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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 10:27 GMT
Illegal immigration: Who patrols the borders?
Lorry drivers have claimed victory after a court ruled against the government's policy of imposing 2,000 fines for every asylum seeker found hiding in their lorries.

The Court of Appeal agreed with an earlier High Court ruling that the penalty was in breach of drivers' human rights because individual circumstances were not taken into account.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has said he will not be mounting a challenge to the decision but he also claimed partial victory after the court ruled that the fines did not break European Union laws on the free movement of goods.

What do you think of the decision? Who should be in charge of patrolling our borders?

This Talking Point was suggested by Steve, UK :

Should haulage companies pay fines for stowaways in lorries? It is quite contemptible of the government to pass the buck onto lorry drivers in this way. What next - fines for train companies who carry football hooligans? Will publicans get a fine if people get drunk in their pubs? I hope this legislation disappears down the same hole just as the proposed "on the spot" fines for yobs in the street did.

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This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

[Illegal immigrants] come to Britain because they know they will have all kinds of "rights"

Richard, US
Illegal immigrants would stop going to Britain today if they realized that they would not get any money, any job, any handouts, anything at all. They come because they know they will have all kinds of "rights". One day the British people will wake up and realize their country is gone, but it will be too late to do anything about it. Who is responsible for this? The British politicians who supposedly represent the "people."
Richard, US

It is the responsibility of the Government to control entry into the UK. When is this government going to take its responsibilities seriously and stop passing the blame for its failures onto lorry drivers?
John Cooper, UK

Every illegal immigrant that is allowed to cross the Channel by the French authorities should be turned around and sent back to France. After all, the French get enough out of us in the form of contributions that we pay to the EU.
PhilT, Oman

The onus lies on any responsible citizens of any professions for his or her action shall not be detrimental to the security of the nation. You lose money, you can earn it back but losing a nation, you lose nationhood for good. One must realise that by 'human smuggling' for money, he is putting at risk not only the country but himself, too.

Surely there's a simple solution? If territory inside a country can be legally given over to another country (e.g. Canadian war cemetaries in France) we simply establish a small compound at Dover and other large freight ports, subdivided into sections, each technically the territory of a different origin country. Upon arriving from a country, the lorry is driven directly into this compound and searched, under the supervision of police officers. Any immigrants found are not on British soil, so cannot legally claim asylum. They are dispatched post haste back to the mainland of the country they have just come from, and told to apply to the British Embassy there in the proper manner. A small non-crippling procedural fine is imposed upon lorry drivers, which increases incrementally for those repeatedly found with asylum seekers aboard.
William Ramsden, UK

Why bother to go to war and 'liberate' these countries and still have their citizens as asylum seekers?

AS, England
Why so many asylum seekers? Have we not solved the Kosovo problem, the Afghanistan Problem? Why bother to go to war and 'liberate' these countries and still have their citizens as asylum seekers? Strange thing, most of them are fit young men, why do they not fight for their country's freedom?
AS, England

What borders? These days you have to ask if we have any, never mind whether they are patrolled.
Terry, England

Well done the High Court. Why should hard-working lorry drivers be made scapegoats for the government who will not remove the main cause of illegal entry, namely the lax and easy system which meets illegal immigrants here. Go on Tony, keep on blaming the hard working English tax payer and spending our money on everyone and everything except us.
Rowan Johnson, England

Those people who want to place the onus on the driver to check his/her load are clearly unaware that in many cases the containers they carry have been sealed at origin by Customs, and the driver is not permitted to break the seal and enter the container.
John, England

People should be allowed to work anywhere in the world just like industrialists are allowed to do business wherever they please

Khalid, India/UK
People should be allowed to work anywhere in the world just like industrialists are allowed to do business wherever they please. A lot of western companies are getting profit from the third world countries but if a third world national is coming to the West then he is wrong in all he does - why is that?
Khalid, India/UK

Unfortunately the do-gooders have sent the message out that anything goes. Try getting into Saudi Arabia, for instance. The Muslims flock to decadent materialistic westernised countries like birds to crumbs. There is going to be a serious accident one day, and the Channel Tunnel has made us a laughing stock. There is an ecological and social population limit.
Gilbert White, londonuk

We should scrap the border controls with all EU countries and sign up to the Schengen Agreement. Refugees can normally only seek asylum in the EU country where they first arrived. Therefore travellers arriving via Eurotunnel or ferries by definition are not eligible for asylum and would be referred back to the country they first arrived in. Instead of these draconian border controls, which are expensive, time-wasting and ineffective, we should adopt the European solution of internal checks via ID cards. It looks as though we are going to get them anyway - the worst of both worlds!
Robin Paice, GB

Ignorance is no excuse

Steve, UK
If a lorry driver was carrying heroin or cocaine or guns and said they didn't know do you think they'd get let off, an illegal cargo is an illegal cargo, ignorance is no excuse, they need to take responsibility for what is in their lorries. Otherwise all smugglers of any cargo will say I didn't know it was there! Soon we'll be even more awash with drugs, tobacco, guns, porn as well as illegal immigrants.
Steve, UK

