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Harwich International Port is at the center of a British investigation today after border control officials discovered two pregnant women and 15 children locked inside a Polish lorry. Officials at the port in Essex, England, found the vulnerable stowaways with over 50 other suspected illegal immigrants. Members of the group were reported to be suffering from chest and abdominal pains as well as respiratory problems after their horrific ordeal, and several, including the two pregnant women, were taken to nearby Colchester General Hospital.
The East of England Ambulance Service was called to the port at 10:12 p.m. after receiving a call that several people had been found locked in trailers at the Essex port. Of the 68 assessed at the scene, seven were admitted to the hospital and the remaining 61 were released into the custody of Border Force officials. It would appear that the stowaways were locked inside of four Polish transporters which were attempting to enter the U.K. from Holland. A statement issued by Essex Police reported that they had been made aware of the 68 immigrants on the evening of Thursday, June 4, when paramedics attending the scene called for their assistance. The police statement added that the investigation at Harwich International Port would be primarily dealt with by staff at Border Force, but that they would be “continuing to liaise with them while their inquiries continue.”
The lorries travelled on the Stena Hollandica and became part of a routine search by Border Force when disembarking at Harwich International Port. The Stena Hollandica was the first of two Ropax ferries launched in 2010, designed with a larger garage area specifically for the transportation of more commercial vehicles as well as domestic travelers. A spokeswoman for the company, Stena Line, said in a statement today that the ship left the Hook of Holland at approximately 2:15 p.m. and arrived in Harwich around 7:45 p.m. This means that the stowaways had been trapped for a minimum of five and one half of an hour. The spokeswoman added that Stena Line did not know where the lorries had been prior to departing the Dutch port.
The discovery of 68 suspected illegal immigrants, which included 15 young children and two pregnant women, locked in lorries at Harwich International Port is part of a much larger operation taking place all around Great Britain as transport staff and Border Force officials work tirelessly to eradicate the escalating issue of people-trafficking. As well as smuggling people into the country via large methods of transportation, reports now show that private boats and even rubber dinghies are being used to smuggle people into Britain. The Italian Navy ship, Spica, patrols the Mediterranean and has, over the last few months, rescued thousands of people attempting to flee their home countries. Such unworthy sea vessels leave them vulnerable to thirst, exposure and exhaustion. Italian authorities have reported a number of fatalities.
Recent statistics suggest as many as 18,000 people make their way through Britain’s borders in illegal, and often dangerous, ways every year. One government source, who blamed the increase in migrant activity on the rise in people-trafficking from the African continent, said, “their ability to succeed is increasing. They are going to other ports in Europe that are not as heavily policed.”
Today, British charity The Red Cross was said to be aiding the Harwich International Port stowaways by providing them with food, clothing and blankets, until the conclusion of the investigation when a more permanent solution can be found. Four Polish lorry drivers are being held by police in connection with the dismal discovery of the 68 suspected illegal immigrants, including two pregnant women, who were locked in a lorry.
By Alison Klippenstein
Daily Mail: Four Polish drivers arrested after 68 starving migrants – including 15 children and two pregnant women – are found locked in four lorries in Essex port
The Telegraph – 68 suspected illegal immigrants found at Harwich
BBC News: Sixty-eight immigrants found in Harwich International port lorries
East of England Ambulance Service: Seven patients taken to hospital after 999 call to Essex port
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Photo by Chris Allen Courtesy of Geograph Photo – Creative Commons License