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Monday 9 December 2019

Stowaway rang 999 from the back of an Irish lorry

Verona Murphy: “crisis stage”. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Verona Murphy: “crisis stage”. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Allison Bray

A stowaway made a 'distressed' call to gardaí from the back of a truck, alerting them to the presence of nine Kurdish refugees who were found huddled in the lorry after entering the port of Rosslare.

"We got a 999 call to the Wexford Garda station from someone who couldn't speak English well, saying 'help'," a Garda source told the Irish Independent.

Gardaí traced the call to a lorry that had arrived on a ferry from Cherbourg, France, and found nine men, all aged in their 20s, huddled in the back of the airtight trailer.

None of them were able to speak English, prompting gardaí to enlist the help of interpreters.

It is understood the men had been in the trailer for up to two days before making the ferry crossing.

The men have been identified as Kurds who are believed to hail from northern Iraq.

Eight of the nine will be making applications as asylum seekers, while one man has been detained for questioning at New Ross Garda Station in connection with alleged immigration offences.

Despite the cramped conditions and limited oxygen supply in the trailer, the men were all found to be well after being taken to Waterford Regional Hospital for a medical assessment on Saturday night.

"They've been taken to a place of safety and their identities have been established," said a Garda spokesperson.

The driver of the Irish lorry is also being questioned in connection with the incident as part of a routine investigation.

Verona Murphy, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said she had yet to learn whether the driver is a member of her organisation.

However, she said the plight of Irish lorry drivers who are unwittingly caught up in people smuggling, or who find migrants stowing away in their vehicles after embarking on a cross-channel crossing from Calais to Dover in the UK, had now reached a crisis stage.

Four Irish hauliers were hit with fines of £54,000 (€68,525) in November alone after authorities from the UK Border Force found 'clandestine' stowaways in their vehicles.

Aside from the cost to innocent hauliers, which is threatening many of their livelihoods, Ms Murphy said that finding stowaways in their trailers was very traumatic for drivers.

"It's very disturbing for the driver, who would be confronted by nine migrants and God knows what state they're in," she said.

Ms Murphy said hauliers were doing everything possible to prevent stowaways sneaking on board their vehicles.

It is the job of border patrol agents in France and the UK to check for illegal migrants and stowaways and they are not doing their jobs properly if migrants are getting through, she said.

"We are doing everything possible but the border agents are there and they're not doing their jobs," said Ms Murphy, adding that she is to meet with the EU Transport Commissioner this week to discuss the ongoing problem.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the first priority for the asylum seekers was that they be "treated with humanity" after their ordeal and that they get proper medical, legal and immigration advice.

Irish Independent

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