Illegal immigrants found on Polegate-bound lorry

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SIX ILLEGAL immigrants hiding in a lorry bound for Polegate were stopped at a French port after they were found by a sniffer dog called Ben.

The Vietnamese men were discovered in a British registered lorry at Calais Port on January 14.

The lorry was on its way to deliver sugar to a delivery address in Polegate.

UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers were alerted to the men after the three-year-old dog, a Huntaway cross breed, sniffed them out. All the stowaways were then handed over to border police in France and the lorry was allowed to continue its journey.

Carole Upshall, UKBA director for the South and Europe, said: “This incident shows why we base UKBA staff in France – to stop would-be illegal immigrants before they can reach the UK.

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

The British driver and the haulage company now each face a potential fine of up to £2,000 per stowaway if they are unable to prove they took steps to secure the vehicle.

A UKBA spokeswoman said the agency did not know whether the men had planned to escape from the lorry in Polegate or at another destination. She also said that illegal immigrants had various reasons for coming to the UK, including to work illegally.

The spokeswoman said: “Illegal working has a serious impact on communities, taking jobs from those who are genuinely allowed to work.

“Our strong presence at the border is preventing illegal immigrants from entering the UK and then heading for places like East Sussex.

“This is re-enforced by the Sussex Local Immigration Team who carry out operations at businesses and private addresses, acting on intelligence received from the public and other sources.”

The Express spoke to several expert agencies and Government departments about the Vietnamese men’s predicament.

One source said Vietnam was not an unusual source for illegal immigrants and sometimes organised gangs are involved. Some 2,430 people were voluntarily returned or enforceably removed to Vietnam in 2010, according to UKBA.

Last year a United Nations project on Human Trafficking stated: “Human trafficking affects women, men and children in Vietnam. Trafficked persons experience various difficulties ranging from physical and mental health issues, to economic and social reintegration issues.”

Anyone who suspects that illegal workers are being employed at a business in Sussex phone Crimestoppers (0800 555 111) anonymously or visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/report-immigration-crime.