A British couple say they were detained in Calais for two days after a 16-year-old boy was found in the boot of their car as they were boarding the ferry to Dover.
Sam Hemingway, 23, said he was celebrating his engagement in France with fiance Jordan Valentine, 20, in June when immigration officers found a boy in the boot of their car during a routine search at the ferry terminal.
Mr Hemingway, a hotel chef from Wrexham, explained that they had no idea that the boy was inside their Lexus, claiming that the car had faulty locks, which is how the boy must have broken in.
“I was just as shocked as they (police) were to find him there,” Mr Hemingway told the PA news agency.
Police told him that the stowaway was a 16-year-old Iranian boy, and that he had been released on the same day he was found.
Mr Hemingway and Ms Valentine were taken to a police station in Calais, where they were held for two and a half days.
He explained that they were entitled to a phone call, legal advice and a doctor. They took all three, but police did not follow through with providing them.
Mr Hemingway told PA: “The whole two-and-a-half days we were in custody, they didn’t offer us anything to eat or drink, and they didn’t offer Jordan any feminine hygiene products.”
He explained that they also did not provide adequate medication for Ms Valentine, who lives with a mental health condition.
He said: “Her dose is two tablets every night, and they only gave her one, so she was panicking.”
After their first day in detainment, the couple were told they would be held for a further 24 hours.
Mr Hemingway said: “We spoke to the French consulate, and they explained that because they never read us our rights (after their detainment was extended) they held us illegally.”
Eventually police returned to the car at the ferry port and tested it, where it was found that the locking system was easily compromised. They were then released and the charges against them were dropped.
Mr Hemingway and Ms Valentine contacted the British Consulate in Paris, where they were referred to make an official complaint. However, they decided against fighting French police.
“We didn’t get any apology, the consulate didn’t help us at all … When we got back we sold the car. That was the thing that caused us so much trouble and we didn’t want it any more,” he said.
Mr Hemingway explained that their story should be seen as a warning for British tourists to check their cars before travelling.
He said: “We both decided that the more people who hear our story, the more people are going to be aware of silly mistakes. We didn’t check our car, you don’t think to check your car.”
A spokesperson for the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “Our consular staff offered advice to two British people arrested and subsequently released in France in June.”
- Press Association