Asylum-seeker arrives to find Home Secretary lying in wait at Dover

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The Independent Online

After hours of discomfort in the back of a Spanish lorry, a Kosovan refugee yesterday emerged from his tiny hideaway between two wooden pallets to be greeted by the sight of Home Secretary Jack Straw.

It can hardly have been the arrival in Britain he had anticipated but it provided a photo opportunity for Mr Straw who, having climbed into the back of the lorry, reached out and shook the Kosovan's hand.

The stowaway was one of 11 clandestine immigrants discovered on lorries during the Home Secretary's visit to Dover yesterday, providing some visual confirmation for Mr Straw that he had been right to impose fines on truck drivers found with such human cargo.

Under the new system, truckers can be fined up to £2,000 for each stowaway found in their vehicle after they have entered Britain. Mr Straw said that since the new civil penalties were introduced at the beginning of this month 312 illegal immigrants had been found in lorries and fines served on 53 drivers, 13 of them British.

The Home Secretary said some truckers were deliberately smuggling immigrants in exchange for "folding money".

He said: "We cannot go on turning a blind eye to this kind of criminal traffic any more... The vast majority of truckers are decent people but some are not and have been taking money to bring people over."

The Road Haulage Association yesterday described the Home Secretary's accusations of complicity in the human trafficking as "monstrous". A spokeswoman said: "Jack Straw's outrageous allegation, with no evidence to back it up, demonstrates the gap between reality and political rhetoric."

The Home Secretary said that most of the offenders were "foreign" drivers and said the new penalties were comparable to the fines imposed on airlines for carrying illegal immigrants.

Minutes after the Kosovan stowaway was found, eight people were uncovered on a lorry from the Czech Republic.