Libby Pritchard, associate director of Backhouse Jones Solicitors, explores some of the practical ways operators can try to avoid bringing in clandestine entrants, as well as what to do and what to expect if that fails

Operators and drivers have a responsibility to ensure any of their vehicles crossing into the UK are secure and that there are no people hiding in them to avoid going through UK border control. The repercussions of having clandestine entrants in your vehicle can be hefty fines for the vehicle driver, owner or hirer, serious injury or loss of life for the clandestine entrant and criminal charges.

Despite rules being in place, people do still hide in vehicles crossing into the UK. On 25 May 2023, 13 people were found inside an HGV on the Ransomes Industrial Estate, Ipswich, Suffolk. They are suspected of entering the UK illegally. It is understood that three people have been arrested on suspicion of immigration act offences and taken to Martlesham Police Investigation Centre. One of these was the driver.


The best way to avoid having clandestine entrants is to have an effective plan in place to secure your vehicle and then to follow it to the letter. This should include:

  • Giving vehicle safety checklists to drivers – one issued by Border Force can be found via
  • Providing written instructions for drivers on how to use the system
  • Checking that drivers are following the instructions
  • Having robust security devices to effectively secure the vehicle, load and load space
  • Training for drivers on the system and devices
  • Operators should also regularly check the Border Force website for updated guidance. New guidance is expected after fines were increased in February 2023.

For your drivers, an effective system should include:

  • Checking the vehicle and security devices after each stop and before entering the UK
  • Checking security devices to secure vehicles after loading
  • Recording checks on a vehicle security checklist
  • Being careful, alert and carrying spare security devices and checklists.



If, despite having an effective system in place, the driver suspects that someone is hiding in a vehicle, current guidance depends on where the vehicle is.

Prior to departing for the UK, drivers should contact the police or speak to border control at the port where they plan to board. Drivers should not go through UK border control or board transport to the UK.

After arriving in the UK, drivers should stay in the cab of the vehicle and contact the police. They should not approach anyone who is hiding.

If the driver doesn’t realise that there are clandestine entrants hiding in the vehicle and they are stopped and found, the driver may be interviewed. We recommend that your driver asks for legal representation before they are formally interviewed.

In addition to the difficult humanitarian challenges surrounding this area, clandestine entrants can be a huge issue for international operators. If just one clandestine entrant is found on a vehicle, both the operator and the driver can each be fined up to £10,000 for each clandestine entrant carried. This is regardless of whether the operator/driver knew that they were on the vehicle.


The good news is that if an operator can show that they had an effective system in place for the prevention of clandestine entrants, and this system was properly operated on the occasion in question, then the operator may be able to avoid the penalty. Border Force has a Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme for operators that are able to demonstrate that they have an effective system in place for preventing clandestine entrants. Becoming accredited will not only assist operators in reducing the potential for clandestine entrants to be found on a vehicle, but also increase the protection for drivers operating the vehicles across borders.

Even with the dip in international travel caused by the pandemic and the uncertainty of Brexit, it is clear that clandestine entrants still pose an issue for cross-border operators.

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