What the law says
Under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, all commercial vehicles entering the UK must be secured against clandestine entrants. Clandestine entrants are individuals who hide in or on a vehicle as it crosses into the UK in order to bypass immigration control and enter the country illegally. The definition of commercial vehicle covers all vehicles – excluding buses, coaches, cars, taxis and caravans – and includes any attached trailers or containers.
The law requires that all road transport companies / vehicle operators and drivers have an “effective system” in place to prevent the carriage of clandestine entrants and also comply with the terms of the Code of Practice. Companies and drivers are also required to ensure and evidence the proper operation of that system.
If clandestine entrants are found in a vehicle, under section 32 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, a civil penalty (not technically a “fine” as this is not a criminal process) of currently up to £2,000 per individual found to be concealed can be levied by UK Border Force. Often vehicles are found to contain multiple entrants, which can amount to significant penalties. Where penalties are imposed, the law holds the driver and the carrier/company joint and severally liable: both the driver and the carrier/driver’s employer are responsible for payment. A separate penalty could also be imposed on the employer as the vehicle owner.
A defence to payment of the penalty may exist and the decision to impose a fine can often be successfully challenged, by way of objection notice or subsequent to that an appeal can be lodged with the County Court within 28 days.
Our specialist lawyers can offer expert advice and assistance on the law concerning carriers’ liability and clandestine entrants. Contact our specialist transport law solicitors on 0800 046 3066, or continue reading our advice pages for how we can help you with challenging penalties, ensuring compliance with the Code of Practice, or gaining UKBA Accreditation.