Twelve stowaways bound for Ireland were discovered hiding in the back of a truck by British immigration officers last weekend.

Ten Iraqi and two Afghan men were found hiding among freight in an Irish registered container at Calais, northern France by detection dogs used by the UK Border Agency.

The truck was about to board a ferry for Dover and then travel to Tallaght in Dublin.

The driver was permitted to continue once the men had been apprehended. But immigration officials warned that the haulage company could face a fine of $3,100 (€2,300) if it was found that the driver didn't take adequate steps to secure the vehicle.

The men were handed over to the French authorities.

Carole Upshall, UK Border Agency’s Director for European Operations, said that officers need to stay one step ahead of illegal immigration.

“In 2009 we stopped over 29,000 individual attempts to cross the channel illegally and searched over 1,000,000 freight vehicles,” she said.

“The UK Border Agency’s strong presence at the border, not only in the UK but also in northern France, helps protect the whole country from attempts to illegally enter the UK where they then head for destinations beyond — in this case to Dublin.”

The agency uses hi-tech search equipment including detection dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors, and scanners to detect stowaways and other contraband.