Illegal immigration is a huge problem facing the UK. It is trying to limit the influx of such people, primarily by increasing penalties. People who unknowingly bring illegal immigrants into the UK, such as lorry drivers, can also get into big trouble. This is a big problem for hauliers travelling to England.
Immigration is a natural phenomenon that occurs in most developed countries. It often has good things like an influx of young workers in an ageing society. The problem arises when immigration reaches very high levels and is mostly illegal. This is a problem that the UK has been facing for years. Not surprisingly, it is increasingly tightening the law in a bid to discourage illegal entry into its territory. It is also penalising people who bring in illegal immigrants, and even when they do so unknowingly, because someone has hidden, for example, in a lorry trailer.
Illegal immigration – a big problem for the UK
For years now, immigrants have been eager to come to England. In the last 20 years, almost 7 million have arrived. In the first six months of 2022 alone, the British authorities issued a record number of residence visas – 1.1 million [^1]. However, the biggest problem is illegal immigrants. English services estimate that the number of people entering England illegally via the Channel has doubled in the last 2 years. In 2022 alone it was almost 45,000 people [^2].
Officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) confirm that the most common way for illegal immigrants to enter England is by hiding in lorries or other commercial vehicles that reach the UK by ferry across the Channel [^3].
Not surprisingly, the British government plans to make the fight against illegal immigration even tougher in 2023 and increase penalties for smuggling people or assisting illegal immigrants. There are plans to implement a new e-Borders border protection system to make it more difficult for people to enter England illegally. British services will make wider use of biometrics (e.g. facial recognition technology) to identify people entering. On top of this, checks on those entering the UK, including lorries and other vehicles, are to be tightened.
New tariff of fines for illegal immigrants
The UK punishes not only those who have illegally entered its territory, but also those who have assisted illegal immigrants. It does not even matter that such ‘assistance’ was unwitting. It is the duty of hauliers and their drivers to secure vehicles that enter England against ‘stowaways’. Failure to do so can have very unpleasant consequences if checks are carried out and illegal immigrants are discovered in the load compartment. Following a change in the fine tariff, you can receive a fine (civil penalty) of up to £2,000 for each person transported illegally. With several people, this is a really substantial amount. This fine can be imposed not only on the owner of the lorry, but also on the driver making the journey. Such fines apply to all those entering the UK from European seaports and those arriving via Eurotunnel.
Other consequences for transporting illegal immigrants
Financial sanctions are not the only problem that can affect drivers and transporters who are caught transporting illegal immigrants. The consequences can be much bigger and wider, even covering business issues. A major and costly problem can be the loss of the cargo of a stopped truck when immigrants are hidden among it. This is especially true of foodstuffs, which are then disposed of. The haulier loses money and usually cannot count on compensation. This is because insurance companies are increasingly excluding liability if the goods are damaged by people who have forced their way into the semi-trailer and are trying to illegally cross the border.
In some situations, the car may also be stopped by British services to clarify doubts and complete the penalty procedure. A mishap with illegal immigrants can also have a negative impact on business image. The transport company may lose its reputation and the trust of its contractors, which will translate into a lack of further cooperation. However, this is not all. For transporting illegal immigrants in the UK, a driver can end up in jail. All this makes it increasingly difficult for hauliers to find drivers willing to drive to England.
Border Force – what is it and how to get accreditation?
Fortunately, the carrier can protect itself against the problems described earlier. All it needs to do is to obtain Border Force accreditation (the equivalent of the Polish Border Guard). This is a programme of a preventive nature. Its aim is to make it easier for transport companies to put in place procedures and effective safeguards that will significantly reduce the risk of illegal immigrants entering trailers. Joining the programme is free of charge for hauliers travelling between mainland Europe and England.
However, in order to be accredited by the Border Force, certain conditions have to be met, which relate to vehicle security. For this, drivers must undergo special training organised by the Border Force. What are the benefits of Border Force accreditation? In the event that illegal immigrants are detected in a semi-trailer, the haulier will avoid a fine, provided it is not found that the company is not following the recommendations outlined in the accreditation process. It will only receive a letter informing it of the incident and recommendations to improve security. However, the driver can still be fined if the English service finds that he has not complied with his obligations.
Illegal immigration is a big problem in the UK. It is also a problem for companies carrying out transport to England. Recently, fines for transporting people illegally have been raised and there are plans to tighten up procedures to detect illegal immigrants. However, hauliers can protect themselves from the consequences by using Border Force accreditation.