Memorandum by Mrs Sue Hart, RC Hart Transport
ASYLUM SEEKERS AND THE ROAD HAULAGE INDUSTRY
I have been reading with interest the minutes
of the meeting held on Tuesday 4 April concerning illegal immigrants.
I was especially interested at the mention of the lack of security
for the Road Haulage Industry at Calais.
I am a partner in a family International Haulage
Company of 18 years standing, and am extremely concerned about
the lack of justice being shown to hauliers at this time. We are
a member of the Road Haulage Association, and have taken on board
all the suggestions given to us by the Association to make our
vehicles secure against illegal entry by asylum seekers. It was
mentioned in the minutes of your meeting of the expertise being
shown by the gangs involved in the trafficking of the immigrants.
This is very true, and they are getting cleverer by the day in
their methods of entry to the trailers. A recent way of covering
signs of entry is to cut the TIR cord and then superglue it back
together with a very strong glue which is even difficult to pull
apart. This leaves no visible signs that illegal entry has occurred.
The situation is so bad that a driver can virtually
guarantee that if he parks overnight in Belgium or in Calais or
Zeebrugge he will have uninvited immigrants in his trailer. They
are also gaining entry to trailers whilst on the ferry back to
the UK. As the drivers are not allowed to stay with the vehicles
during the crossing, this is resulting in immigrants gaining access
to the trailers during this time. We were extremely lucky to discover
the presence of 12 immigrants in one of our trailers in Calais.
The driver had needed to park at Wetteren services in Belgium
the previous night, and although he checked the trailer the following
morning it showed no signs of entry. He checked the trailer again
in Calais and with another driver he pulled very hard on the TIR
cord. Luckily for us it broke, and when the trailer was opened
up the immigrants were discovered. This could have resulted in
our company receiving a £24,000 fine, even though we have
followed all the guidelines given in the Code of Practice.
One extremely important fact was not discussed
at your previous meeting, and this is the issue of the drivers'
safety. All the illegal immigrants carry knives to cut themselves
out of the trailers, and drivers have already been injured. As
employers, we are being forced to ask our drivers to check the
backs of the trailers if they are in any doubt as to the presence
of immigrants. By doing this we are asking them to risk injury
or, even worse, possible fatalities. This situation is deplorable.
I have written to the Health and Safety Executive to ask their
advice on our position, and was told that the drivers are not
covered under this law when outside the UK. I fear that injury
to British drivers will increase as the illegal immigrants become
more desperate, and I personally do not want to feel responsible
for putting our employees in this danger.
I would also like to bring to your attention
the appeal system which is operating at the present time for Road
Hauliers. As I understand, not one appeal has been allowed to
date. The haulier or any representative of the haulier is not
allowed to be present at the appeal procedure. I was under the
impression that if a haulier followed the Code of Practice laid
down by the Government this gave him a defence. This does not
appear to be the case. As the sums involved can be extremely large,
this will result in many hauliers going out of business through
no fault of their own. I am very concerned every time one of our
drivers returns to the UK, even though I know we are doing all
we can to stop illegal immigrants gaining entry to our trailers.
I have always believed in British Justice, but this is not the
case at the present time.
This is not a new problem, as I am sure you
are aware. We have been experiencing these problems for nearly
three years, although the last year has seen a massive increase
in illegal immigrants. The costs of repairs to the trailers, cut
TIR cords, damaged goods and the human remains that one is forced
to clean from the trailers is a continual nightmare. We desperately
need France and Belgium to do more about the security at the service
areas and the docks. Our drivers are continually reporting to
us about immigrants walking down the motorways towards Calais.
They wait under the bridge outside the dock until nightfall and
then move to the dock to gain entry to the trailers. Why are the
foreign authorities doing nothing to stop this? Regardless of
the information you have received, the haulage companies are the
ones having to deal with these problems everyday. It is not getting
better, it is getting worse. We must start to get the support
of our own Government if they want the British Haulage Industry
I apologise if this email has been somewhat
lengthy in its nature. I do hope that you will discuss all the
points I have raised. There are many other things that you should
be aware of, but I feel I have given you the major issues at this
17 June 2000