Up to 16 people have been found alive in the back of truck on a ferry, en route to Rosslare Europort in Wexford.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised Ireland’s response to the stowaways would be humanitarian.
He said: “Of course our initial response will be a humanitarian one, to make sure those people are well and that their health is good.
“After that, of course, there will need to be a response that involves the Gardai, because, as you know, human trafficking is illegal and we’ll need to see what happens with the people who come ashore – they may wish to claim asylum, which they’re entitled to do, or they wish to be returned to the safe country from which they came.
“We’ll need to cross that bridge when we come to it, but the initial response will, of course, be a humanitarian one to make sure they are alive and in good health.”
Reports say a ferry staff member made the discovery after hearing banging from inside the truck on a Stena Line ferry from France.
All of the people involved are men aged between 20 and 40 years old, and it is believed they said they had travelled from Belgium up to five days ago.
The ship docked at Rosslare around 3.30pm and will be met by gardaí and other emergency services.
Stena Line said: “All the individuals are reported to be in good health and have been moved to a private passenger lounge on the ship where their wellbeing is the focus of our employees.
“Stena Line has alerted security and immigration officials in Rosslare so as the necessary arrangements can be made for the group on the vessel’s arrival.”
It is not known what nationality they are but it is believed they may be from Asia.
Stena Line has issued a statement saying 16 people were found by an employee of the ferry company on the sailing from Cherbourg to Rosslare.