A lorry driver who was stopped on the M6 after 27 suspected migrants were found in the back og his vehicle has been arrested.
Drivers were stuck for hours in traffic after a part of the motorway near Stoke-on-Trent was closed in both directions when police stopped and searched the lorry on the northbound carriageway at around 5.45pm on Wednesday.
Some of the group fled from the vehicle but were detained by officers before being given a medical assessment and transferred to immigration officials for interview.
The 42-year-old driver, who was arrested at the scene, was arrested on suspicion of facilitating the illegal entry of persons unknown to the UK, Staffordshire Police said.
Burton fans travelling to their Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City were among those stuck in the traffic.
Stuck on M6 northbound junction 15 completely closed. Lorry’s have been pulled over due to having 27 illegals in the back. Only caught 4!!! The rest have ran off across the fields, big police operation currently underway. Please helicopter is also above #M6northbound pic.twitter.com/7uTZm0FaVS
— Greg (@gregpmanchester) January 9, 2019
No idea what’s going on on the #M6 I was queuing 3 miles south of J15. Traffic started flowing normally for a bit. Figured it had reopened. Got past 15. Came to a halt again. Now been stationary for 40 minutes. Like they reopened it and closed it again.
— Andrew Musgrave (@andrewpmusgrave) January 9, 2019
Can anyone give me a clue why the police had to close the m6 after finding people in the back of a truck. Why not take the truck off at the next junction or services instead of affecting hundreds of motorists. Talk about over reacting. God almighty let’s have some common sense
— Roger Lacey (@rtl1947) January 9, 2019
Hundreds were yet to arrive at the Etihad as the game kicked off as planned at 7.45pm.
Danny Ellis, who was a few hundred yards from the incident, said he saw 30 to 40 police cars pass him on the northbound side of the motorway and said three or four lorries were stopped and searched.
He said: ‘We could only see the lorries being chased down and stopped but we couldn’t see people running away.
‘We were told for safety to get back in our cars and lock them. We were told a lot of people escaped and ran from the back of these lorries.’
The 30-year-old, who works in the telecoms industry, said he could see men being treated by ambulance medics on the floor.
He was driving to the football with a friend when both carriageways of the motorway were closed between junctions 15 and 16 and was stuck in traffic for more than three hours as of 8pm.
— Jenny Liggett (@JennyLiggett1) January 9, 2019
Been stuck on #M6 northbound for two hours. This is ridiculous. Helipcopters, Police all for an ‘incident’. Gonna be the longest journey to Wigan ever. 6 hours and counting so far. WTF is going on?
— Paul Haines (@Hainesyboy) January 9, 2019
The northbound carriageway reopened shortly before 10pm, according to Highways England.
Staffordshire Police said: ‘Officers from Staffordshire Police stopped a lorry on the M6 northbound carriageway between Junctions 15 and 16 at around 5.45pm following concerns for people travelling in the back of a vehicle.
‘During the incident, a number of people fled from the lorry but all were detained. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries reported.’