Crimestoppers launches campaign to help stop people smuggling

The charity Crimestoppers has launched a national Government-backed campaign urging lorry drivers to be on the lookout for potential people smuggling and to report their concerns 100% anonymously.

With support from the Home Office, National Crime Agency (NCA), Essex Police, and the Refrigerated Lorry Working Group, we have developed a campaign involving social media posts, leaflets and out-of-home advertising to remind hauliers and the general public that people die whilst hiding in trucks and urging them to report anything they see or hear that’s suspicious before it’s too late. 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.

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, please contact us 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.

Crimestoppers employs a team of professional call agents at our 24/7 UK Contact Centre who anonymise all information. This ensures the person giving the details can never be identified, before passing it on to police or other relevant law enforcement agencies to investigate and safeguard where necessary.

Director of Operations at the charity Crimestoppers, Mick Duthie, said:

“Haulier drivers can be approached by people smugglers, hence why we are reaching out to them to help us stop this cruel trade. We know that people smuggling is driven by criminal gangs who exploit migrants for financial gain. Smugglers can operate alone, or in small gangs, or they can be part of a large international crime operation. 

 “The consequences of their actions were evident in the tragic loss of life seen when dozens of Vietnamese migrants died from suffocation whilst being transported in a sealed refrigerator lorry in Essex. Every death as a result of immigration crime is a tragedy and we hope that we can help prevent further harm and suffering by catching these callous smugglers who care little for the welfare of their victims.”

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, Chris Philp, said:

“People smugglers are traders in human misery, exploiting and profiting from the vulnerability of others. As we saw with the tragedy in Essex in October 2019, their actions can also claim lives.

“I would encourage anyone with information about suspected organised immigration crime to share it via Crimestoppers and help bring callous offenders to justice. If hauliers fail to secure their lorry and a migrant is found in the back, they will be fined up to £2,000 per migrant.”

The NCA’s Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Miles Bonfield, 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.”

Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper, who leads on organised immigration crime for Essex Police, said:

“We’ll never forget the horrific events of 23 October 2019. There are 39 people who will never make it home to their families, all because of the greed of people smugglers.

“The information we received from the haulage industry was instrumental in our investigation, and we know that the industry is full of hard-working people with a difficult job to do. Do not let smugglers tempt you into making a dishonest living and potentially putting lives at risk.   

“Communities are the key to defeating organised immigration crime – whether that’s the haulage community, or communities who live near to ports or lorry parks – and we would urge anyone with information to report it. You could save lives.”

In an emergency, call 999. To report smugglers and stay 100% anonymously, visit our website Crimestoppers-uk.org and fill in our simple and secure anonymous online form or call our 24/7 UK Contact Centre on freephone 0800 555 111.

Please note: Computer IP addresses are never traced and no-one will ever know you contacted us. For telephone calls, we have no caller line display, no 1471 facility and we have never traced a call.

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