A GROUP of stowaway migrants handed themselves in to police after they emerged from the back of a lorry and were disappointed to find they had accidentally arrived in Wellington.

Three illegal migrants, who were described as appearing to be Eastern European, asked officers to deport them after they realised they had overshot their intended destination of France.

The incident took place at the Pritex foam and insulation factory in the town, on Thursday, May 16, when workers unloading a lorry transporting materials were surprised by three men who jumped out of the vehicle and fled the scene.

Police were called at around 2 pm and around half a dozen officers attended the scene in as many cars, but not before the migrants escaped on foot through the neighbouring Longforth Farm residential estate.

A witness said that the trio had made themselves “cozy” among the contents of the lorry, which is believed to have departed from Ashford in Kent.

However, the group did not force the authorities to give chase for long, because after they realised they were in England, they quickly returned to the site where they handed themselves in to police and requested to be deported back to the continent.

A spokesperson for the Home Office confirmed a 41-year-old male was arrested for suspected illegal entry into the UK, and was interviewed by Immigration Enforcement in a local police station.

They confirmed he had asked to be deported, and was signposted to the ‘Voluntary Returns Service.’ The scheme offers up to £3,000 in financial support to those without leave to remain in the UK who wish to leave the country.

In a statement they said: “We are relentless in our pursuit of people-smuggling gangs and stand ready to respond to all methods, including lorries and other clandestine routes.   “Those who enter the country illegally via vehicles are subject to the same measures as those who arrive via small boats and will not be allowed to start a new life here.”

In a statement a spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said: "Officers were called at around 2.10pm on Thursday, May 16, after receiving reports of three men getting out of a lorry in Lillebonne Way, in Wellington.

"Three people were arrested on suspicion of knowingly entering the UK without leave. They were taken to custody and were dealt with by the Immigration Service."

It comes after police attended a Wellington construction site last year, at the request of the UK Border Force, over suspected immigration offences.

The number of illegal migrants entering the UK has been growing in recent years. In the year ending June 2023, the government detected 52,530 “irregular arrivals”, up 17 per cent on the previous year. Of those 85 per cent arrived in small boats across the English Channel.

Wellington’s MP, Rebecca Pow, has called for those seeking asylum to remain in the first safe country in which they arrive and more recently backed government commitments to “smash criminal gangs.”

Pritex was approached for comment but did not respond before publication.