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The Assistant Director of the Border Force operating in the French northern ports says he's shocked at the conditions his officers found seven stowaways – four of whom were children – locked in a refrigerated lorry.
The group of four Afghans and three Iranians were found at around 10am on Friday 1st February.
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 ferry to Dover and then continue it's 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.
Cameron Bryson, Assistant Director for the UK Border Agency'c Border Force, operating in the French northern ports told Heart: "We use a large range of technology to stop the 10,000 attempted people trafficking movements into the UK every year. We use heart-beat detectors, x-ray machines, carbon-dioxide probes, non x-ray wave form machines and 24 sniffer dogs which are officers have use of around the clock.
Thankfully it's very rare people, and certainly children attempt to be smuggled into the UK inside locked refridgerated containers, they're lucky to be alive."
Mr Bryson added: "We have guidance for what hauliers, lorry and van drivers should do when checking their vehicles parking up overnight at the French northern ports. When they do that it's risky, because their vehicles become prey for people traffikers and criminals who look for lorries and vans to target coming to the UK."
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.
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