Lorry drivers who inadvertently import migrants into the United Kingdom will face a fine of up to £10,000 per migrant under tough new rules to tackle illegal immigration.
The fine will quintuple from the previous maximum of £2,000 per migrant under the Clandestine Entrant Civil Penalty Scheme, which has been in force for decades, although the fine has not increased since 2002.
Freight vehicles headed for Dover are often targeted by clandestine migrants in northern France who regularly jump on board and hide among the cargo in order to enter Britain.
There were 3,838 incidents where migrants were found hidden in vehicles last year.
Lorry drivers are obliged to undertake reasonable checks to ensure their vehicles are secure and migrants have not climbed aboard. Those who are held to have deliberately smuggled migrants into the country are liable for criminal prosecution.
Commenting on the rule change, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “Our reforms, including new penalty levels, have been designed to strike a better balance between disincentivizing negligence and failures to comply with vehicle security standards, while ensuring that the regime is not overly burdensome on industry.”
A Home Office spokesman added: “This is the first overhaul of the Clandestine Entrant Civil Penalty Scheme in 20 years and demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to cracking down on illegal migration.
“Far too many vehicles are currently not adequately secured. These measures are another tool in securing our border, deterring illegal migration and disrupting the business model of people smugglers.”
Despite attempts to crack down on the issue, the reality is that the vast majority of migrants have moved on from targeting lorries headed for Britain, and are instead opting for boat rides across the English Channel.
While fewer than 4,000 migrants were caught as stowaways in vehicles last year, 45,756 migrants were recorded crossing the Channel in small boats during the same time frame, an increase of more than 17,000 over the 28,526 who arrived in 2021.