SCOUTS were left stunned when they found an illegal immigrant in the back of their van after a journey from Portsmouth International Port.
The scout group was returning back from a trip to the D-Day battlefields in France. They were driven home from Portsmouth to Bentley in north Hampshire unaware that the stowaway was hiding in the vehicle.
According to Rotherfield Scout leader Stuart Withey, the young man, thought to be in his 20s and of Middle Eastern origin, was discovered sitting among the kitchen equipment in the back of a van and was pleading in English for someone to let him out.
Fellow Scout leader Greg Beardsall said that the group acted swiftly, locking the stowaway in the van and calling the police.
The shock find occurred at about 11pm on Monday after the group returned from a trip to visit the D-Day beaches and war graves of northern France.
The group had caught the 4.30pm ferry from Caen to Portsmouth.
The stowaway was discovered when the group – which included more than 70 young people ranging from eight to 16 from across East Hampshire and West Surrey – arrived back at Bentley Scout Hut.
According to Mr Withey, the support vehicles were opened up and checked by customs officers at both Portsmouth and Caen.
Mr Withey told the Farnham Herald: ‘We really cannot fathom how on earth anyone was able to gain access to the van.’
He said the man had a mobile phone.
And he added: ‘The parents were there collecting their children, we were unpacking the bikes and equipment, so there was a lot of noise, he must have been terrified.
‘We called the police and they arrived within 10 minutes to remove the stowaway and they have since handed him over to border control.’