Kos Media (London), April 28, 2009
The true scale of Britain’s lax border security was revealed today after shocking new figures showed that nine out of ten truckers bringing illegal immigrants into the country are foreign, writes Kevin O’Sullivan.
The UK Borders Agency admitted that of all the lorry drivers bringing in desperate migrants into the UK, 90 per cent are overseas drivers.
The figures, revealed following a Freedom of Information request, showed 1,571 foreign truckers were fined an estimated £2million last year after clandestine migrants were found hiding in the back of their trucks.
In comparison, only 195 British hauliers were caught with stowaways and were fined around £300,000.
The figures–which showed a total of £2.3million in fines was collected last year–prompted accusations from British drivers that their foreign counterparts are risking fines of £2,000 per migrant found because they know they can avoid British justice.
However the stats only show what was collected by the agency, not how much in fines were issued, meaning there is still more than £1million owed in fines by foreign truckers.
Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said the foreign truckers were ‘abusing’ UK laws and that a crackdown was needed.
Speaking today (Fri), the Tory MP for Ashford said the £2,000 fines were not deterring the foreign drivers, adding: “Clearly many are abusing our immigration laws and they should be punished effectively when they are found to be carrying migrants on board their lorries.
“However the problem often is that they may be convicted of offences relating to illegal migration but are continuing to operate in the same vehicles.
“This is a problem which needs addressing–they need to be stopped.
“This is why the Conservatives continue to call for a dedicated and specialist border police force.”
Trucker Mervyn Osgood, 54, from Maidstone, said: “It’s an absolute farce–we always see the foreign drivers talking to the migrants in Calais.
“These figures don’t surprise me at all.”
He said that foreign truckers caught with illegals on board simply ignored the fines handed to them–sometimes not even telling their bosses they had been caught.
He added: “They know they can get away with it because they don’t seem to get prosecuted, so to them it’s worth the risk.
“They get £1,500 from each illegal, so if they get four on they pocket around £6,000.
“Then they just unload their cargoes and head back to their countries.
“We can’t do that because we live here and we take our jobs seriously.”
The true extent of illegal migration is likely to be much bigger than the figures reveal.
The UK Border Agency said the stats do not reflect the fact that the 1,571 foreign lorry drivers may have brought in up to ten migrants or more a time.
A spokesman for the agency said: “These figures don’t reflect the actual figure because there are often more than one clandestine found per vehicle.”
The spokesman said that last year a total of 28,000 migrants were caught trying to sneak into Britain on board lorries crossing the Channel by ferry.
The stats also revealed the foreign truckers were fined a further £811,507 for working in Britain without the necessary haulage permits.
Peter Cullum, head of international affairs at the Road Hauliers Association of Great Britain, said British drivers were doing their best to avoid migrant hotspots across the Channel.
He said: “Of course it is worrying to see fines at this level but we have managed to improve the situation for our drivers.
“As the result of advice and briefings given to our members we are seeing less of them being fined.
“It’s simple advice as well, like avoiding areas like Diesel Alley and improving the security of their vehicles.
“But we know most of the drivers coming across with migrants on board are foreign.
“It’s very few of our guys.”