The solution would be to remove Britain's perceived unique attractiveness. It is not necessary for anyone purportedly fleeing persecution in their own country to make their way to Britain to achieve political asylum. There are upwards of 153 signatory nations to the 1951 UN Convention and Protocol whose territories are more adjacent and available to any genuine refugee. The principal attractant is the "black economy" plus the fact that "political asylum" is available to be claimed as a prevaricating ruse should an illegal immigrant have the misfortune to be apprehended by the authorities at any stage. With its lax no-deportation, no-detention regime affording multiple opportunities to abscond, the promise of provisional work permits and a distinct prospect of future amnesties, is it any wonder the third world is beating a path to Britain's door?
Frank Jones, UK

How much does all this cost? In the days of the failing NHS how much money is being spent on policing, catching and preventing illegals and indeed what happens to them? Perhaps the Government should publish the figures for all to see and publicly apologise to the haulage industry after all it is that which generates the revenue for HM Customs and Excise
Mike, UK

Has anyone considered the risk this would put on lorry drivers? A determined group of immigrants could react violently to lorry drivers discovering them while checking their vehicle. Only properly trained professional can deal with these potentially dangerous and confrontational situations. Would we have to wait for a few lorry drivers being kidnapped or killed before changing thinking about these risks?
Arnaud Gagneux, French living in London

I think this is the first of possibly many ridiculous rulings based on the dubious Human Rights act. Is it really too much to ask a lorry driver to look in the back of their vehicle? Shouldn't they check them regularly anyway? Not performing a simple check before crossing borders does suggest complicity.
Oliver Richardson, UK

The government and the people of Britain should do whatever it takes to protect its borders from disease and terrorists. The normal customs laws and checks are done for a good reason. Diseases such as foot and mouth are in many of the countries asylum seekers are from. Does Britain have to slaughter another 6 million animals before it realizes this.
Louise, Sydney Australia

All this has to stop. Thousands of people a night sneaking in, a lot aided by the French. This is a bad ruling. If illegal immigrants are caught they should face immediate imprisonment and then deported. The country cannot take much more abuse. There will be a British revolt one day, and I am terrified that it will be a violent one.
Sven, England

This ruling is an invitation for drivers to participate in people smuggling without fear of retribution

John Atkins, England
Lorry drivers have a responsibility to ensure that their lorries do not contain illegal goods, whether people or materials. If they are found to have such illegal items on board, they should be fined and possibly jailed. This High Court ruling is wrong and is an invitation for drivers to participate in people smuggling without fear of retribution.
John Atkins, England

The fines should never have been imposed in the first place. Only if it could be shown that the lorry drivers were complicit in the transportation of the illegal immigrants should they have faced the full force of the law.
Iain, Scotland

British law has always presumed innocence until proven guilty. Lorry drivers are entitled to the same treatment as anybody else.
David, Spain

Unless it is a flagrant act of human smuggling, such as thirty people in the back of a lorry, then no. However, another tactic to discourage illegal immigration is a 50,000 fine on any company employing illegals. If the company has been duped with forged documents, then maybe a warning would suffice but if they didn't bother to check the residency of an employee altogether, then they should be punished.
Thomas, USA

It is shameful for any government to push this kind of responsibility onto its citizens

Matthew, USA
While some drivers may participate in smuggling, I feel this policy is very unfair. It puts all drivers in the position of possibly having to confront desperate and violent individuals, perhaps in sizeable groups, without giving them the training, equipment, and support necessary for such a role. It is shameful for any government to push this kind of responsibility onto its citizens.
Matthew, USA

Remember, no one is or should be above the law. If and when it is proven that lorry drivers are guilty of transporting illegal immigrants across borders, they should be punished.
Abraham Walker, MN, USA

When I went through Calais with my caravan I checked inside my van before going onto the boat, this was done in the queue for the ferry inside the docks. Surely it is possible for lorry drivers to also check their vehicle just before boarding. If there is a breach of the vehicles security, a torn or cut curtain, even a cut in the roof area. It doesn't take a genius and doesn't take long to do. Yet again the much vaunted Human Rights Act has been shown to be defective. It does little to protect the innocent member of public - all it seems to do is allow criminals to circumvent the law.
Barry P, England

We should all be in charge of patrolling our borders

Michael Entill, UK
We should all be in charge of patrolling our borders. Criminals who engage in people smuggling must be prosecuted and lorry drivers have a duty to be vigilant and regularly check their vehicles for stowaways. The silent invasion must stop.
Michael Entill, UK

If lorry drivers have taken all possible means to stop asylum seekers entering their trailer then they should not be fined. However if a lorry driver knows he has asylum seekers in his trailer he should get a fine and possibly a jail sentence. However it is difficult to differentiate between the two
Caron, England

See also:

04 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Eurotunnel stowaway fines lifted
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