Eight stowaways were found hiding in a container at the Port of Cork’s Ringaskiddy ferry terminal moments after it arrived off a ship from Spain.
The eight, all Albanian nationals under the age of 24, including a 16-year-old , were found hiding between pallets in a container on the back of a truck which had disembarked the ferry from Santander in northern Spain around 5pm on Monday.
It is the second time in four weeks that stowaways have been found using the same service. Four were found in a container at Santander port earlier this month before the lorry boarded the vessel.
While the crossing takes more than 26 hours, it is understood the men could have been in the container for up to four days. There were signs that they had access to food and water during the crossing. The container was soiled by excrement.
Gardaí and paramedics were alerted and the men were medically assessed. All were in relatively good physical condition but one was treated for mild dehydration. The seven adults were taken into custody by garda immigration officers. Four have since been deported, three remain in custody pending deportation, and the youth is in care pending further enquiries.
A garda spokesman said there is an immigration presence at all arrivals into the State.
“All vehicles are met by Immigration Unit personnel,” he said. “All trailers are searched. We liaise with all the relevant stakeholders as well as the police services in Spain on a regular basis.”
It is understood that garda immigration officers have travelled to Santander in recent months to discuss with their Spanish counterparts a range of security issues linked to the new route.
The twice-weekly ferry service, Ireland’s first direct ferry route to northern Spain, was launched last May by Brittany Ferries. The service was quickly targeted by criminal gangs involved in human trafficking who viewed it as a potential back-door route into England, via the North.
Spain’s Guardia Civil say they have intercepted an average of 130 illegal boardings of lorries at Santander and found 20 stowaways hidden in cargo since May. In early February, they found four men, all understood to be Albanians, hiding between wooden pallets inside a container on the back of a lorry bound for Cork.