Agent recalls distress as her convoy taking aid to Ukrainian refugees is stopped by police and asked for £3k

By Linsey McNeill
10/03/2022
Home » Agent recalls distress as her convoy taking aid to Ukrainian refugees is stopped by police and asked for £3k

Homeworker Carla Hodgson has described the ‘dreadful’ moment she was stopped by Austrian police as she attempted to deliver a van-load of supplies to refugees fleeing from war-torn Ukraine.

Carla, who is based in Fareham, and husband Jason had joined up with local charity Jacobs Well to drive donated essential items 1,200 miles to the Romanian border with Ukraine.

But their mission was nearly derailed in Austria when they were stopped and told to pay £3k in duties.

They were told the donated goods were subject to import duties because they had been transported from the UK, which is outside the European Union. However, they had not been stopped by any other country they’d passed through on their way to Romania.

“It was dreadful, they were out of order,” she told Travel Gossip. “We were begging them to let us continue, we had got so far.” 

Carla said the charity boss was in tears. “A 74-year-old man, it was heart-breaking,” she said.

“They couldn’t care less that we were all volunteers taking donated humanitarian aid.

“Luckily we showed the press articles that helped prove our intentions were legitimate.” One of the articles was Travel Gossip’s original story about Carla’s planned trip.

But Carla said she knew she ‘needed help high up and very fast’ to avoid losing everything they had worked so hard for, so she also put a call in to the British Embassy. 

“Our case was discussed at a higher level very quickly. We were allowed to continue and they agreed that UK-based aid should not be subject to import duties, and our situation had alerted them to an initial problem that needs to be urgently addressed given the extreme situation Europe faces in all pulling together to help one another.”

Carla’s 1,200 mile journey, from Google Maps

Carla, a Hays Travel homeworker, said she was hoping ‘a special measure’ will be introduced by all EU countries to allow others like her to deliver aid ‘without facing traumatic and stressful situations like ours today’.

The convoy was eventually allowed to continue and Carla and the rest of the volunteers are now about 500 miles from their final destinations.

“With luck, and no more issues, we should get there just after midnight,” she told Travel Gossip. 

“We are mentally and physically drained, but we are more determined than ever to get this aid delivered.”

She described the volunteers as ‘really tired’, but said there was ‘lovely camaraderie’.

Jason loading his removal van with supplies

Although the convoy has met others heading to Poland with aid, she said they haven’t yet met others going to Romania. 

“We will be meeting refugees so I hope to speak to some and personally hand out what they need,” added Carla.

“The families are in a summer camp, which has opened just to offer a roof over their heads until further accommodation can be secured for them.

“No doubt I will cry again, it’s certainly getting more emotional the nearer we get.”

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