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"Dutch police have arrested the company director"
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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
Lorry survivors describe horror
Police cordon at the docks in Dover
A major police investigation is under way at Dover
The two survivors of the Dutch lorry that arrived in Dover with the bodies of 58 suspected illegal immigrants have started telling police of their tragic journey.

Speaking through a translator, the two have been recalling the physical and mental trauma of their journey.

They are said to have described the screams of the trapped passengers, and told how they banged on the door to try to escape. It is unclear if they have yet been told the extent of the death toll.

The two men are being treated at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, and a Kent Police spokeswoman described their condition as "comfortable".

It is expected that the men will be moved to an unnamed police facility and they are being guarded amid fears that criminal gangs may wish to silence them.

Questioning imminent

Police say they expect to question the men "probably today" after getting the all-clear from doctors to talk to them.

A spokeswoman said: "We have had conversations with them already but nothing formal."

Officers have pledged to take whatever time is necessary to help the men recall the full circumstances of how they came to be in Dover.

They are also to resume questioning the Dutch lorry driver.

A further man wanted for questioning, a Dutch man named as Arjan Van der Spek, 24, who registered the lorry last Thursday, is being hunted by Dutch police after disappearing from his home.

The 58 bodies were found in the early hours of Monday in the back of a sealed Dutch-registered lorry, which arrived from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Words fail to describe how serious the situation is

Wim Kok
Dutch PM
Three Dutch police officers are in Dover to help the UK police with their investigations.

The inquiry is being headed by Superintendent Dennis McGookin, the detective who led the hunt for M25 killer Kenneth Noye.

The National Crime Squad, which is spearheading a new drive against traffickers, has also offered to assist.

The deaths have prompted the EU to speed up measures to curb human trafficking.

EU leaders promised in a joint statement to work with Europol, the law enforcement agency, to track down the traffickers and impose severe penalties.

Speaking at a two-day summit in Portugal, Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok said the discovery of the bodies in a refrigerated lorry showed the "intense necessity" for more effective measures.

He said: "Words fail to describe how serious the situation is. The trade in human beings is increasing by leaps and bounds."

International co-operation

Dutch authorities have not yet been able to establish the full route of the lorry which carried the suspected illegal immigrants.

Policeman stands by some tomatoes from the lorry
The lorry carrying the 60 immigrants was carrying tomatoes
The 54 men and four women discovered in the lorry at Dover were of Chinese origin and are thought to have paid to make the secret crossing.

Solicitor Wahplow Tan told the BBC he had been contacted by three British-based families who suspected that they might have relatives among the dead.

He called for relatives of the victims to be given immunity from prosecution if they helped police.

Home Secretary Jack Straw has blamed traffickers with "no regard for human safety" for the deaths.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Monday he said those who died were the victims of a "profoundly evil trade" and he said their fate would serve as "a stark warning to others who might be tempted to place their fate in the hands of organised traffickers".

Police at the docks in Dover
The scene has been cordoned off
Mark Pugash, of Kent Police, said it was still too early to say how the people died.

Post mortem examinations are continuing, but officers have not ruled out the possibility that the victims suffered carbon monoxide poisoning or suffocation.

Mr Pugash confirmed that the lorry's refrigerating unit was not switched on and it remains unclear what the interior temperature would have been.

Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, described those responsible for trafficking as "reckless, callous international criminals".

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See also:

20 Jun 00 | Background
58 dead in port lorry
19 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Lorry deaths 'warning to others'
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese gangs' cruel trade
19 Jun 00 | Europe
Illegal immigrants: UK overview
19 Jun 00 | Europe
Trafficking: A human tragedy
19 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Panorama exposes immigrant racket
25 Jan 00 | UK
Any port in a storm
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