FOUR Eritrean stowaways, hiding in a lorry headed for Redditch, have been prevented from entering the country after being caught at Calais.

At 5am on March 16, UK Border Agency officers at the French port examined an Italian registered freight vehicle with a Romanian driver.

A specialist sniffer dog Alfie, a labrador, alerted his handlers to the presence of some unexpected passengers in the back of the lorry.

Officers then boarded the trailer and found four people hiding among the load of car windscreens which was en route to Redditch.

All of the stowaways were identified as Eritrean nationals.

The stowaways were removed from the lorry before being handed over to the French Frontier Police.

The vehicle was allowed to continue its journey to the UK but both the driver and haulage company may each now be liable for a fine of up to £2,000 per stowaway if they are unable to prove they took steps to secure the vehicle.

Carole Upshall, UK Border Agency Director for South and Europe, said: "We have to stay one step ahead of illegal immigration. Having UK Border Agency officers based in France and Belgium means we can check vehicles before they cross the channel and stop would-be illegal immigrants setting foot in the UK.

“Increasingly sophisticated and dangerous attempts are being made to try to smuggle people into Britain so our officers use hi-tech equipment, such as heartbeat detectors and carbon dioxide probes, as well as sniffer dogs, to find people hiding in vehicles.

“Our strong presence at the border is preventing illegal immigrants from entering the UK and then heading for places like, in this case, Redditch.”