Children discovered in lorry

Photo: Home Office

Seven would-be stowaways – four of whom were children – have been rescued from a refrigerated lorry bound for the Port of Dover.

The group, four Afghans and three Iranians, were found at around 10am on Friday 1 February by Border Force officials in Dunkerque.

Officers noticed that the door handle had been cut but the Slovakian-registered lorry was locked.

When they opened it up they found the group hiding amongst a load of soft cheese. The temperature inside the trailer was minus two degrees centigrade.

The four children, who were all aged between 9 and 16, and one of the adults were judged to be suffering from hypothermia and were taken to hospital.

The lorry was due to board a midday ferry and from Dover would have continued its journey to Milton Keynes. It is estimated that had they not been found the group would have faced at least another seven hours inside the truck.

The Bulgarian lorry driver was interviewed by French police but later released without charge.

Paul Morgan, Border Force Director for South East & Europe, said:

"This incident shows the desperate lengths that people will go to in their attempts to reach the UK. It also shows the complete disregard for safety and wellbeing shown by the people-smugglers who no-doubt helped get them into this lorry.

“The group had already spent several hours in sub-zero conditions when Border Force officers discovered them. They had no way of getting out.

“If the lorry had carried on unchecked then this could’ve had fatal consequences, especially for the children.”

The five taken to hospital were later given the all-clear by doctors and were handed over to the French authorities, along with the remaining two stowaways.

Border Force officers based in French ports like Calais and Dunkerque work closely with the French authorities to help protect the whole of the UK from people attempting to enter the country illegally.

As well as using sniffer dogs, officers also use heartbeat detectors, carbon dioxide probes and physical searches to find people hiding in vehicles”.

A leaflet, issued by the Border Force, in partnership with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), gives information and advice to lorry drivers transporting freight to and from the UK on how to prevent illegal immigration and avoid becoming victims of crime.