[Stop-traffic] NEWS/UK: 29 IMMIGRANTS PACKED IN VAN.

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] NEWS/UK: 29 IMMIGRANTS PACKED IN VAN.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Jan 19 2001 - 10:47:53 EST


29Dec00 UK: 29 IMMIGRANTS PACKED IN VAN.
By PETER ALLEN in London and IAN SPARKS in Boulogne.
A TRANSIT van heading across the English Channel from France to Britain was
found to have an astonishing 29 Turkish illegal immigrants packed in a
secret compartment.
Several women and children were among those found crushed between plywood
screens that had been placed behind the driver's area and half way down the
van, then concealed by boxes.
The English van owner and a friend were last night beginning jail sentences
in France for trafficking in illegal immigrants.
They faced court the day after 35-year-old Sheena Tuckfield, a pregnant
mother of two, was sentenced to three months for trying to smuggle two
Pakistanis into Britain in the boot of her car.
Since the ferry company P&O launched a crackdown three weeks ago, it has
found 401 stowaways on its Dover-Calais route - saving it $2.6 million in
fines and repatriation fees it would have faced if the immigrants had been
found in Britain.
Nicholas Clark, 27, of East Ham, London, was jailed for 15 months and
Ronald Duberry, 34, of Tottenham, London, for six months, by magistrates in
Boulogne.
Clark received the longer sentence because he owned the van.
The pair will both be banned from France for two years on their release.
Clark and Duberry had driven their van on to a P&O Stena Line ferry early
on Christmas Eve.
It had passed the ferry company's compulsory checks on Calais dockside,
where no trace of illicit human cargo had been detected.
But as the men prepared to leave the van on the car deck of the ferry,
loading staff heard groaning from inside the vehicle and ordered it to be
removed before the 80-minute crossing to Dover.
Back on the dockside, police searched the van and found the 29 Turks
pressed into the secret compartment.
"There was not a square centimetre between them," one officer said.
"Several of the women had fainted but were still being propped upright by
the sheer weight of bodies around them."
Smugglers are believed to charge up to $2500 for each would-be asylum
seeker's travel, although the money is usually filtered through third
parties, often members of criminal syndicates, including the Mafia.
A French border police spokesman said: "The conditions immigrants are
prepared to endure to sneak into Britain are appalling.
"The smugglers are putting their lives at risk by squeezing them into
dirty, airless spaces that are not even fit for animals."
A P&O spokesman said: "The discovery of the illegals brought the total
found since we began the searches on December 6 to 401."
P&O hired a private se curity firm initially just to check trucks, but
within days extended the compulsory search to private cars and vans.
Now every vehicle crossing from Calais to Dover by P&O is searched.
The company spokesman said that crew on P&O Stena, which carries up to 7000
cars and 1000 coaches every day, were not surprised by the large number of
illegals found.
"We have known for months of the high level of illegal immigration
activity," he said.
"That was the reason we embarked on the search programme but the fact we
have saved ourselves so much in such a short time demonstrates that our
investment was worthwhile."
There are between 70 and 80 Britons in prison for immigrant trafficking
offences in northern France, with more being caught and detained every
week.
As security is tightened at the Calais ferry port, where 1500 people a
month are caught hiding in cars and lorries, increasing numbers of refugees
are looking to other less well-guarded ports to sneak aboard British-bound
ferries.
(C) 2000 Herald and Weekly Times Limited.
HERALD SUN 29/12/2000 P30
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