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JoJo's restaurant owner Nikki Billington arrested after migrant discovered in the boot of her car

A Whitstable restaurant owner has been arrested on suspicion of people smuggling after a migrant was found in the boot of her car.

Nikki Billington – who runs JoJo’s Meze in Tankerton – was detained by police in Calais after the Eritrean woman was discovered by Border Force officers.

The restaurateur was one of three people to be arrested and the migrant was handed to the French Police Aux Frontieres (PAF).

JoJo's owner Nikki Billington
JoJo's owner Nikki Billington

Ms Billington, 48, has since said she travelled to France with two friends to take food and supplies to a hospital near the Calais Jungle.

She said: “We spent most of the day visiting starved people in hospital, I got complacent and when I came back to the car I didn’t check to see if someone had got in.

“We went there on a humanitarian basis to deliver aid – to do something as a favour.

“There was a massive fight that broke out in a queue at the camp where people were stabbed and we went to take supplies to people at the hospital, to cater for people with different dietary requirements.”

JoJo's restaurant in Herne Bay Road, Tankerton
JoJo's restaurant in Herne Bay Road, Tankerton

Ms Billington is a staunch campaigner for refugees in Calais and held a fundraising auction at her award-winning restaurant in February – it was hosted by Madness frontman Suggs.

She says she has been volunteering in Calais - helping those seeking asylum - for about a year, but will take a break following her arrest.

"We went there on a humanitarian basis to deliver aid – to do something as a favour" - Nikki Billington, JoJo's Meze restaurant owner

She said: “I have been working out there for a year and there are people who are desperately seeking asylum.

“I’m thinking of stepping away from visiting for a little while because it was a horrendous experience.

“I have a friend from border control who has said this happens a lot and only happened to a couple of people the other day.

“I just want to put this behind me and run my business.”

A Border Force spokesman said: “Border Force officers stopped a British-registered car at the Channel Tunnel tourist controls in Coquelles, France.

“Three British nationals were arrested on suspicion of attempted facilitation of illegal entry to the UK.

“After being interviewed by officers from immigration enforcement the three have been bailed while inquiries continue.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We have provided assistance following the detention of a British national in France on June 1.”

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