When the Cornish blues rock band Wille and the Bandits were pumping gas 43 miles (70km) from the French port city of Calais on Sunday (Aug. 23), they felt their van shake. Band member Wille Edwards discovered two stowaway migrants hiding in the back.
The two men were among the thousands of migrants and refugees who are camping out in Calais, trying to get through to the UK on ferries crossing the Channel or through the Channel Tunnel.
According to a Facebook post on the band’s page, one of the men was “just sitting there” and “the other [was] in my guitar case.” Contrary to numerous tabloid reports, it seems likely the man was rifling through the case, rather than concealing himself within it. The band did not mention the guitar case in a subsequent interview with the BBC.
Edwards told the BBC one of the men didn’t want to leave, but eventually got out of the van, and the other kept repeating “Please, please?” Edwards said he told them he’d “love to help but had to say no.” One of the stowaways said “sorry.”
“It was amicable and very emotional. I felt almost guilty that I couldn’t help him because these people are desperate,” he said, echoing the band’s Facebook post: ”Feel really sorry for them to be honest they looked so desperate and only want a better life. Makes you realize how lucky we are sometimes and that we shouldn’t take it for granted!!”
Edwards said that if he hadn’t looked in the van, the earliest the band would have known about the stowaways would be back in the Cornish village of Downderry.
The incident brought the little-known group international attention. As one Facebook commenter said, he had never heard of the group before and that it “really sucks to be put on [sic] that position.” He added, however, that “the only good thing that came out of this story is that i found out about your group. [You-Tubed] you and fell in love with your music. keep kicking ass guys.”