A DRIVER has been arrested after 17 suspected illegal immigrants were found in the back of his lorry this morning.

The 63-year-old man is in custody after being arrested on arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration after police received reports of a number of people in the back of a lorry at 9.20am on the A22 in East Grinstead.

Two of the men found were rushed to hospital with dehydration in the incident which police called “potentially life threatening” because of the heat.

The suspected stowaways waved to catch the attention of passing motorists, who flagged down the driver, who pulled into the bus stop near the Dorset Avenue junction.

Police and ambulance crews helped release 13 men, two women and a child – all believed to be from Iraq.

Two of the men were treated at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford while the rest were given water and medical attention at the scene.

The nearby Trinity Methodist Church in Lingfield Road was used as a refuge centre while immigration officers arrived.

The A22 London Road was temporarily closed between the junctions of Windmill Lane and Halsford Park Road.

Sergeant William Keating-Jones, of the Crawley Neighbourhood Response Team, said: “Our priority was for the welfare of the occupants who were in the back of the lorry. The vehicle was exceptionally hot and it was important we reacted quickly.”

He said emergency services, immigration officials, volunteers and residents all “pulled together” to tackle the “potentially life-threatening situation”.

“We were also mindful of causing minimal disruption to motorists, and the road was closed for about 20 minutes while we were at the scene.”

A South East Coast Ambulance Service spokesman said everyone was checked over and no-one was thought to be in a serious condition.

Witnesses or anyone with information should call police on 101 quoting 450 of 17/06.