The UK haulage industry has been left fuming by Home Office plans to increase fines for hauliers caught carrying illegal migrants into Britain. The new rule has been included as part of Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s, ‘New Plan for UK Immigration’. The current fine for haulage firms whose truckers are caught carrying illegal immigrants is £2,000.
The industry has warned that the new fine, which will apply regardless of whether drivers comply with security measures and schemes, will make the driver shortage crisis even worse. The draft of the New Plan for UK Immigration is said to contain the new penalty as a way of ‘providing enough incentive to comply with the requirements of the schemes’.
The New Plan for UK Immigration also includes proposals to impose fines for drivers who ‘fail to secure their vehicle’ irrespective of whether an illegal immigrant is found on board. This will expand the scheme to entail levying a penalty on all hauliers where a migrant is found in one of their vehicles, regardless of load security and reviewing accreditation for hauliers repeatedly found to be in breach of the rules.
Responsible hauliers shouldn’t be punished
However, industry association, Logistics UK has described the new fines as unfair saying: “Responsible hauliers and drivers who are unwitting victims of people-smuggling gangs should not be penalised if all precautions have been taken to protect their vehicles.”
Policy manager for Logistics UK, Chris Yarsley, said: “People-smuggling and clandestine attempts by desperate individuals to enter the UK are a humanitarian crisis, which governments need to address on both sides of the Channel.”
“The facilitation of illegal immigration into the UK by criminal gangs is a significant challenge for the haulage industry, with desperate individuals and organised crime groups actively targeting the vehicles of professional drivers and hauliers,” Yarsley added.
According to Mr Yarsley, operators remain ‘determined’ to play an active role in stamping out organised crime gangs that prey on innocent migrants, and ensuring that those profiting from people’s desperation are brought to justice.
However, he argued that the government must acknowledge that responsible haulage firms and their drivers are also victims of organised crime gangs.
He said: “When an individual takes all reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of illegal entrants, it is unfair to deprive the vehicle operator of any defence and simply issue an automatic penalty, the cost of which will be prohibitive for many smaller operators.”
Mr Yarsley went on to criticise the detection systems used at ports, saying: “The detection systems used in ports are not fully effective in locating people hidden onboard a vehicle; it is unrealistic to expect hauliers and drivers, who are neither trained security staff nor UK immigration officials, to outperform government agencies.”
“These proposals could have a significant impact on supply chain operations by deterring businesses from bringing goods into the UK – in addition to reducing the attractiveness of HGV driving as a career option at a time when the industry is suffering deeply from a worker shortage,” he added.
New Plan for Immigration widely criticised
Priti Patel’s New Plan for Immigration, for which the consultation closed on 5 May, has been widely criticised by immigrant advocacy groups and activists.
Some have described the plan as vague and unworkable, while several women’s rights’ groups have said the new plan will seriously harm women. The plans also look set to create a two-tiered asylum system, targeting people who arrive in the UK by non-legal routes for deportation.
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