9:02am Monday 18th May 2009
A GROUP dedicated to making international friendships suddenly found themselves with more foreign guests than they could handle.
The Kington-Marines Twinning Association was returning from a trip in France when two illegal immigrants crept into the rear engine compartment of their coach at Calais.
Its driver was with the vehicle constantly but had no idea they had stowed away at a nearby supermarket as passengers did their lastminute shopping.
It left the 19 members on board rather bemused when officials later led the pair away at passport control.
Chairman Joe James said: “It’s the first time it has happened, obviously, but it was a bit of a shock as you can imagine.”
The group was returning from its 29th annual meeting with twinning friends in the Val d’Oise near Paris but, after an hour of checks, members still managed to catch their 2.10pm ferry.
Association member and Hereford Times columnist John Wesley caught the arrests on camera and, when everyone dismounted with their passports, was told every coach was searched because of ongoing problems.
Port staff said the men would likely return to two well-known immigrant sites nearby, called Coquelles and Sangatte, after they were released.
Mr Wesley said there was most concern for the driver, from Hereford firm Buchanan’s Coaches, amid worries he could be fined up to £2,000 under UK law.
“He was such a conscientious bloke and had looked after us all weekend,” he said.
Buchanan’s part-owner, Geraldine Dance, said there had been no indication the driver would be penalised and confirmed he had completed all the necessary checks.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group