Sixteen people found in sealed container on ferry bound for the Republic of Ireland

Verity Bowman
Sixteen people have been discovered in a sealed trailer on a ferry sailing from Cherbourg in France to Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland - PA

A lorry has been detained by police after sixteen people were found on a ferry sailing from France to the Republic of Ireland. 

Employees made the discovery during a routine inspection on the Stena Line ferry after it departed from Cherbourg, reportedly after banging was heard on the side of a sealed trailer shortly before 10am on Thursday.

Stena Line alerted security and immigration officials in Rosslare, where the ferry arrived on Thursday afternoon.

The 16 people are reportedly in good health and were moved from the container to a passenger lounge on the ship.

Two ambulances and several doctors' cars and police cars drove onto the ship's vehicle deck shortly after it docked in south-east Ireland. A large police and Immigration Bureau presence was visible around the port. 

As of yet, the nationality of those involved is unknown. 

According to police, the driver and owners of an articulated lorry were helping them with their inquiries.

A Garda statement said: "An Garda Siochana are now investigating all the circumstances of this incident.

"The articulated truck involved in this incident has been detained. The driver and the owners of the articulated vehicle are assisting An Garda Siochana with our inquiries."

Ian Hampton, Stena Line's chief people and communications officer, confirmed an employee discovered the people during a routine inspection.

He said: "During the Stena Horizon's 9pm sailing from Cherbourg, France, to Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday November 20, one of our employees during a routine inspection discovered 16 people in a sealed trailer on the vehicle deck.

"All the individuals are reported to be in good health and have been moved to a private passenger lounge on the ship where their wellbeing is the focus of our employees.

"Stena Line has alerted security and immigration officials in Rosslare so as the necessary arrangements can be made for the group on the vessel's arrival in Rosslare."

Opposition party Fianna Fail's spokesman on justice Jim O'Callaghan expressed his shock and demanded a full investigation into the incident.

"A full investigation must be launched into the discovery of up to 16 people being transported in the back of a lorry to Ireland," he said. "Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and needs to be tackled with fully resourced policing.

"Recent events show unfortunately Ireland is playing a significant part in this crime. These traffickers have to be thoroughly policed so vulnerable people are protected."

The incident comes just days after a group of 25 people were found inside a refrigerated container on board a UK-bound ship just off the coast of the Netherlands.

Last month, 39 people were found dead inside a container in Essex which had arrived in the UK via a ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium.