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Six arrested after smuggled families nearly froze to death in lorries 

Police have smashed an international gang which smuggled illegal Iraqi Kurds into the UK inside refrigerated trucks so cold that those inside feared they would freeze to death.

On one of the journeys via Spain, eight people, including four children, were found inside one of the lorries. They were only freed after passers-by heard their desperate cries for help.

In another incident, a family of six was released from a truck when it parked in a service station and another two were found in a refrigerated lorry passing through Valencia. All were heading for the UK.

Police have arrested six gang members, including the ringleader, who used all parts of Europe to get the Kurds through borders and on their way to Britain.

“The price of the transfer ranged between 3,000 and 10,000 euros per person depending on the type of introduction and the risk to physical integrity,” said a spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard.

Europol had been investigating for several months and had set up a mobile office in Valencia where the six were arrested.

The ringleader was found to be an Iraqi individual living legally in Spain and resident in Valencia. The other gang members were based in different countries in the European Union and used a variety of routes to make detection more difficult.

Police said the use of refrigerated trucks presented a serious risk to life because of the length of the journey to the UK.

“The trucks would use the Cantabrian-Mediterranean corridor to ports in northern Spain such as Santurce and Santander or through ports and border crossings in northern France, such as Calais or Dunkerque,” said the spokesman.

Each truck usually carried between six and eight people, usually families.