Two illegal migrants were found in the luggage hold of a school coach returning upon its return to Britain from a trip to France — but the U.K. Home Office is refusing to say whether or not the pair were detained by the authorities.
Parents of the pupils were left horrified after the stowaways were spotted hiding among the children’s urine-soaked luggage at Hounsdown School in Totton, near Southampton, on Saturday evening.
One of the French-speaking migrants, estimated to be in their 20s or 30s, attempted to run as pupils went to claim their belongings from the baggage compartment but was stopped by parents.
The school trip comprised 36 students, aged 13 to 15, who had traveled to a university in the French town of Boulogne. It had traveled via the Eurotunnel, passing through the notorious migrant hotspot of Calais upon its return to Britain.
“My son’s luggage was covered in urine and his belongings crumpled by one of the men being on top of it,” a mother of one of the pupils told local media.
“I asked them if they spoke English or French and they replied ‘French.’ I was about to ask them where they’d come from but got ushered away by the teachers,” she added.
Another mother told the BBC: “I saw one male with his hood up but I believe there were two males. They looked as if they were between 20 and 30. My daughter came running over and she said, ‘Oh my God, there’s people sat in where the suitcases are.'”
Hampshire Police confirmed they were called to the school just after 5 p.m. on Saturday and located two “possible illegal immigrants.”
“Officers have attended. No arrests have been made,” the force added.
The Home Office refused to confirm whether the two men had been detained, releasing a statement which read: “The government works closely with law enforcement agencies to tackle illegal migration in all its forms.
“Our Illegal Migration Act will mean that people arriving in the U.K. illegally are detained and promptly removed to their country of origin or a safe third country.”
Deportations currently, however, are rare and fraught with difficulty, often thwarted by legal challenges once migrants set foot on U.K. soil and claim asylum. The Home Office did not confirm the two men’s whereabouts.
Stowaways found on lorries and coaches arriving in Britain are less common now than a decade ago with large numbers of migrants opting for the sea route across the English Channel.
Another 124 migrants arrived in Britain illegally in three small boats on Saturday, with current arrivals via this method surpassing 1,500 so far this year.