68 people found in trailer container at UK port

Seven people were taken to hospital after being discovered in storage containers at a port in Essex


Four Polish truck drivers have been arrested after dozens of suspected illegal immigrants were discovered hiding in lorries at a port in Essex.

A total of 53 adults and 15 children were found in trailer containers at Harwich International Port.

Seven people were taken into hospital after customs officers made the discovery at around 10pm last night. Several had fainted, while others reported suffering from chest and abdominal pains, Sky News reports.

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Paramedics, police officers and two hazardous area response teams arrived at the scene within six minutes of receiving a call from UK Border Agency staff.

Matt Broad from East of England Ambulance Service said: "The early indication came back that there was a significant number of people that had been discovered in trailer containers.

"With the numbers being over 60, we launched our full major incident plan and sent resources including our hazardous areas response team so we could ensure that all those people were thoroughly medically checked."

He added: "We do know from experience now that patients that have been in containers or lorries for some period of time can be dehydrated, and suffer other medical effects."

The number of people entering Britain illegally via ports on the south coast has more than doubled from around 150 per week last year to 350 per week, or 18,000 a year, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The huge rise in illegal entries has occurred due to growing numbers of people smugglers operating between the Mediterranean and North Africa, diplomats say. Most arrive in Italy, but many continue to other countries including the UK to try to improve their prospects of finding a job.

"Before the end of last year, the numbers were about 150 a week, now it's up to about 350," one diplomatic source told the Telegraph, who said that many were eschewing the traditional route into England through Calais and looking for other ways to gain entry. "Their ability to succeed is also increasing, as they are going to other ports elsewhere on the French coast that are not as heavily policed [as Calais]."

The group discovered in Essex yesterday included 35 Afghans, 22 Chinese, 10 Vietnamese and one Russian. Four Polish nationals who were driving the lorries have been arrested under suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.

"They have been taken to separate police stations and will now be questioned," the Home Office said.

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