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19 March 2011, 10:26
Twelve foreign nationals, hiding in a lorry headed for Melton Mowbray, have been prevented from entering the country after being caught at Dunkirk.
At 6.15am on 2 March UK Border Agency officers at the French port examined a Belgian registered freight vehicle with a Bulgarian driver.
A sniffer dog called Benji, an English springer spaniel, alerted his handlers to the presence of some unexpected passengers in the back of the lorry.
Officers then boarded the trailer and found a dozen people hiding among a load of cat and dog food which was en route to Melton Mowbray. Eleven of the stowaways were from Afghanistan while one was Iranian. The stowaways were removed from the lorry before being handed over to the French Frontier Police.
The vehicle was allowed to continue its journey to the UK but both the driver and haulage company may each now be liable for a fine of up to £2,000 per stowaway if they are unable to prove they took steps to secure the vehicle.
Carole Upshall, UK Border Agency Director for South and Europe, said:
"We have to stay one step ahead of illegal immigration. Having UK Border Agency officers based in France and Belgium means we can check vehicles before they cross the channel and stop would-be illegal immigrants setting foot in the UK.
“Increasingly sophisticated and dangerous attempts are being made to try to smuggle people into Britain so our officers use hi-tech equipment, such as heartbeat detectors and carbon dioxide probes, as well as sniffer dogs, to find people hiding in vehicles.
“Our strong presence at the border is preventing illegal immigrants from entering the UK and then heading for places like, in this case, Melton Mowbray.”