British border guards in Calais have been banned from using X-rays to search for illegal immigrants in lorries – unless they ask for the stowaways’ written permission. French authorities have blocked the use of the scanners, claiming they could breach European health and safety laws.

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They have told British immigration officials that if they want to use the machines they will first have to clear it with those they are looking for.

Given that the illegal immigrants do not want to be found, the chances of reaching such an agreement are zero, leaving the British no choice but to stop using the machines.

Immigration officials are said to be baffled by the decision.

The scanners – which have helped cut the number of illegal immigrants arriving in Dover by 88 per cent – emit less radiation than an ordinary hospital X-ray and are used elsewhere in Europe with great success.

The ban was also criticised by hauliers and politicians last night. Adam Holloway, Tory MP for Gravesham in Kent, said: "This appears extremely convenient for the French authorities who, once again, have come up with an excuse to move the problem of immigration control over to British soil.

"It is also yet another clear example of European Union overregulation."

Thousands of illegal immigrants come to Britain from France every year.

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