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Lorry drivers across Britain are being urged to lock their vehicles and report any suspicious activity that could be linked to people smuggling, in a joint appeal being led by the National Crime Agency and Border Force.

The push, in partnership with Crimestoppers and the Home Office, will come two years after 39 Vietnamese migrants were tragically found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex, having been smuggled into the UK in 2019.

The campaign will target freight drivers across England, Scotland and Wales with messaging at service stations and ports, on how they can help stop what is a dangerous and illegal way into the UK.

The NCA alone has around 50 ongoing investigations linked to organised immigration crime and since the start of the year, has been involved in more than 140 arrests.

Disrupting the criminal networks behind people smuggling is a priority for UK law enforcement and operational activity has led to many of these journeys being stopped and people safeguarded.

The tragedy that took place in Grays, Essex on 23 October 2019 highlighted just how perilous this method of entry into the country is.

The NCA continues to work with its partners to raise awareness of the impacts of people smuggling and are encouraging people working in the transport sector to recognise when something isn’t right, and to report it.

New posters and leaflets launched on Monday [25 October] will make it clear to drivers exactly what they should look out for, including; security breaches at ports, unexpected route diversions from drivers on shift and unusual behaviour at the rear of vehicles.

Drivers will also be encouraged to secure their vehicles and report any instances where they have been approached by someone offering opportunities to earn extra cash.

Any suspicion, no matter how small it may appear at the time, can be reported anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111, or in an emergency, the police by dialling 999.

NCA Deputy Director Andrea Wilson said: “Stopping people smugglers and preventing further loss of life, is of the utmost priority for the NCA and its partners.

“The tragic events that took place in Essex two years ago have remained front and centre of our minds in tackling this issue and continue to inform our operational activity.

“We cannot emphasise enough how crucial information from those in the transport sector is, and hope this renewed drive gives people the confidence to report any suspicious activity to the authorities.”

Border Force Chief Operating Officer Steve Dann, said: “The Grays tragedy revealed the terrible dangers people face being hidden in the backs of lorries by criminals who put profit over safety without a care for who they hurt.

“Border Force work tirelessly to search, find and stop people being smuggled into the country using every tool at our disposal and on both sides of the border.

“This campaign encourages our haulier community to secure their vehicle and to be the eyes and ears on the roads reporting anything they think is suspicious – together with the NCA, we are determined to bring an end to this heinous trade in people smuggling.”

22 October 2021