Sixty-eight suspected illegal immigrants, including two pregnant women and 15 children, have been found locked inside four lorries after a routine port search.
Four Polish lorry drivers were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration after the discovery at Harwich International Port in Essex. On board the lorries were 35 Afghan nationals, 22 Chinese nationals, 10 people from Vietnam and one Russian.
Seven of them, including the two pregnant women, were taken to Colchester General Hospital to be checked, before being released into the care of Border Force officials.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We can confirm Border Force officers discovered 53 adults and 15 children during a proactive search of four lorries which had arrived at Harwich port from Holland on Thursday evening.
“Four Polish nationals, who were driving the vehicles, have been arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.
“They have been taken to separate police stations and will now be questioned by the Home Office’s criminal investigations team while inquiries continue.”
All 68 individuals are now in the custody of the Border Force.
A spokesman for the Essex port said the people were discovered on vehicles that had arrived on a ferry from Holland.
“We can confirm that four different lorries carrying 68 clandestines were stopped by Border Force at Harwich International Port last night as they disembarked from the Stena Hollandica,” a spokeswoman for Stena Line said
She added that the ship left the Hook of Holland at 2.15pm and arrived in Harwich at 7.45pm on Thursday.
The British Red Cross said staff and volunteers were responding to the immediate needs of the 68 immigrants found on the lorries.
It confirmed that all of the non-European migrants were found locked in four separate vehicles, and that the charity was providing practical and emotional support, including blankets, food and hygiene packs to those affected.
A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the priority was to find out who the people are, their needs, and whether they are entitled to any protection.
He continued: “The situation we have here is consistent to what we have seen elsewhere. It shows the desperation and vulnerability of those who might have been seeking protection across the UK.
“It also shows the dangerous and unscrupulous methods used by traffickers and smugglers.”
Following a search at Harwich last February, two illegal immigrants plunged to their deaths after jumping from a ship in an attempt to swim to shore.
Artur Doda, 24, and Leonard Isufaj, 27, both from Tirana, Albania, were seen leaping from the Stena Britannica ferry, about 1,600ft off Harwich.
They had been found in the back of a lorry along with 13 others after it was randomly selected for X-ray as it entered the port six hours earlier. An inquest heard Mr Doda was killed after coming into contact with the ship’s propeller and Mr Isufaj drowned.