Clandestine migration persistent and growing threat to European transport sector

International clandestine migration has long been a persistent threat to the supply chain and the transport sector in Europe. And now, freight insurer TT Club is warning that it could be about to get worse as restrictions on movement begin to ease. And the current COVID crisis is no deterrent.

All modes of transport are at risk, though the road modality is most affected. Figures from BSI Supply Chain Services and Solutions show that 86% of recorded incidents in Europe involve movement of cargo by road. In the case of the UK, that includes ferry crossings. Transport operators are exposed to potential physical damage to cargoes, additional freight costs, vehicle and equipment detention, fines, penalties and reputational damage.

The easing of lockdown and movement restrictions may further exacerbate the problems of illegal migration, according to TT Club's managing director of loss prevention, Mike Yarwood.

“This might be a particular danger as regards potential movement into the UK,” he says. “Although cross-border freight services are still running during the COVID lockdown and therefore providing opportunities to migrants, it is likely that there are large numbers of people currently unable to move, who may want to cross to the UK and will attempt to as the restrictions on movement are lifted at first gradually and then fully.”

“Constant vigilance and awareness are the only ways to combat stowaways in these types of transport. Vehicles should be checked regularly en route to ensure that they have not been entered, particularly after stops when left unattended,” advises Yarwood.

“Whilst owners, operators or drivers may contract with third parties to conduct the required checks on their behalf, they are likely to remain liable to any penalty and/or loss incurred. Consequently, due diligence in the selection of such contractors is critical,” Yarwood adds.

The pandemic itself has merely shifted the focus or means of smuggling activities temporarily, with migrant smugglers increasingly using small boats to cross river borders and the English Channel.

Criminal organisations are often the facilitators of this clandestine movement. They know that the simplest way to move people across international borders is to hide them in legitimate freight transport.

TT Club says close consideration should be given to the preventative guidance that governmental authorities produce, and has recently collaborated with BSI Supply Chain Services and Solutions to publish a StopLoss briefing entitled Clandestine Migration.

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