Belgian police say they have found 12 people “safe and well” in a refrigerated lorry, one week after 39 people lost their lives in a similar vehicle that had travelled to Essex via continental Europe.
The migrants were discovered in the back of a fruit and vegetable lorry on the motorway, near the Flemish town of Oud-Turnhout, in the early hours of Wednesday. Police said they found 12 adult men: 11 Syrians and one Sudanese citizen.
“Yesterday evening we received a call from a lorry driver near Oud-Turnhout who suspected that there were people in his refrigerated lorry,” Sarah Frederickx, a federal police spokeswoman, told the Flemish national broadcaster VRT. “The 12 men were found safe and sound.”
The discovery comes one week after British police launched a murder investigation when 39 people were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Essex. The lorry had travelled to the UK via the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.
Lorry drivers are increasingly reluctant to drive to the UK, because they risk £2,000 fines per every person illicitly found onboard, one industry group said.
The head of the Belgian road freight association Febetra, Isabelle De Maegt, told the Francophone national broadcaster RTBF: “Drivers going to England are increasingly confronted with the dangers of having migrants on board the vehicle.”
She said people were choosing to travel in refrigerated vehicles because they thought it less likely they would be detected. Lorries needed “closed and sealed” parking areas with cameras and entry points along the route to the UK, she said.
Separately, Belgian police detained 28 people at Antwerp station on Monday night as part of an operation said to be targeting people smugglers and tracking migrant routes. Police detained 27 men and a woman from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, although 11 said they were under-18. The people had travelled from Brussels and were believed to be trying to reach the UK.