the driver may have little choice but to commit the offence.”