SEVEN stowaways planning a new life in Milton Keynes have been saved from freezing to death in a lorry full of cream cheese.
The illegal immigrants, four of them children, were caught locked in the refrigerated lorry about to board a ferry from France on Friday.
The temperature in their hiding place was minus two degrees centigrade and all the children and one of the adults were suffering from hypothermia.
If they had continued their journey to Milton Keynes all could have frozen to death, said a Border Force spokesman.
“We could have been dealing with seven frozen corpses in Milton Keynes,” he said.
Four of the group were Afghans and three of them were Iranians, it has been confirmed.
Border Force director Paul Morgan said: “This incident shows the desperate lengths that people will go to in their attempts to reach the UK. It also shows the complete disregard for safety and wellbeing by the people-smugglers who no doubt helped them get into this lorry.”
Vigilant officers at Dunkergue port noticed the door handle of the Slovakian registered lorry had been cut . They unlocked the door to find the shivering group hiding among a lorry load of soft cheese.
The four children, aged between nine and 16, were all taken to hospital. After being given the all-clear by doctors they were handed over to the French authorities with the other stowaways. The lorry was due to board a midday ferry to Dover. Had it continued its planned journey to Milton Keynes, the stowaways would have faced at least another seven hours locked inside, said Mr Morgan.
“They had no way of getting out,”
The Border Force has not yet discovered what the illegal immigrants planned to do when they reached Milton Keynes or whether they had arranged an address in which to stay.
Border officers are based in ports and work closely with the French authorities to prevent people from entering the country illegally.
They use sniffer dogs, heartbeat detectors, carbon dioxide probes and physical searches to find people hiding in vehicles.