CHILDREN as young as 12 made a perilous journey inside a refrigerated lorry on board a ferry in a bid to enter the UK.

The children were on board a ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven that was stopped by the UK Border Force on Thursday last week.

A Romanian lorry driver has since been arrested on suspicion of assisting unlawful entry into the country via the Sussex port.

Details of the incident have emerged from the Home Office, which said the group of 21 were inside a refrigerated lorry laden with sparkling water bottles.

They said they were Vietnamese and many said they were under 18.

After an inspection, authorities found 11 were children and ten were adults.

Two of the adults, an 18-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were deported.

The other eight, aged between 21 and 28, have been told they must regularly report to the Home Office while their immigration cases are assessed.

The children have been placed in the care of social services, organised by East Sussex County Council.

In a statement the authority said: “We can confirm that 15 young people were transferred to our care by colleagues from Border Force and the police on Thursday last week, having been found in a lorry in Newhaven.

“Age assessments were carried out in respect of all of them and concluded that five were in fact adults aged over 18.

“The remaining ten were then placed either with foster carers or in supported housing options, dependent on their age.

“One young person subsequently absconded from our care, meaning that as of today we continue to care for nine young people.”

Following the inspection, the Home Office said 29-year-old Andrut Duma, a Romanian national of no fixed UK address was arrested and charged.

He was remanded in custody, and will appear before Lewes Crown Court on November 26.

Newhaven Port Authority declined to comment.