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Concealed Migrants & Haulage Companies : Protecting Against Tragedy

Lorry driving on an airport runway

Rotheras Solicitor Chris Powell documents the shocking discovery in Essex concerning concealed migrants and the procedures companies should impliment to avoid heavy fines and such tragedy in future.

Written by
Transport Solicitor
Chris Powell
Associate Solicitor

The tragic discovery of the bodies of 39 concealed migrants in the back of a trailer serves to highlight a wider crises that UK government agencies and businesses engaged in cross channel trade have grappled with for many years.


The tragic discovery of the bodies of 39 concealed migrants in the back of a trailer in Essex has sent shockwaves throughout the transport industry and the wider public. A criminal investigation is currently ongoing, with manslaughter and people trafficking just a few of the charges being brought.

Tragic though this incident is, it serves to highlight a wider crisis that UK government agencies and businesses engaged in cross channel trade have grappled with for many years. The problem of illegal migrants in areas commonly around Calais and Northern France smuggling themselves into the back of heavy goods vehicles in the hope of entering the UK. Crucially, these incidents largely occur without the knowledge of the driver or the business operating the vehicle.

Almost two decades ago the problem grew so severe that parliament passed the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This introduced a system of financial penalties and codes of practice designed to force cross channel hauliers and drivers to take measures to prevent illegal migrants (clandestine entrants) from gaining access to vehicles and trailers. In many cases, these penalties ran into tens of thousands of pounds and can have a crippling effect.

This article considers the procedures that companies should impliment to avoid heavy fines whilst reducing the risk of tragedy occurring.

Preventing Concealed Migrant Entrants: Your Legal Responsibilities

There are five main areas of responsibility for transportation companies operating trucks into the UK:

  1. Provide drivers with adequate training
  2. Provide drivers with written instructions
  3. Issue drivers with suitable load security equipment
  4. Issue drivers with a checklist
  5. Ensure that the drivers carry out their duties properly

In addition, there are three main areas of responsibility on drivers:

  1. Securing the vehicle properly
  2. Carrying out proper checks
  3. Recording those checks

Transport operators and drivers who are found to be carrying illegally concealed migrants will be asked to provide evidence in the form of an IS11D letter detailing how they comply with the above requirements. Companies and drivers that fall short can expect a financial civil penalty of up to £2,000 per illegal migrant.

It is important to re-emphasise that these are civil penalties and are not part of the criminal justice system. Civil penalties will commonly be issued even though the UK Border Force accept that neither the driver or the company knew that migrants were being carried.

Challenging Concealed Migrants Civil Penalties

Transport companies facing heavy penalties can challenge them either by way of notice of objection, by appeal to the County Court, or both. If handled carefully it is possible to secure a significant reduction or cancellation of a penalty without the need for the matter to go to court.

Strict time limits apply to the objection and appeals process and late objections will not usually be accepted.

Contact Us

At Rotheras our Transport lawyers have extensive experience in advising haulage companies of the clandestine entrant civil penalty regime. We have a very high success rate in reductions and even cancellation of penalties on behalf of transport businesses. Call us on 0115 9100 600 today.

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