Lorry drivers ‘face challenges from migrant smuggling gangs continuously’

Migrant smuggling gangs are a “massive issue” for lorry drivers, the boss of a haulage trade association has warned.

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said drivers are targeted by the groups “week in, week out”.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s posed a massive issue to hauliers for years.

“Drivers are facing challenges from smugglers and from gangs continuously. They have to be very careful about where they park up, they have to be very careful about checking seals on their trailers to make sure nobody has broken in.

“There’s a set of rules laid out by the Home Office to ensure that hauliers and drivers are checking to make sure they haven’t got any migrants on board.

“This has been a long term issue.”

Mr Burnett said several drivers have been attacked in recent weeks and one was “woken in the early hours of the morning by gun shots”.

Migrant gangs are “very sophisticated” in how they go about accessing trailers, he explained.

“They’ll cut holes through roofs, they’ll pull doors back, they’ll unbolt the doors and then re-bolt the doors.”

He believes the lorry with 39 bodies on board could have travelled from Cherbourg, France to Rosslare, Ireland, to avoid stringent security checks in place on Calais-Dover crossings.

“If this is somebody trying to smuggle a significant number of people through then maybe Cherbourg has been picked because it’s a little easier to get through,” he said.

This view was shared by Seamus Leheny, Northern Ireland policy manager for the Freight Transport Association, who said: “It might be seen as an easier way to get in by going from Cherbourg or Roscoff, over to Rosslare, then up the road to Dublin.”

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