Police find stowaways in back of truck; driver charged

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The Independent Online

A truck driver who led police officers on a 60-mile chase across southern England with at least 28 men hidden in the back of the vehicle has been charged with bringing people into the country illegally, police said.

A truck driver who led police officers on a 60-mile chase across southern England with at least 28 men hidden in the back of the vehicle has been charged with bringing people into the country illegally, police said.

Eight police cars were involved in the pursuit, which began early Saturday after the truck driver failed to stop for immigration inspectors after leaving a ferry at the English Channel port of Dover.

"The chase lasted for an hour and the lorry reached speeds of up to 50 mph (80 kph)," said a police spokesman. One officer had been taken to hospital with back injuries, he said.

Police at first said 30 men in the back, described as Asian in appearance, had been handed over to immigration officials. But on Sunday they said the driver, 26-year-old Julian Lee of Romford in southern England, was charged with 28 counts of facilitation - illegally bringing a person into the country.

Police did not explain the disparity in the numbers or say from which ferry port the truck crossed the English Channel. No information was available on the nationalities of the men inside the truck.

Lee, described as a supermarket stock controller, was bailed to appear before Folkestone Magistrates' Court on Aug. 4.

In June, 58 Chinese illegal immigrants were discovered dead in the back of a truck at Dover. They had asphyxiated during a journey from Belgium.

Earlier this year Britain announced new penalties in an attempt to crack down on illegal immigration. Truck drivers caught carrying stowaways can be fined £2,000 per person.

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