‘I could have had 200 immigrants in the back’: Rider’s fears over lack of border checks

  • An international dressage rider who regularly travels abroad has raised concerns about a lack of border checks.

    Iranian Litta Soheila, who is based with British Olympian Spencer Wilton, forgot to pack her horse Air FK’s passport when she left to compete at Saumur CDI3* on 20 September.

    But this did not affect her journey, as officials did not ask for it, or any other paperwork, nor did they look inside the lorry, either on the way out or the return journey.

    Border checks on paperwork are not required by law, although the documents must be in place, but Litta says no officials even looked in the lorry.

    “Every time I go abroad, I pay for my export papers, the different certificates you need to take a horse outside the UK, I go with all these tons of paperwork,” she told H&H.

    “And the only thing [the border official] wanted to know was whether I had a working fan in the lorry.

    “I only had one horse in there but I could have had stolen grand prix horses too – I could have taken [Spencer’s Rio ride] Supernova II and just never come back. I thought it was quite incredible”

    Litta realised once she was in France that she did not have the passport, so had to pay £160 for a courier to deliver it to Saumur.

    But although it was checked at the show, she did not need the passport for her return journey either.

    “I said to my groom: ‘Let’s see if they ask for it’, but they only asked whether we had a horse on board, they didn’t check,” she said.

    “I go abroad about once a month and it’s not the first time they haven’t checked but it’s the first time no one’s asked both ways.”

    Litta said the incident flagged health and security concerns.

    “They didn’t even look in the lorry,” she said. “It’s 26 tonnes; I could have had 200 immigrants in the back.

    “You do so much to take horses abroad, pay for all the papers, and then think: ‘What was all that about, no one even looked at it’.

    “With all the terror attacks, you’d think they would be a bit more careful, not to mention the fact they didn’t even check to see if he’d had his vaccinations.”

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    A Defra spokesman said: “Under the Tripartite Agreement (TPA) certain types of horses can move freely between the UK and France. This includes sports horses registered with the FEI. Horses competing at FEI events must be of a set vaccination standard set by the FEI.

    “Horses not qualifying for movements under TPA must be accompanied by a health certificate and inspected by a vet before departure. Random checks on these animals coming into the UK are undertaken by the Animal and Plant Health Agency.”

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