The problem of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Channel from Europe into the UK has been a major problem for vehicle operators for many years, with large fines being levied on those found to have clandestines onboard their vehicles. This year the fines are set to dramatically increase with potentially devastating consequences for both operators and drivers. Here, Libby Prichard from transport legal specialist Backhouse Jones explains the new penalties and how they can be avoided.
Clandestine entrants can be a huge issue for international vehicle operators. If just one clandestine entrant is found on a vehicle, both the operator and the driver can each be fined up to £2,000 (a total of £4,000 per clandestine) and from 13 February, 2023 this is increasing to £10,000. This is regardless of whether the operator/driver knew that they were on the vehicle. As the fine is per clandestine entrant, if more than one is found, the fines can quickly add up.
How to avoid a fine
The good news is that if an operator can show that they had an effective system in place for the prevention of clandestine entrants, and this system was properly operated on the occasion in question, the operator may be able to avoid the penalty.
Border Force have a Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme (‘the Scheme’) for operators that are able to demonstrate they have an effective system in place for preventing clandestine entrants. If a member of the Scheme is found with clandestine entrants on its vehicles, the member may avoid a fine, provided it can be shown that they were operating in accordance with the effective systems they have adopted.
Backhouse Jones frequently deals with operators that have incurred penalties as a result of clandestine entrants being found on their vehicles. Even with the dip in international travel caused by the pandemic and the uncertainty of Brexit it is clear that clandestine entrants are still considered an issue. However, there has been no indication given by government that the Scheme will be removed.
Backhouse Jones offer a package to help operators become accredited. Becoming accredited will not only assist operators in reducing the potential for clandestine entrants to be found on a vehicle, but also increases the protection for drivers operating the vehicles across borders. In the event that clandestine entrants are found on their vehicles while operating within the accredited Scheme, the exposure to potential fines being imposed by Border Force is substantially reduced.
As part of the package, Backhouse Jones will review the operator’s current systems to prevent clandestine entrants, offer guidance on how to improve these systems to the standard expected by Border Force and help complete the application process to become accredited.
For further information about the Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme, click here.
Photo: Libby Prichard, Associate Director, Backhouse Jones.