shutterstock_2006537519 (3) (1)

The haulage industry has raised concerns at government plans to raise fines for lorry drivers, who inadvertently bring stowaways into Britain, from £2,000 to £10,000 per migrant.

Announcing the move yesterday (16 January) immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the action was part of a drive to cut down on the number of illegal immigrants travelling to the UK hidden in trucks.

He said the current £2,000 fine under the Clandestine Entrant Civil Penalty Scheme was not sufficient to prompt drivers to properly secure their vehicles and had not changed in 20 years.

The increased fines, new maximum penalty levels and a new penalty for failing to adequately secure a goods vehicle are expected to come into force from February 13. The move will also include new security standards for all vehicles.

Chris Yarsley, senior policy manager at Logistics UK, said the fines were unreasonable, failed to tackle the root-cause of the problem and did not recognise that responsible drivers and hauliers are the victims of the criminal people-smugglers.

He added: “When individuals and businesses take every reasonable measure to mitigate the risk of carrying an illegal entrant, including participation in industry standards such as AEOS and Customs Seals (which demonstrate they have implemented the highest possible security measures), it is unreasonable to impose such punitive penalties.

“Urgent improvements are needed to ensure detection systems used in ports are fully effective in locating hidden individuals on vehicles and more should be done to provide safe and secure passage for vehicles to the ports themselves, with more secure overnight parking and increased policing on the routes to Channel ports.

“Governments on both sides of the Channel should remain vigilant to ensure that hard-working hauliers can continue to protect the integrity of the UK’s supply chain - hauliers and drivers are not professionally trained immigration officers or trained security staff and should not be expected to take the fall for the failings of border operations.”

Read more

Rod McKenzie, RHA MD of policy and public affairs also raised concern at the impact on the fine on innocent drivers and operators.

He said: “People smuggling is a crime and we condemn drivers involved in deliberate trafficking.

“However we need to ensure that innocent drivers who are completely unaware they have stowaways on board are not punished unfairly.

“There have been cases in the past when this has happened and we would want clear evidence the driver was party to smuggling people rather than an innocent victim.”

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Jenrick said that there were 3,145 incidents where clandestine entrants were found hidden in vehicles in 2020-21 - in a period where the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown had resulted in fewer vehicle movements. The figure rose to 3,838 incidents in 2021-22.

Jenrick said the scheme is aimed at negligent drivers whose carelessness is allowing stowaways to access their vehicles.

He added: 'Our reforms, including new penalty levels, have been designed to strike a better balance between disincentivising negligence and failures to comply with vehicle security standards, while ensuring that the regime is not overly burdensome on industry.'

A Home Office spokesman said: 'This is the first overhaul of the Clandestine Entrant Civil Penalty Scheme in 20 years and demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to cracking down on illegal migration.

'Far too many vehicles are currently not adequately secured. These measures are another tool in securing our border, deterring illegal migration and disrupting the business model of people smugglers.'