”German nationals” Sergej and Erick Isaak, 49 and 26, were caught after the rented vehicle went through an X-ray at the Essex port of Harwich. They were trying to get four men and three women into the country in the 4ft wide gap, hidden behind a cargo of insulation boards.
None of the migrants had identification documents when they arrived in the van on a Stena ferry from the Hook of Holland.
Sergej said he had been recruited by a man called Frank to deliver insulation boards and Erick was with him because he had never visited the UK before. Initially there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them and they skipped bail, returning to Germany.
However, the company they were delivering to had no knowledge of the order and police received a tip-off so they were extradited back to the UK.
Judge Rupert Overbury said: ‘Terrorists or foreign criminals could thus get into the UK under the radar of our security services and that’s exactly why the sentence for this offence has substantially increased from seven to 14 years.’