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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Port security in the spotlight
Police cordon
Police have begun an investigation in Dover
The discovery of 58 bodies on a lorry at Dover has sparked renewed calls for greater security controls at European ports.

As the lucrative illegal trade in people trafficking continues to tax port authorities, it is feared not enough is being done on mainland Europe to intercept cargoes heading for the UK.

If these people had been found in Zeebrugge some of them may have survived an horrendous death

Freight Transport Association
The chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, Roger King, said the government must press for better security in ports of embarkation.

"The UK Government has to work with the French and Belgium authorities to stop this particular problem and that means treating the right sort of defences in those ports before the trucks get on the ferries."

He accused the government of abdicating its responsibilities with its policy - introduced in April - of fining lorry drivers up to 2,000 for each stowaway found in their vehicles.

The need for greater port control in Europe was echoed by Geoff Dossetter, from the Freight Tranpsort Association.

"If these people had been found in Zeebrugge perhaps some of them may have survived what was obviously an horrendous death, " he told the BBC.

Police at the docks in Dover
A criminal investigation has been launched
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes called for more checks to stop future tragedies.

He said: "The home secretary himself admits that there is no legal way for people seeking asylum to enter Britain. It is no wonder that so many people are driven to get here illegally.

"We urgently need to agree an EU-wide method for people to seek asylum at the nearest place to where they came from."

Home Secretary Jack Straw admitted security arrangements elsewhere vary considerably and said he was addressing the situation.

"We've been encouraging the Calais authorities to improve their perimeter security, because the best way of preventing this traffic is to detect it before it takes place."

UK procedures

Nigel Knott, from Customs and Excise in the south east of England, said officers used a profiling system to select suspect vehicles for inspection once they reached the UK.

He told BBC News Online: "We have identified certain factors that are present in any smuggling attempt, no matter what the commodity - drugs, alcohol, people.

A scanned lorry reveals people inside
The new scanners can detect human beings
"We expect the profiles, by and large, to give us the vehicles which have irregularities."

In April plans were announced to install new scanning technology at ports.

In an official statement, Customs and Excise said their only interest was in finding smuggled alcohol and tobacco, but acknowledged the equipment would also be able to detect stowaways.

It is hoped the scanners will be in use in the next few months.

Lorry aroused suspicion

It has emerged that the lorry in which the 58 bodies were found was searched at Dover because the company to which it was registered was not known to officials.

A spokeswoman for ferry operator P&O Stena Line said the vehicle was registered to a company called Van Der Spek.

She said: "They paid cash at the port of Zeebrugge to get on to the ferry. As they are a company we have never heard of before, they were searched by customs on arrival at Dover."

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19 Jun 00 | UK
58 dead in port lorry
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