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Police arrest 18 people after lorry load of suspected illegal immigrants is stopped on M11

Eighteen people remain in police custody on Thursday morning (June 18) after a lorry carrying suspected illegal immigrants was stopped on the M11 near Harlow.

Those arrested include the driver, a front-seat passenger and 14 men and women in the back.

The motorway was closed in both directions between Bishop's Stortford / Stansted Airport at junction 8 and the A11 at junction 9 as a result to ensure "a safe exit for those inside the container".

Police and paramedics at the scene on the M11 (36851955)
Police and paramedics at the scene on the M11 (36851955)

The lorry was stopped on the northbound M11 near Harlow shortly before 5.55pm on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old driver and 28-year-old passenger, both men, were arrested at the scene on suspicion of facilitating illegal entry into the UK.

Seven women and seven men, aged 19 to 33, in the back of the lorry were checked over by the East of England Ambulance Service before being taken into Essex Police custody on suspicion of committing immigration offences.

In the early hours of Thursday, two men, aged 23 and 58, were arrested in connection with the ongoing enquiry. They remain in custody on suspicion "of being found on enclosed premises".

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: "Our officers acted quickly to shut both carriageways for the safety of those involved and to ensure that they could receive medical attention. We’d like to thank any drivers in the area last night for their patience."

Witness Andy Brookes told the PA news agency: "The police closed the road just before my vehicle, then loads more turned up."

The 44-year-old, from Earls Barton in Northamptonshire, said: "I saw at least four people in the back of the trailer that were wearing Covid face masks, and I saw about six or seven people on the grass at the side of the motorway."

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