Four arrested after 68 people discovered in lorries at port

Trucks are searched at the port
Trucks are searched at the port

Four Polish nationals have been arrested after the discovery of 15 children and 53 adults on lorries during a port search.

The lorry drivers were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration, after the vehicles arrived in the UK from Holland.

The stowaways - 35 Afghan nationals, 22 Chinese nationals, 10 people from Vietnam and one Russian - were discovered at Harwich International Port after a search by Border Force officials.

A spokesperson said: "We can confirm Border Force officers discovered 53 adults and 15 children during a proactive search of four lorries which had arrived at Harwich port from Holland on Thursday evening.

"Seven of those discovered were taken to hospital as a precaution, before being released. All 68 individuals are now in the care of Border Force.

"Four Polish nationals, who were driving the vehicles, have been arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration. They have been taken to separate police stations and will now be questioned by the Home Office's criminal investigations team while inquiries continue."

Two pregnant women were among those taken to Colchester General Hospital after the discovery at the Essex port at around 10pm yesterday.

An ambulance spokesman said: "The patients who were taken to hospital were suffering from abdominal and chest pains and were feeling faint.

"None are in a life-threatening or serious condition."

Essex Police said it had been contacted by the ambulance service to reports that 68 people had been discovered in four lorries on a ferry from the Hook of Holland.

"Essex Police made contact with staff at Border Force, who were already in attendance, and they are taking the lead as the incident relates to immigration offences.

"We are continuing to liaise with Border Force while their inquiries continue," said a spokesman.

A spokesman for the port said the stowaways were discovered on vehicles that had arrived on the Stena Hollandica.

A spokeswoman for Stena Line said: "We can confirm that four different lorries carrying 68 clandestines were stopped by Border Force at Harwich International Port last night as they disembarked from the Stena Hollandica."

She added that the ship left the Hook of Holland at 2.15pm and arrived in Harwich at 7.45pm yesterday - a five- and-a-half-hour journey.

Following a search at the same port in February last year, two illegal immigrants plunged to their deaths after jumping from a ship in an attempt to swim to shore.

Artur Doda, 24, and Leonard Isufaj, 27, both from Tirana, Albania, were seen leaping from one of the world's largest ferries, the Stena Britannica, about 1,600ft off Harwich at about 9.50am on February 26.

They had been found in the back of a lorry along with 13 others of mixed nationalities after it was randomly selected for X-ray as it entered the port six hours earlier.

It is thought they were part of a group which had broken into the vehicle without the driver's knowledge as part of an organised people-smuggling operation.

An inquest at Chelmsford heard that Mr Doda was sliced to death by the "machete-like" motion of the ship's propeller and Mr Isufaj drowned after they were both sucked underwater almost immediately after jumping over the side, 10 minutes into the journey back to the Hook of Holland.

Mr Isufaj's body was found on March 20 on Felixstowe beach while Mr Doda was found floating in the water off Essex on April 29.

Coroner Eleanor McGann recorded that both men died accidental deaths, adding that it was difficult to make recommendations to the Government based on this case.

"This is all part of a bigger picture on immigration and how it's handled, and nothing I could say could help prevent such sad deaths in future," she said.