Published: 00:01, 20 October 2017
Border Force staff discovered three distressed children in a secret compartment underneath a lorry coming into the UK.
The "coffin" like hideaway, which was sealed from the outside, contained three youngsters, aged six, three and two.
Officers at Coquelles had to prise open the container.
Now Bulgarian lorry driver Rosen Nikolov has been jailed for four years after a judge heard how he had put their lives in peril for his own greed.
The 27-year-old had flown from Sofia to Luton days earlier and registered a flat-bed lorry in his name before driving it to France.
It was on the return journey in September that customs officers noticed the lorry had been altered, and discovered five illegal entrants crammed into the space.
Prosecutor Abigail Husbands told Canterbury Crown Court the secret compartment attached to the chassis had been sealed from the outside, but they managed to prise it open.
She added officers struggled to force an opening of 40cm by 100cm, and then saw two children before hearing the cries of a baby.
Ms Husbands said the plight of the children and mother was distressing to see for the Border Force officials.
She said the mother and children were from Iraq, and the man – not known to the mother – was from Afghanistan.
Dominic Webber defending said Nikolov, from Sofia, was £80,000 in debt and agreed to transport the five for £1,000 a person.
He added: “But he did not realise that there were children, and feels extremely sorry now
for what he did.”
The judge, Recorder Jonathan Higgs QC, told the lorry driver, who was appearing by prison video link: “This is an extremely serious crime.
"It is the commercial exploitation of extremely vulnerable people.”
He said people like Nikolov had “fed off the vulnerable for his own financial gain”, and that the lorry driver had endangered the lives of the five.
The mother and children, who were not named, are believed to still be in France.
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