‘Fortunate’ there were no deaths after 14 people found in lorry, McEntee says

‘Fortunate’ There Were No Deaths After 14 People Found In Lorry, Mcentee Says
The nine men, three women and two girls were found to be in ‘good health’, the Minister for Justice said. Photo: PA Images
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Cillian Sherlock and Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Updated: 9.30am

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said it is “fortuitous” that there were no deaths after 14 people were found in a refrigerated lorry at Rosslare Europort.


Gardaí are investigating after nine men, three women and two girls were discovered in the vehicle at the port at around 3am on Monday.

They were assessed by medical personnel before being transferred for processing by the International Protection Service (IPS).

The seaport handles passengers and freight from the UK and Europe, including France and Spain.

Gardaí said investigations are ongoing, and the Minister said they are working with their international partners on the case.


Irish citizenship
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee (Niall Carson/PA)

“I was extremely concerned to learn of the discovery of 14 people, including two children, in a refrigerated lorry at Rosslare Port on Monday and I would like to thank the emergency services for their initial response,” Ms McEntee said.

“Thankfully, I understand that all the people are in good health.


“We know from past experience that similar situations have led to tragic fatalities. This was an extremely hazardous undertaking and it is only fortuitous that the same did not happen yesterday.

“An Garda Síochána are investigating the matter with assistance from international partners.

“I would appeal to anybody with any information that might assist with the ongoing investigation to contact An Garda Síochána.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the 14 people may choose to apply for asylum or leave voluntarily.


“Our first response is always a humanitarian one – to check that they are alive and in good health and my understanding is that they are,” he said.

“Our next step now is to facilitate voluntary return – their return home if they’re willing to go home.

“If they choose to apply for asylum, they are legally entitled to do that, and we’ll try and process the application as quickly as possible.”

Speaking seperately on Wednesday morning, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland that everything must be done to try and prevent refugees from being smuggled into countries because of the risk to life that such journeys pose.


Emergency call

Wexford Independent councillor and first responder Ger Carthy described how the 14 people rescued from container had to cut a hole in the side of the container as they were struggling to breathe

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Cllr Carthy said one of the people had raised the alarm by calling the UK’s 999 service, which diverted the call to Ireland and emergency services were in the port when the ship docked.

The people in the container were assessed and cared for at the scene and then transferred to a processing centre in Dublin where translation services were provided, he said.

Cllr Carthy said it had been "quite a challenging and very dangerous trip for anyone to make", adding it was very fortunate there had not been an outcome similar to a previous occasion when a number of people died in a container which arrived in Rosslare.

A disaster had been averted on Monday morning, he said, but the incident highlighted the desperation of people coming from "possibly war-torn countries, trying to get to a better way of life".

Cllr Carthy said the 14 people thought they were going to the UK, adding they had been in the container for 28 hours when the 999 call was made.

He explained the journey was 30 hours, giving emergency services time to prepare for their arrival.

He also warned that the increase in sailings to Rosslare following Brexit meant there could be more of such incidents.

'Stroke of luck'

Meanwhile, the president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Eugene Drennan, also speaking to Morning Ireland, said the container had been fully sealed, meaning the people involved would have required assistance to get into it by someone who knew how to manipulate the locks and seals.

Also speaking to Morning Ireland, Mr Drennan said it had been "a stroke of luck" that there were no fatalities.

He said the Irish company which owned the container in question is a long-established family firm, adding that the truck was loaded south of Paris.

He said the driver then took a mandatory break at a service area north of Paris, after which he conducted his checks.

"These people were put on board by a very professional gang that had to help, because the truck is fully sealed. It's a solid site, a trailer. It was a refrigerated trailer. So access is through the back doors or through the roof," Mr Drennan explained.

He added that the people may have thought the truck was going the shorter route from Calais to Dover in the UK. However, it was actually travelling from Zeebrugge to Rosslare.

Asked who had responsibility in this situation, Mr Drennan said such gangs were visible, claiming French authorities "could do more". However, he added it is difficult to point fingers.

On the idea of cameras being placed inside containers to allow drivers to monitor them, Mr Drennan said drivers were already trying to drive the vehicle and could not do so safely while monitoring cameras.

Drivers did make every effort to monitor their vehicle, he said, but claimed that on some occasions when drivers alert authorities about suspicions, "they don’t always come".

"You must remember a driver is very much on his own, in the dark of the night, along the coastline of northern France and Belgium.

"It's not an easy place to be solo and have a quite a number of very hungry people trying to get out," Mr Drennan said.

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