Brexit bureaucracy is preventing small charities and members of the public from bringing supplies to the Ukrainian border to help ease the worsening humanitarian crisis, it has emerged.
A Polish charity in Lewisham, south London, said three of its vans were unable to board a ferry because they did not have the necessary documents for their cargo.
Since Brexit, anyone transporting commercial quantities of goods to the EU must document all items on their trucks along with other export certificates.
The process is complicated and extensive, requiring exporters to know the individual commodity code for each of their products, as well as the origin and destination of their goods, which individuals acting spontaneously in response to the refugee crisis are unlikely to likely to know.
Agnieszka Lokaj of the Lewisham Polish Center charity told the Press Association: “The guys had cover letters from us saying it was humanitarian aid with all the information that it’s going to be distributed to refugees, it is not for resale; we have listed all items.
Ciaran Donovan, a courier who has mapped the Brexit challenges faced by drivers on social media over the past five years, came to their aid and they were able to board.
Donovan said he knew of 13 other vans carrying medical equipment on behalf of charities who “have still not left the UK after four days of trying to get customs documents”.
The vans sent by the Lewisham Polish Center have now arrived in Przemyśl, a Polish town on the border with Ukraine.
Eurotunnel said it was working with big, recognized charities to get the aid through and urged smaller charities to work with them to gain access to cross-Channel services.
An HMRC spokesperson said the Government’s advice remained that the ‘best way to help’ was to donate money through the Disaster Response Committee or other charities in trust.
He also said people could visit the export helpdesk or call the helpline 0300 303 8955 for advice on paperwork.
The Polish British Social Integration Club Wawel, a community organization based in London, confirmed that it had closed its donation point and halted shipments due to border issues.
Its president, Kasia Zimna, said: “We just want to deliver things, people are starving.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking for us because we have resources, but the law doesn’t help.”
The organizations have urged the governments of the UK, France and the Netherlands to urgently clarify guidelines for trucks transporting humanitarian goods across their borders.