Undocumented migrants with HGV licenses have been sent official government letters begging them to help ease the fuel crisis – despite having no official right to work in Britain.
People who overstayed their visas have now been told their “valuable skills and experience have never been more needed than they are now” – and asked to “consider returning” to drive lorries, The Independent reported.
The letters, sent by the Department for Transport, were part of a mass mailout to ambulance drivers and paramedics to bail Britain out of its ballooning fuel crisis.
Officials said the letters had been sent by accident – prompting critics to accuse ministers of “staggering incompetence”.
It comes after the Road Haulage Association asked the government to allow more European drivers into the UK after thousands left the country because of Brexit and the Covid pandemic.
The newspaper spoke to one Indian man who has been living in the UK since 2008 but became undocumented in 2017 because he could not afford the costs of extending his visa.
He has been repeatedly refused a visa by the Home Office and told to return to India to reapply, despite him fearing harm from his wife’s family due to an inter-caste marriage.
The man said he received the letter despite the fact that the government “knows” his status, and that he could be contributing to the UK tax system if he was offered a visa.
Another Indian man who also could not afford to extend his visa in 2017 said he knew “loads” of undocumented migrants who received the same letter.
He said people like him are “working like slaves” because they are being denied the ability to work legally in the UK – but that he is also receiving £130 a shift from his cash-in-hand HGV driving which he could be paying tax on if allowed to work legally.
Fewer than half of the 300 visas offered to European HGV drivers by the government have been taken up under a new emergency scheme announced last month to address the labour shortage emergency.
Shadow immigration minister Bambos Charalambous said: “This again illustrates the complete chaos the Government have got themselves into on this issue of HGV drivers. Despite being warned on several occasions that there would going to be a shortage, now we have a fuel crisis all because the government failed to plan.”
Last month, winery production manager Peter Brissenden told The London Economic that he had also been invited to drive an HGV by the government – and accused ministers of “a complete scattergun approach”.
He said: “I’ve never actually driven an HGV commercially, and in fact I’ve not done all the qualifications to drive an HGV professionally, all I’ve done is just take the test that allows me to drive a motorhome.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson has previously said the letter was sent to around one million HGV driving licence holders, and that it would have been “impossible” to only send it to professional drivers because of data protection rules.
Another spokesperson now told The Independent that many of those who received letters chose to return to the industry.