Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Mrs Sue Hart, RC Hart Transport


  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 to survive.

  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 time.

17 June 2000

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