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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Young children found hidden in lorry at UK port

The group of migrants, believed to be from Vietnam, included 11 youngsters

A CCTV camera records as Border Force staff check lorries and trucks arriving at the UK border as they leave a cross-channel ferry that has just arrived from France. Getty Images
A CCTV camera records as Border Force staff check lorries and trucks arriving at the UK border as they leave a cross-channel ferry that has just arrived from France. Getty Images

Children as young as 12 have been found as part of a group of 21 would-be migrants concealed in a refrigerated lorry carrying sparkling water at a south England port.

The 11 children are thought to be from Vietnam and were discovered by UK border guards at the port of Newhaven. The incident took place last Thursday but news of it was only reported on Wednesday.

A Romanian man, believed to be to be the lorry driver, has been charged with assisting illegal entry into the UK and a criminal investigation is now under way. Andrut Duma, 29, appeared before magistrates on Saturday. He is due to appear at Lewes Crown Court on 26 November over immigration offences.

Reports earlier in the day said 15 children had been found, but the figure has now been rounded down the Home Office said.

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Initially 17 of the group presented themselves as between the ages of 12 to 17. After checks, only 11 were later confirmed to be minors a spokesman told the BBC.

A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said the children had now been transferred into foster care or supported housing. None required medical treatment, but one has since fled the care.

Two adult members of the group, a man aged 18 and 27-year-old woman, have been deported from the UK.

The other eight adults, reported to 21 to 28-years-old, must report to the Home Office on a regularly basis while their cases are assessed.

Vietnam consistently ranks as one of the top countries for potential victims of trafficking, abuse and and modern day slavery in the UK surveys have found.

Typically they end up in nail bars or the drug trade but also are vulnerable for sexual exploitation.

Last year Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland said more needed to be done to clamp down on businesses such as nail bars, which left young girls in particular at risk. Many are children.

The events of the last week were not the first time a Romanian national has been accused of trafficking Vietnamese children.

In July, a Romanian college student audaciously tried to hide a 16-year-old boy in a suitcase in the boot of his car. He agreed to smuggle the Vietnamese child for $233 (Dh856) after they met at a French bus station but was caught by authorities at the port of Dover.

The youngster was found in a critical condition and rushed to hospital. Police said he was extremely lucky to survive.

Andrei Iancu, 20, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for attempting to smuggle the Vietnamese teenager into the UK.