Author: JAMES TOZER
A school coach trip to France returned with two unexpected passengers – illegal immigrants who had stowed themselves underneath the vehicle.
After a five-hour journey from Calais to Manchester, the coach had stopped at a shopping centre for pupils from Prestwich Arts College to get off when the duo sprang from their hiding places.
The pair are thought to have clung on for dear life beneath the chassis as the coach thundered up the motorway before seizing their opportunity to flee. The driver gave chase but the men ran off down a side road.
They were being hunted by police last night.
The incident is the latest in a series where would-be immigrants have targeted Britain’s porous borders by hitching a lift on UK-bound vehicles.
A total of 36 pupils aged 11-14 and four members of staff had set off on the trip to France last Thursday aiming to increase their awareness and understanding of the French language and culture.
They stayed in Calais, making day trips along the coast, before returning to Greater Manchester on Sunday where they were dropped off at the car park at Longfield shopping centre. Staff were said to have been busy helping the pupils and unloading luggage when one of the waiting parents spotted two men drop down from the underside of the coach and run away.
They raised the alert and the men were chased by the coach driver but got away.
Headmistress Rachel Evans said: ‘The trip had gone extremely well and was enjoyed by the pupils, and until then everything had gone to plan.
‘We have no idea when or where these men stowed away underneath the coach; when we left France the coach was thoroughly checked by security, including sniffer dogs, and the pupils’ passports checked.
‘Thankfully at no point did the students come into contact with the stowaways or [be] placed at any risk.’
In December, pupils at a Cheshire private school arrived back from a French trip to find an illegal immigrant wedged in their coach’s engine.
The Chapel Choir, from the 500-year-old independent The King’s School in Chester, had enjoyed a choral trip to Paris the week before Christmas.
They travelled back on a Calais ferry but as parents met them in the school car park at they heard a ‘moaning noise’ coming from the coach.
Staff opened the bonnet and were amazed to find an exhausted 17-year-old wedged inside. Police took him to hospital to be checked over before arresting him.
Last week a stowaway made his way to Suffolk by hiding in the wheel arch of a coach carrying Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club’s under-15s side.
Drivers can be fined up to £2,000 for each migrant found to have stowed away on their vehicle. They can appeal by proving that all reasonable care was taken to secure it.