Lincolnshire Police backs campaign to clamp down on people smuggling
Lincolnshire Police has thrown its support behind a new national Government-backed campaign to clamp down on illegal lorry drops and people smuggling.
The Organised Immigration Crime campaign starts today (Monday, February 8) and will last for eight weeks.
The appeal follows the recent tragedy that saw 39 Vietnamese migrants suffer a painful death by suffocating in a lorry trailer on their way to Purfleet in Essex.
Seven men were jailed for a total of 92 years as a result of the investigation into the deaths.
The campaign will be made up of social media posts, leaflets and out-of-home advertising to remind hauliers and the public that people die in trucks and to urge them to report anything suspicious.
Det Sgt Mark Seage said it is imperative that the public remain alert – particularly due to the risk the people being smuggled may not have been tested or vaccinated for coronavirus.
He said: “I want to reassure everyone that we understand how concerned we all are with new variants of the coronavirus, and the potential impacts of them on our families, friends and neighbours.
“We understand the potential dangers of illegal entry of migrants into the UK and the link between the two.
“Lincolnshire Police take robust action to continue making our roads both a safe and a hostile place for any area of criminality.
“My plea is to all residents and people who work, study or travel through Lincolnshire to be extra vigilant and look out for any suspicious activity around HGVs.
“Special attention should be given at service stations and lorry parks.
“Please call Lincolnshire Police on 101 or 999 in cases of emergency. If you don’t want to contact the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously.
“This plea also goes to HGV drivers and company owners too - if you are asked to facilitate the illegal entry of migrants into the UK please get in touch.
“People can die hiding in lorries and Lincolnshire Police is committed to working with our communities and partners to robustly tackle this criminality.
“I want to reassure our communities that here in Lincolnshire we have a dedicated team of professional staff who work 24/7 on all types of Organised Immigration Crime.”
There were 51 clandestine entries in Lincolnshire in 2020.
Lincolnshire is statistically the safest area in the East Midlands in terms of people smuggling and one of the safest in the country.
However, it is important for the public to remain vigilant.
Haulage drivers are often approached by organised crime groups involved in people smuggling.
These criminal networks treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from, charging large sums of money for their illegal service, without care for the safety of those they transport.
Violence is sometimes used to maintain their grip on the migrants and to ensure territorial control.
During 2020, the NCA and Immigration Enforcement were involved in more than 750 arrests relating to organised immigration crime, human trafficking or people smuggling, both in the UK and overseas.
Crimestoppers is also working with HMRC and Border Force to distribute informative leaflets to lorry drivers which highlight the below signs to spot of people smuggling.
Available in 17 languages, all leaflets contain a QR code which can be scanned to take a driver to more information in their preferred language.
For those working in the haulage industry, contact Crimestoppers if you have seen or suspect the following:
- Other drivers being approached to carry items for payment
- False driving licence or driver identification
- Regular breaches of security within the port complex you visit
- Unusual methods of payment or transactions by or between drivers and their customers. (Is the wagon and/or trailer safe and being used legally?)
- Suspicious or unusual activity by people or vehicles around the wagon/trailer
- Incorrect or unusual operation or appearance of the wagon (i.e. use of red diesel/overweight)
- An unusual use of the wagon by the owner or operator
- A modification to a wagon/trailer you see regularly
- Regular unexpected or last-minute diversions to the route used by a driver or company
- Suspicions surrounding a specific company or driver regarding suspicious or illegal activity
- Unusually cheap service
- Specific overseas locations of where you have seen unusual or possibly criminal activity taking place
- Social media groups offering opportunities to bid for loads
- Changing of number plates and potential convoy vehicles.
Miles Bonfield, NCA’s Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, said: “What happened in Essex in October 2019 shows clearly that this is not a victimless crime.
“People smugglers put lives at risk, day in day out, and these criminal networks often try to use hauliers as part of their business model.
“We want hauliers to help us make that as difficult as possible.
“My message to hauliers is that we need your help to try and disrupt this dangerous criminality and I’d ask them to report anything suspicious.
"But I’d also like to put out a warning to those who might consider in engaging in this activity.
“We and our partners are targeting everyone involved in people smuggling, and the penalties are severe.”
To report smugglers and stay anonymous, visit Crimestoppers-uk.org and fill in the simple and secure anonymous online form or call the 24/7 UK Contact Centre on freephone 0800 555 111.
Computer IP addresses are never traced, and no-one will ever know you contacted the charity Crimestoppers. For telephone calls, the charity has no caller line display, no 1471 facility and have never traced a call.
In an emergency, call 999.