Clandestine entrants - take action to avoid £4,000 penalty per entrant

We discuss the ongoing risk of clandestine entrants illegally using commercial vehicles destined for the UK, the consequences for vehicles found to be carrying entrants and how both companies and drivers can take steps to secure their vehicles and minimise their risk of penalties. 

The migration crisis at the ports and borders

According to Home Office figures, the number of clandestine entrants caught trying to enter the UK in vehicles or trains in 2013-14 increased by over 60% to 19,000 compared to less than 12,000 in 2012-2013.

The UK Government has recently pledged £12 million to France to assist in what Home Secretary Theresa May and French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve have labelled “an evident migration crisis.”

With French police reportedly warning that they have had to use tear gas to stop "mass onslaughts" on vehicles about to cross the Channel and having witnessed up to 300 persons at a time trying to climb on to lorries, it would appear that clandestine entrants are prepared to stop at nothing to enter the UK.

Consequences for vehicles found to be carrying clandestine entrants

A HGV driver and his employer can each receive a penalty of up to £2,000 for each clandestine entrant found in the vehicle. The vehicle could also be detained if there are outstanding fines or the UK Border Force (UKBF) is concerned that the fine will not be paid on time. 

As a company is jointly and severally liable for its drivers’ fines, operators could be exposed to a penalty of £4,000 per clandestine entrant. Applying the figure of £4,000 to the number of entrants caught trying to enter the UK last year, there is a potential for £76 million worth of penalties.

Take preventative measures

To reduce exposure to fines, vehicle operators must take active steps by having effective systems in place to prevent people hiding in or on their vehicles.

Operators should:

  • Implement a clear system to prevent people hiding in and on their vehicles.
  • Produce a clandestine entrant policy including clear written instructions on the system.
  • Provide handbooks to drivers enclosing the clandestine entrant policy and UKBF guidance.
  • Provide drivers with security equipment to secure their vehicle, load and load space.
  • Provide adequate ongoing training to all drivers on how to prevent clandestine entrants and the application of security devices on vehicles.
  • Provide all drivers with vehicle security checklists for drivers to record the checks that they have carried out to prevent clandestine entrants.
  • Monitor drivers’ compliance with the clandestine entrant’s policy. Failure to comply with the clandestine entrant’s policy by drivers should lead to disciplinary action.

DWF’s Regulatory Team recommends operators join the UK Border Agency’s free accreditation scheme. The scheme is open to operators of any size or nationality who undertake journeys between mainland Europe and the United Kingdom. To qualify, an operator must show that it has an effective system to prevent it carrying clandestine entrants. It must also show that it takes all reasonable steps to ensure the system operates properly.

If an operator is accepted onto the scheme and clandestine entrants are subsequently discovered in its vehicles, a civil penalty will not be imposed if the operator is found to be operating in accordance with the scheme.

10 Steps to an effective system for drivers

The Home Office recommends that drivers follow a 10 step guide to avoid a penalty: Effective system + proper operation = no penalty


The risk to operators of clandestine entrants is one that is on the rise and is not a problem that is likely to be resolved anytime soon. With a potential fine for companies of £4k per entrant and entrants willing to risk their lives to enter the UK; both companies and drivers need to ensure they are complying with effective systems to minimise risk. 

DWF’s Regulatory Team can:

  • Provide advice on preventative steps to protect your business.
  • Advise businesses on applying to the UK Border Force’s Accreditation Scheme.
  • Help with all aspects of objecting, appealing and reducing a penalty against you or your driver.

For further information please contact Joanne Witheford or Vikki Woodfine.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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Joanne Witheford

Senior Solicitor - Deputy Head of Road Haulage & Logistics

I am a regulatory lawyer specialising in health and safety, manslaughter defence and road transport law.

Vikki Woodfine

Partner - Head of Road Haulage & Logistics

Best known as the “Lorry Lawyer” I am also Head of the Road Haulage & Logistics group at DWF and specialise in health and safety defence work and road transport law.