Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UKBA Report Could Spell Trouble For Haulage Truck Companies

Possible Tightening up of Fine System for Trucks Caught with Immigrants
Shipping News Feature

UK – A report by the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) independant inspectorate may make life more difficult for haulage companies engaged in cross-channel trade with Europe. The report states that the UKBA has allowed hundred of drivers who have been found with illegal immigrants stowed on their vehicles to escape punishment either by fines or vehicle impoundment.

In his first annual report John Vine, the UKBA’s chief inspector, states that he was “…disappointed to find that the civil penalty powers created by Parliament as a powerful tool to deter illegal entry were not being fully used. This has resulted in £1.5 million of penalties uncollected.”

He also stated that the civil penalties system, introduced in 2000 to attempt to crack down on people smuggling, was poorly managed and that there was no effective debt recovery strategy in place.

With the numbers of illegal stowaways found hidden on lorries by UKBA personnel at Calais, one of the major UK-France ferry ports, and nearby Coquelles, the Channel tunnel terminal, almost doubling between 2006-7 to 2008-9 the implications of the report will worry hard pressed European hauliers who service the UK-European market.

Whilst there are no doubt some unscrupulous enough to make money from people trafficking, any haulier worth his salt knows that the ingenuity and resource of the would-be immigrants is what enables them to infiltrate trailers and loads, with the vast majority of the hapless truckers caught completely unaware of their additional cargo. Punishing truckers, therefore, seems somewhat unfair.

This seems to be understood by the UKBA whose head, Lin Homer, said in a response to the report that: “Drivers and hauliers are fined when they have not taken adequate steps to prevent illegals from smuggling themselves on to their vehicles.”

But should the watchdogs report’s suggestions that the penalisation of drivers and hauliers be enforced more fully be implemented, then many more transport companies could find themselves badly hit by extra expenses that they can ill-afford.

Instead of this, perhaps the UK government would be wiser to take the advice of Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, who believes the UK should tighten it’s asylum laws to reduce the appeal to immigrants rather than shift the responsibility onto hapless truckers.