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Asylum seekers cling to bottom of coach from France
THEY had been on a pilgrimage to honour the country’s war dead in northern France.
But when the members of Romsey and District Society returned to the UK they found themselves at the centre of an asylum seeker drama.
The party were left stunned when they saw three men tumble from the bottom of their coach when the vehicle stopped at motorway services.
The three from Sudan, believed to be asylum seekers, had been clinging to the bottom of the vehicle, which had travelled back to the UK via the Eurotunnel.
They appeared when the coach pulled up at services on the M25 at Cobham.
The men, believed to be in their mid 20s, made no attempt to escape and were taken away by police.
Officers also interviewed the driver of the coach, belonging to Romseybased Avensis.
Chris Emery, one of the civic society’s party which had been visiting First World War sites in the Somme area, said: “Border control people in France came aboard the bus in Calais to check our passports. But they didn’t search the bus. It’s pathetic.”
Fellow society member Professor Robert Grime said: “On the way back we heard knocking and we were making jokes that there must be some illegal immigrants hiding under the coach. “I’m amazed they managed to hang on. We were doing 60mph on the motorway.
“We were told that vehicles drive over a camera at Calais which is meant to detect people hiding on the underside of vehicles. Obviously no one was monitoring it.”
Lindsay Esplin-Jones, who spoke with the men, said they told her it had taken them two years to reach the UK since leaving Sudan, 3,500 miles away.
Avensis refused to comment on the incident other than to confirm that nothing like this had ever happened on any of their other trips to Europe.
The coach firm referred the Echo to the Confederation of Passenger Transport, whose spokesman said it was unusual for illegal immigrants to conceal themselves on a coach rather than on the back of lorries.
“It does happen, I’ve heard of people hiding in the wheel arches, but the risk involved is huge,” he said.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Border Force staff based at ports in France and Belgium work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to stop illegal immigrants before they set foot in the UK.
“Officers use sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors and heartbeat monitors, as well as visual searches, to find stowaways and last year 11,000 illegal attempts were prevented.
“In cases when suspected illegal immigrants found on lorries are arrested by police in the UK, we respond quickly.
“Where someone is found to have no legal right to remain in the UK we will take action to remove them.”
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