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Asylum seekers found in lorry

FOUR suspected asylum seekers have been arrested after they were found hiding in the back of an articulated lorry on the Altham Business Park.

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FOUR suspected asylum seekers have been arrested after they were found hiding in the back of an articulated lorry on the Altham Business Park.

Police mounted a major search of the area after the men jumped out of the vehicle soon after it arrived at the premises of Micro Peripherals in Shorten Brook Way at around 7am on Thursday.

The startled driver alerted the firm's security who contacted police. The force helicopter was put on standby and motorway police joined the search for the men.

But they were quickly found walking along Altham Lane looking dishevelled and in a disorientated state. They were arrested and taken to Greenbank Police Station in Blackburn where it was discovered they spoke no English.

As the Observer went to press, officers were watching the vehicle being unloaded in case further illegal immigrants were hiding inside.

Inspector Mike Laraway of Blackburn Police said: "Our main concern at the moment is whether there is anyone else in the vehicle. It is a large lorry full of boxes."

Checks made with Customs and Excise officials and port authorities revealed the lorry had been loaded in Munich, Germany, and travelled via Calais and Dover.

Inspector Laraway said the men appeared to be from the Middle East.

He said: "We have four men in custody and they are claiming to be from Iran but we are not sure about that. We have called in a Kurdish-speaking interpreter to help question them."

"They have not claimed asylum at this stage. We are taking statements to see who loaded the vehicle, who secured it, what is on board and whether it correlates with what the firm expected."

"We want to find out if this was organised or whether they just sneaked on board. There were some indications that something was on board at Dover, but it was allowed to travel through."

"The driver appears to be completely innocent. He was startled by what happened. He just opened the lorry and the men jumped out and ran off over a fence."

Two immigration officers were also said to be helping the police inquiry.

Company bosses at computer distributors Micro Peripherals refused to comment on the incident.