Risk of deaths haunts truck drivers
COUNTY WEXFORD based truck drivers are finding themselves at risk of being effective couriers for asylum seekers who may be found dead in their vehicles.
Verona Murphy, President of the Irish Road Hauliers' Association (IRHA), said truck drivers are continuing to experience problems with migrants in France attempting to gain access to and hide inside their trailers. She was speaking after a three-year-old girl and four adults were found in a sealed, refrigerated container at O'Leary International in New Ross on Sunday, October 16.
Ms Murphy, who runs a transport company based in Ramsgrange, said: 'Drivers are instructed to be vigilant at all times to ensure their own protection and the protection of their property, but it happens.'
She expressed particular concern about the people who were found in the container in New Ross, especially the three-year-old child. 'In a container like that there would be problem with oxygen, there may not be enough, they could be dead,' she said.
'That's everybody's fear. It would be of utmost concern to both the haulier and the driver - nobody would want that on their conscience.'
She also pointed out that the container the five Kurdish people stowed away in had passed through two border checks - one in France and one in Wexford - and they were only discovered when the truck driver transporting the trailer heard noises and opened it up. 'In the UK, if that had happened, they would be looking at a €10,000 fine,' Ms Murphy said. 'What's happening is that the French authorities are saying there is no one in the trailer and you travel a small distance to the UK authorities who fine you. The haulier and the driver get a fine and there are no penalties for the French authorities who didn't catch it in the firstplace. In the same vein, if people were found dead and both authorities missed them, would they be brought up for murder?'
Ms Murphy said her organisation would 'strenuously oppose' any plans to bring in similar fines for drivers arriving in Irish ports who are found to have people hiding inside their trailers.
The people discovered in New Ross in the back of the container were medically exmained afterwards and are now in Dublin having applied for asylum seeker status.
Three-quarters of stowaway migrants discovered at Rosslare Harbour this year failed to say they were seeking asylum and were sent back to their port of origin, Wexford Chief Superintendent John Roche said.
There have been about 25 stowaways discovered at the harbour this year, but only about one-quarter requested asylum. The others were sent back to their ports of origin. 'There is a serious market in Europe right now in relation to false travel documents,' he said. 'If there's any suspicion in relation to validity of the documents we will send them back to their port of origin, unless they ask for asylum. We are refusing a fair number because people are coming in with false documentation or no documentation at all, particularly as foot passengers. They're evading capture on the French side but we stop them once they get to Rosslare and return them immediately.'
Any individual who arrives in the State has a right to seek asylum. The claim is processed and a determination made about whether to grant refugee status.
Supt Roche said there is a significantly increased garda presence at Rosslare Europort this year. 'We have six ferries arriving here every day from Cherbourg, Fishguard and Pembroke,' he said.