The port of Newhaven in Sussex. Picture: Pixabay

London - Eleven children as young as 12 were among a group of 21 Vietnamese migrants found hiding in a refrigerated truck at a busy port.

The stowaways, concealed behind stacks of sparkling water, were discovered when the vehicle was checked by Border Force officers in Sussex.

A total of 17 people initially claimed to be aged 17 or under when the truck arrived at the Port of Newhaven after crossing from Dieppe in France – but only 11 of them were confirmed as minors. The case illustrates the problems border authorities have with migrants who claim to be children in the hope of getting sympathetic treatment.

It comes days after it emerged that an Iranian asylum seeker at a school in Ipswich was under Home Office investigation after allegedly telling other pupils he was not 15 but actually 25.

The children, who arrived in Newhaven by ferry last Thursday, were said to be cold but did not need medical treatment. They were taken into the care of social services. The adults – five men and five women – were interviewed by immigration officials and two of them – a 27-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man – were deported.

The remaining eight, who are aged between 21 and 28, have been told to report regularly to the Home Office while their cases are assessed.

A Romanian man, understood to be the truck driver, was arrested and charged with assisting unlawful entry into the UK. Andrut Duma, 29, appeared before magistrates on Saturday. He was remanded in custody to appear at Lewes Crown Court on November 26.

Official records show that 2,644 of the 13,600 unaccompanied child asylum seekers who arrived between 2010 and 2016 were actually adults, although only 580 were kicked out.

Thirteen young men were spotted being let out of a Bulgarian truck last Thursday in Mereworth, Kent. Seven – thought to be Eritrean nationals – were handed over to immigration officials in Dover.

Daily Mail