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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 20:57 GMT
Asylum seekers seized in tunnel
Train going into the Channel Tunnel
Tunnel trains have been a target for asylum seekers
Police have discovered a total of 74 asylum seekers in one day on freight trains travelling through the Channel Tunnel.

Officials said it was one of the highest numbers of asylum seekers they had detained in just over 18 hours at the crossing.

The immigrants, mainly Afghans and Iraqis, were found in three trains, with 58 discovered on one train alone.

Immigration officials warned that the number of asylum seekers trying to get in to Britain through the tunnel was on the increase.

Biggest number

The 74 were handed over to immigration officers on arriving at Dollands Moor freight marshalling yard near Folkestone.

A police spokesman said: "Between 6pm (0600 GMT)on Monday and 12.30am (0030 GMT) on Tuesday, 15 immigrants arrived on one train, one on a second and 58 on a third train."

The trains, owned by freight carriers English Welsh and Scottish Railway Ltd (EWS), all came from France, but could have originated anywhere in Europe.

"I believe this is the biggest number of immigrants we have ever caught in one day," the spokesman added.

A group of asylum seekers found in a lorry
A group of asylum seekers found in a lorry
"Fifty-eight in one train is a fair old number.

"The number of illegal immigrants coming through the tunnel on freight trains is definitely on the increase.

"From March 2000 to March 2001, 1,842 came through and in October 2001 alone we saw 226 asylum seekers arrive."

The immigrants are thought to have cut through the soft-sided wagons with knives and covered their tracks by re-sealing them.

French security

A spokeswoman for EWS said the security fault was not with their trains but with the freight yard in France.

"The asylum seekers get on our trains on the Frethun secure site owned by SNCF (French national railway).

"EWS operate trains through the tunnel from all over Europe but we are only responsible for checking trains in the UK."

She admitted many of their wagons are "curtain-sided" and easily slashed by knives, but had to be like that due to the nature of the product being carried.

The group of 74 are now being questioned by immigration officers.

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