COUNTY NEWS: Driver arrested after suspected Iraqi nationals found on lorry

Police say a 63-year-old man was arrested. Picture: Eddie Mitchell
Police say a 63-year-old man was arrested. Picture: Eddie Mitchell
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A 63-year-old lorry driver has been arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration after 17 suspected Iraqi nationals were found in the back of a lorry in Sussex, according to Sussex Police.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “At 9.20am on Saturday (June 17), police received a report of a number of people in the back of a lorry on the A22 in East Grinstead.

“The occupants of the vehicle waved to catch the attention of passing motorists, who flagged down the driver.

“The driver pulled over in a bus stop close to the junction with Dorset Avenue and emergency services assisted in the release of 13 men, two women and a child – all believed to be Iraqi nationals – from the back of the vehicle.

“Two of the men were taken to hospital suffering from dehydration, and the remaining citizens were provided with water and medical assistance.

“The nearby Trinity Methodist Church was used as a refuge centre as immigration enforcement officers arrived to assist.

Seventeen suspected Iraqi nationals were spotted on the back of a lorry this morning (June 17). Picture: Eddie Mitchell

Seventeen suspected Iraqi nationals were spotted on the back of a lorry this morning (June 17). Picture: Eddie Mitchell

“The A22 London Road was temporarily closed between the junctions of Windmill Lane and Halsford Park Road while the incident was ongoing.”

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) confirmed on Twitter that Gatwick’s Hazardous Area Response Team was called to deal with the situation.

A spokesman for SECAmb said: “We received a call at 9.30am of people on a lorry.

“Ambulance crews attended and found 17 people.

Seventeen suspected Iraqi nationals were spotted on the back of a lorry this morning (June 17). Picture: Eddie Mitchell

Seventeen suspected Iraqi nationals were spotted on the back of a lorry this morning (June 17). Picture: Eddie Mitchell

“They were all checked over and 15 patients have been discharged.

“Two patients have been taken to Surrey Hospital for further treatment but no one is thought to be in a serious condition.”

Sergeant William Keating-Jones, of the Crawley Neighbourhood Response Team, said: “Our priority was for the welfare of the occupants who were in the back of the lorry. The vehicle was exceptionally hot and it was important we reacted quickly.

“This was a great multi-agency response to a potentially life-threatening situation, with emergency services, immigration officials, volunteers and even local residents all pulling together.

“We were also mindful of causing minimal disruption to motorists, and the road was closed for about 20 minutes while we were at the scene.”

The driver, a 63-year-old man of no fixed address, was arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration, and remains in police custody at this stage, police said.

Witnesses are asked to report it online or call 101, quoting serial 450 of 17/06.