Stoke & Staffordshire

Driver held after four children and 23 adult 'migrants' found

Police attend the scene
Image caption Those on board were medically assessed and transferred to immigration officials for interview

A lorry driver is being quizzed after police stopped a vehicle on the M6 with 27 suspected migrants, including four who claim to be under 18, in the back.

Staffordshire Police arrested the man, 42, on suspicion of "facilitating the illegal entry" of people into the UK.

Officers had received reports "lives may be at risk" in the wagon, which was stopped near Stoke-on-Trent.

Staffordshire County Council said they are working to support four people who said they are under the age of 18.

It is understood all 27 people were medically assessed and transferred to immigration officials for interview.

Council leader Philip Atkins said: "We have a duty to look after these young people and our priority is to ensure they are safe and well and treated appropriately for their age while they are assessed."

Police said the driver remains in custody and Immigration Enforcement are now running the investigation.

A police spokeswoman added: "The vehicle was stopped after reports were received that lives may have been at risk.

"The driver of the vehicle, a 42-year-old man of no fixed address, was arrested on suspicion of facilitating the illegal entry of persons unknown to the UK."

The Home Office said the group were comprised of Eritrean, Ethiopian and Sudanese nationals.

Part of the motorway had been closed from about 16:00 GMT - causing lengthy tailbacks on Wednesday - as police searched vehicles near Keele services.

The lorry was stopped on the northbound carriageway between junctions 15 and 16 at about 17:45 GMT.

Among those caught up in huge tailbacks were hundreds of Burton Albion supporters who had been travelling to their team's Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City, which they lost 9-0.

'People escaped'

Driver Danny Ellis said he had seen 30 to 40 police cars pass him on the northbound side of the motorway, and said three or four lorries had been stopped and searched.

"We were told for safety to get back in our cars and lock them," he said.

"We were told a lot of people escaped and ran from the back of these lorries."

Image caption People wrapped in foil blankets were seen on the hard shoulder surrounded by police

The 30-year-old telecoms worker said he had seen men on the ground being treated by paramedics.

Another eyewitness told BBC Radio Stoke he had seen police stopping lorries.

He said: "They pulled a white trailer up on the side and they were shouting 'are they in here?'

"The driver opened the vehicle and I just watched 15 of them come out."

Police said a number of people had fled but were eventually detained, with none reporting serious injuries.

Image copyright Highways England
Image caption Traffic cameras showed long tailbacks forming on the motorway

A West Midlands Ambulance spokesman said: "Three paramedic officers, a BASICS emergency doctor and two ambulance crews were responded.

"A total of 27 occupants from a vehicle which was stopped by the police received medical assessments on scene by ambulance staff. All were in a stable condition and didn't require hospital treatment. All 27 patients were discharged on scene and left in the care of the police."

Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker said: "We were acting on information where there was real concern for people in distress and therefore it was necessary for us to take immediate and appropriate action."

He apologised to motorists for disruption on the motorway, which Highways England said was not fully reopened until about 22:00 GMT.

Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites