Government looking into stowaway nightmare
By: Dave Robbins
16 May 2016
This probably won’t come as a surprise to hauliers who regularly use the Channel Ports. However official figures show there’s been a 105% increase (1,432-2,935) in the number of immigrants smuggled into the UK over the past three years. Predictions are that this will rise again during the summer.
Aside from the human aspect of this, the situation is causing a major economic headache for hauliers unlucky enough to be targeted by immigrants seeking a ride into the UK. Once on this side of a channel, operators are fined £2,000 per illegal immigrant found on a truck. As a result, the industry is running up a hefty bill – estimated to be around £6m for 2015. One driver alone was handed a £19.5k fine, despite calling the police to alert them to the twelve stowaways he’d found on his vehicle. With that kind of treatment being meted out, it is perhaps understandable that some drivers are turning a blind eye and allowing illegal immigrants to get out of their vehicle and simply ‘disappear’.
The Government view is that operators who show they’re making every possible effort to prevent stowaways getting on board should be treated with some lenience. That’s why many are installing on-board CCTV, heat seeking cameras and sensors to alert drivers to any unwanted passengers onboard their vehicles, before they cross from Europe. If they are discovered in France, a fine is avoided.
With all this in mind, the government launched a six-week consultation in April to seek views on how the current scheme might be modernised and improved. Commenting on the situation, Chris Yearsley, FTA manager for road freight enforcement said: “We’re pleased that the UK government is working with the industry to improve the situation.”
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