A dozen illegal immigrants have been arrested after bundling out of a van in the West Country, and calling into a local pub to ask for directions to Brighton. The men were initially mistaken for hunt saboteurs by locals who described them as “dazed and confused”. Another six or seven men are still at large.
Around 18 or 19 men were seen jumping from a white lorry near the Red Lion pub in Arlingham, Gloucestershire, near the Welsh border last week. After enquiring for directions to the south coast city, some 150 miles away, they appear to have set off across fields where they stumbled across members of the local hunt.
Claire Smith from Berkeley Hunt told StroudLife: “I was quite shocked – initially I saw three people in a hedge and I thought they were hunt saboteurs’.
“But then we realised that they were dressed in trainers and thin hoodies without coats and realised they weren’t – and when we told them to get off our land, they ended up wading through knee high mud as they ran off.”
She added: “I felt quite sorry for them – had I known what they were I would have let them stay the night in my shed all cosy.”
Gloucester Constabulary have confirmed that twelve of the men, all Iraqis and Iranians, were arrested in Arlington, but that a further half dozen or so were unaccounted for. The last arrest was made at 4pm last night, although the search, using police helicopters and dogs as well as officers on the ground, lasted until after 5pm.
Reports that men were in the River Severn appear to have come to nothing, as the Severn Area Rescue Association’s lifeboat at Sharpness was stood down without being mobilised.
“There seemed to be absolutely hundreds of police down there,” a local who witnessed the operation said.
“There were four police vans, two police dog cars, three unmarked cars, six or seven marked cars and the helicopter.
“They were checking cars going in and out of the village and asking you if you had seen anyone or picked anyone up.
“I saw two people being arrested.”
The white articulated lorry and driver were not traced. The driver was described as white, aged 35 to 40, and was wearing dark trousers and a checked shirt. The lorry may have had Irish registration plates.
A local who was collecting her child from school nearby said she saw six people escorted out of the pub by police.
“Apparently they had gone in to the pub and talked to someone, who said they thought they were in Brighton,” she said.
“A lot of the mothers converged on the area around the pub, picking their children up from school but didn’t know what was going on – there were two police cars and vans outside.
“The ones which came out looked confused and dazed and a pitiful sight.
“When you looked at them you thought ‘poor individuals’ and ‘why has it come to this?'”