Trucker arrested after 25 Middle Eastern stowaways found on ferry to England

Police guard in a detention center
Police guard in a detention centerPhoto: Politie

A 39-year-old truck driver from Romania was arrested after 25 stowaways were found hiding in the refrigerated container of his truck on board a ferry to England on Tuesday. He is in custody on suspicion of human trafficking while the police investigate whether he was aware of the people hiding in his truck, a police spokesperson said to NU.nl.

The nationalities of those found in the truck was still undetermined Wednesday morning. Authorities believe the group, mostly men, are from Middle East nations, the spokesperson said. Though many said they were from Iraq or Kuwait, none of the 25 had passports or other documentation with them when they were discovered, making their identification difficult.

The cargo ferry, Britannia Seaways, departed from Vlaardingen on Tuesday afternoon, heading towards the English town of Felixstowe. The ship returned to the Vulcaan port a short time after its departure when crew discovered the stowaways. Two people were hospitalized. They are in a stable condition, the police spokesperson said to the newspaper. 

The other 23 people were taken to a police station in Rotterdam for further investigation. At this stage the police can say nothing about where they came from. "The process is now underway and their case will be handled by the Immigration Service." The police assume that they are undocumented migrants, according to NU.nl.

The discovery of the stowaways sent emergency services responding to the Vulcaanhaven in Vlaardingen in large numbers. The situation was scaled up to a Grip1 safety procedure, which means that a commanding officer from one of the emergency services took command of the entire scene for all responding agencies. This is to create a clear line of command and to ensure the emergency services cooperate efficiently.

Vlaardingen mayor Annemiek Jetten told NPO Radio one that the Grip 1 procedure was implemented immediately because she did not know what and how much help the stowaways would need. "My compliments for the response from the emergency services", she said. She also raised concerns about the fact that such a large group could slip on board the ferry unnoticed. Controls will need to be improved, she said. 

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