Memorandum by the Transport and General
PHYSICAL CONTROLS AT UK PORTS OF ENTRY
1.1 The T&G welcomes the opportunity
given by this inquiry to highlight our concerns over the carrier
liability provisions contained in the Immigration and Asylum Act
1.2 The 1999 Act contains provisions which
strengthen and replace the provisions of the Immigration (Carriers'
Liability) Act 1987. The 1999 Act extends carrier liability to
cover passengers on road passenger vehicles (ie buses and coaches).
Formally this liability applied only to passengers carried on
ships, aircraft and trains. Again a fine of £2,000 per person
is applied, with liability for the fine resting with the owner
of the ship, aircraft or vehicle, or the train operator.
1.3 The 1999 Act also introduces new civil
penalties on "the person (or persons) responsible for a clandestine
entrant" who arrives in the UK concealed in a vehicle, ship
or aircraft. The Act defines the responsible personwho
would be liable to a fine of £2,000 per person foundas
the owner or captain of a ship or aircraft and the owner, hirer
or driver of a vehicle.
2. CARRIER LIABILITY
2.1 The T&G has consistently expressed
concerns about the effects of carrier liability on the roles and
responsibilities of transport workers "in the front line".
Our experience has been that carrier liability results in pressure
being placed on transport workers to perform the duties of immigration
officers. To date it has been the aviation industry that has been
most affected by the carrier liability laws. The T&G and other
trade unions representing transport workers have campaigned, through
the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) to abolish
carrier liability laws in those countries around the world who
have introduced them.
2.2 Carrier liability laws have led to transport
operatorsmost notably airlinesacting in a discriminatory
manner towards their passengers, placing the finger of suspicion
on people based on criteria such as race. They have put cabin
crew and other workers in the position of being told to confiscate
travel documents, to prevent passengers from disembarking and
to undertake other policing activities relating to immigration
2.3 The T&G is therefore most concerned
that carrier liability laws are being extended to cover passengers
on buses and coaches. This, we believe, will inevitably lead to
pressure being placed on bus and coach workers to perform the
duties of immigration officers in regard to the passengers they
3. CIVIL PENALTIES
3.1 The T&G is extremely concerned about
the application of a civil penalty of £2,000 per "clandestine
entrant" to the UK, particular in the case of individual
drivers of road vehicles.
3.2 It is widely acknowledged that the perceived
problem in this area is clandestine entry to the UK hidden in
road haulage vehicles. Although this legislation recognises the
possibility that a person can stowaway on all types of vehicleincluding
buses, coaches and private cars, it will be road haulage drivers
that are most likely to find themselves facing such fines.
3.3 The T&G has made many representations
both to the Home Office and to the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions highlighting our concerns over this
change in the law. It is our view that adequate legislation already
existed to deal with drivers, operators and individuals who are
involved in illegal smuggling operations of whatever kind. We
believe the best way forward is to enforce this legislation more
effectively rather than introduce new penalties for innocent parties.
3.4 The Home Office appears to recognise
that in most cases people are concealed in road haulage vehicles
without the knowledge of the driver. Indeed, the T&G understands
that the most common way in which people "stow away"
in lorries or their loads is through the use of sophisticated
methods of opening and resealing trailers whilst on board a ferry,
or in parking areas near the ports, when the driver is not with
the vehicle. In such circumstances there is no obvious clue to
a driver collecting his vehicle that there has been a security
3.5 Drivers already take their responsibility
for the safety and security of their vehicle and load very seriously.
But drivers can only be expected to take reasonable steps to ensure
that the security of their vehicle is not breached. It is not
reasonable to expect a driver to completely unload his vehicle
to check there is no-one hidden inside. In addition, drivers are
often explicitly required by their employers not to break the
seals on their load therefore making checking the contents of
the vehicle impossible.
3.6 We therefore remain concerned, despite
the issuing of the Code of Practice, detailing the defences that
will be available, that innocent drivers still face the possibility
of being fined considerable sums of money, through no fault of
their own. We urge the Committee to call for the abolition of
civil penalties on individual drivers on the grounds of natural
4.1 The effect of the carrier liability
provision contained in the 1999 Act has been to force transport
workers to act as immigration officers in relation to UK border
control. It is the role of customs and immigration officers and
not transport workers to conduct detailed searches of vehicles,
to scrutinise passports or to identify and detain "suspect"
4.2 These laws have wider implications relating
to the UK's treatment of refugees. Amnesty International has opposed
carrier liability laws as they mean that people without proper
documentationa likely situation for a refugee fleeing persecutiondo
not get the chance to reach an immigration desk where they may
apply for political asylum, thereby violating the UN Convention
4.3 The T&G believes that it is imperative
that the UK upholds its tradition of providing a place of safety
for those who are fleeing human rights violations in their country
of origin. It is also therefore imperative that the UK ensures
that its laws do not prevent refugees from ever putting forward
their case for asylum. To this end the T&G calls on the Committee
to recommend the abolition of civil penalties and carrier liability
in relation to UK border control.
7 April 2000