Backhouse Jones Watermark

Clandestine entrants: The practicalities

21 November


As an operator, you and your drivers have a responsibility to ensure any of your vehicles crossing into the UK are secure and that there are no people hiding in them to avoid going through UK border control.  These individuals are often referred to as clandestine entrants.  The rules which are in place are for the safety of your business, its drivers and any would-be clandestine entrants.   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.

This article explores what your business and your drivers can do to avoid bringing in clandestine entrants and what to do and to expect if that fails.

How to avoid carrying clandestine entrants

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

For your company, your effective system should include:

  • Giving vehicle safety checklists to drivers – one issued by Border Force can be found here.
  • 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.

It is also recommended that operators read the Code of Practice on Preventing Clandestine Entrants issued by the Border Force which can be found here.

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 which can be downloaded here.
  • Being careful, alert and carrying spare security devices and checklists.

We also recommend that drivers read the Guide on How to Avoid a Penalty: 10 Steps to an Effective System for Drivers issued by the Border Force here.

What to do if you find someone in your vehicle

If despite having an effective system in place, your driver suspects that someone is hiding in one of your vehicles, current guidance state:

  • Prior to departing for the UK – your driver should contact the police or speak to border control at the port where they plan to board. They should not go through UK border control or board transport to the UK.
  • After arriving in the UK – your driver should stay in the cab of the vehicle and contact the police. They should not approach anyone who is hiding.

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


What happens next in the event that clandestine entrants are found in one of your vehicles, may differ deepening on the particular situation.

However, if it is established you haven’t secured your vehicle, you can be fined up to £2,000 for each clandestine entrant you carry. This is known as a civil penalty. The vehicle’s driver, owner or hirer can be fined.

The driver is likely to fear personal arrest and criminal charges of being complicit in bringing in clandestine entrants.

From a human angle, it is also quite possible that the clandestine entrants will be injured or even worse at risk of loss of life.

Reducing your risk of a civil penalty

You can join an accreditation scheme to help reduce your fines.   To qualify, you must have an effective security system for your vehicles and make sure the system is used properly. This includes training and checking drivers.

We are offering a package to help operators to become accredited and, as part of the package, we will review your current systems and offer guidance on how to improve these systems to the standard expected by Border Force. Once we are satisfied that you have an effective system in place, we will help you to complete the application to become accredited. This service can be offered to operators from £999 + VAT or from £750 + VAT if we have filed a notice of objection to a penalty for your business in the last 12 months (less than half of the penalty for one clandestine entrant).

For further information on any of the aspects raised in this article, please speak with a member from our Dispute Resolution Team on 01254 828 300.

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