Sixty-eight migrants, including two pregnant women and 15 children, have been found locked inside four trucks at a port in southeast England, the authorities said Friday.
The Home Office said four Polish truck drivers had been arrested after the discovery, a reminder of the extreme measures migrants will take to find refuge in Europe.
The East of England Ambulance Service said several of the migrants, who had been crammed into and locked inside trucks discovered Thursday night at Harwich International Port in Essex, were suffering from chest and abdominal pain and were feeling faint.
Seven people, including two women, were taken to the hospital, while the remainder were turned over to the border authorities. The Home Office said the migrants – 35 Afghans, 22 Chinese, 10 Vietnamese and one Russian – were discovered by Border Force officers after they searched several vehicles.
Europe is grappling with spiraling numbers of migrants, who often reach European shores by crossing the Mediterranean in overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels. The issue was called into sharp relief in April when a ship carrying mostly African migrants capsized off the coast of Libya, killing as many as 900 people.
The crisis has polarized Europe, with some countries, including Britain, calling for more aggressive action to root out smugglers.
Other countries, led by Italy, which bear the brunt of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, want member states across the European Union to share the burden of dealing with the wave of migrants.
They are backing a quota system proposed by the European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, that calls for countries to host migrants according to their population and employment levels.
Britain, France and others vehemently oppose the quota proposal, which comes at a time when national budgets are stretched and support has grown for far-right parties that have made the fight against illegal immigration one of their top priorities.
Last year, 35 immigrants were found in a container in Essex at the Tilbury docks, including a 40-year-old man from Afghanistan who had died.