Cheshire Police has carried out checks on 148 lorries at service stations across the county in a campaign to tackle organised immigration crime. An Iranian stowaway was found on a vehicle which was surrendered to police, and £11,200 in outstanding fines was recovered from hauliers for previous issues with migrants found hiding in their vehicles.
The operation, which involved police, Border Force, Immigration, Driver Vehicle Standards Agency and local authorities, was “aimed to disrupt a crime which puts vulnerable people at risk of exploitation and harm by using dangerous routes into, or out of, the UK,” said Cheshire Constabulary in a statement.
Three operations, each lasting two days, have taken place over three months, the force said. Checks were conducted at Burtonwood services on the M62 on January 10 and 11 , and again on March 22. On February 10 and 11, the operation moved to Lymm services on the M6.
Lorry drivers were given advice and leaflets on how to avoid becoming victim to gangs making money from the illegal movement of vulnerable people by securing vehicles.
Police said that partners were also on hand to check drivers hours were being adhered to, lorries were roadworthy, and to ensure those who had travelled illegally were brought to safety and dealt with appropriately and sensitively.
DS Darren Wright said: “Clandestine entry to the UK poses a significant risk of life to those who have been concealed in the vehicles and transported overseas to the UK and vice versa.
“We recognise that many of the successful clandestine entry attempts involve road haulage vehicles due to the amount of hiding space in the vehicle, and the ease of movement in and out of the UK through legitimate and identified travel routes.
“Organised crime groups also know this and exploit this method of movement in and out of the UK, and recruit complicit drivers to assist with the facilitation of illegal entry of people and goods.
“Sadly, many of who successfully gain illegal entry into the UK often end up becoming victims of modern slavery offences. Many will become subjected to further criminal exploitation, so it’s important drivers play their part in protecting vulnerable people by understanding the risks and knowing how to keep themselves safe from these criminal gangs.”