Better detection needed to prevent clandestine entrants rather than higher penalties for hauliers

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Vikki Woodfine, partner at DWF, the global provider of integrated legal and business services, comments on the higher penalties being faced by hauliers where clandestine entrants are found in vehicles.

It has been announced by the Minister for Immigration that from next month higher penalties will be imposed on hauliers where clandestine entrants are found in vehicles.

Robert Jenrick MP, said: "During the financial year 2020-2021, there were 3,145 incidents where clandestine entrants were detected concealed in vehicles, despite the Covid-19 pandemic causing a lower volume of traffic. This rose to 3,838 incidents during the financial year 2021-2022. The Government is therefore concerned that the Scheme is not having enough of an effect. Existing penalty levels have not changed since 2002. Drivers and other responsible persons are not taking the steps required to secure their vehicles, and clandestine entrants are continuing to use these routes to come to the UK."

Our team participated in this consultation as we are concerned with the proposal to increase penalties around vehicle security and fines per entrant found in a trailer – a position we believe is shared by the overwhelming majority of people within the logistics sector. 

Whilst urgent improvements are required, increasing the civil penalties scheme will not tackle the growing people trafficking market, and the sophisticated methods which people smugglers adopt to move people illegally.  

To fully address this issue, better detection systems need to be fully utilised at ports to ensure individuals hiding in vehicles can be detected, as well as providing safer, more secure passage for vehicles to the ports. In addition, tighter security on the route to the ports and secure overnight parking is needed. 

The British and French authorities face significant challenges in dealing with this complex issue and it is therefore unreasonable to punish those drivers and hauliers who are themselves often victims of the criminal people-smugglers.

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