Stowaways found under coach after Cowplain pupils return from trip to Paris

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TWO STOWAWAYS emerged ‘dazed’ from under a school coach when it arrived back in Cowplain from a trip to Paris.

The boys, from Sudan, spent hours in the engine compartment of the vehicle, which was carrying 35 pupils and three teachers from The Cowplain School.

Because of their ‘bad state’ when reaching the school, the children are believed to have been under the coach for a considerable amount of time.

They climbed out as pupils were stepping off the coach, leaving them and their parents and teachers stunned.

Headteacher Ian Gates said: ‘First reaction was of disbelief, but that immediately turned into sadness, worry for the youngsters who were clearly under 18 and a want to care for them.

‘What had happened became clear straight away. The journey back was about 11 hours, so the two of them were very dazed and dehydrated having spent a long time next to the coach’s engine.

‘They were in a bad state – it’s a sad situation and everyone there felt sorry for them.’

The Year 9 and 10 pupils and teachers left for Paris before the last bank holiday weekend in May, and returned at 6pm on Sunday, May 28, when the stowaways were found.

The trip was arranged to give those learning French a chance to make use of the language.

Mr Gates added: ‘All the young men had were the clothes they were standing in plus one tiny bag between them. It was evident they were desperate.

‘Staff, students and parents were all absolutely fantastic in how they reacted and I couldn’t be prouder.

‘They really cared for the boys, giving them food, water and so on.

‘Everyone saw the human element of the situation.

‘I think our students understood what was happening because they are aware of some of the desperate situations people find themselves in across the world.

‘It was heartwarming to see everyone come together in support.’

Immigration Enforcement referred the minors to social services after being contacted by police.

A spokeswoman for Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘We received a report regarding two males from Sudan who were found on the underside of a coach travelling from France to the UK.

‘Both were under the age of 18 and were put under the care of local authorities.’

It is not known at what point during the journey back to the UK the pair climbed underneath the coach.

The UK operates border controls in France and in Calais, where the Channel Tunnel starts.

Last year both the UK and France reaffirmed commitments to strengthening the security of the shared border.

Ann Beattie had just collected her 13-year-old daughter Sophie when she became aware of what was happening.

She said: ‘We stood there watching the stowaways, not quite believing what we could see.

‘It’s not what you expect in Cowplain after a school trip. Sophie was a bit freaked out.

‘The young men stood there looking completely dazed. I was expecting them to run, but I don’t think they had the energy.’

When asked about the reaction of those waiting for their children, Ann added: ‘Parents offered water and any food the children had left.

‘They took the lads over to the side of the playground and sat them down under a tree – it was hot that weekend, temperatures were in the mid-20s.

‘I can’t help but think about what the poor lads must have been through.

‘What sort of lives are they escaping to risk theirs in the way they did?

‘One false move and they could have fallen.

‘It makes you appreciate the life you have.’