Thirty-five undocumented immigrants were discovered after screams for help were heard coming from a metal shipping container at Tilbury Port in Essex, England.
The immigrants, now identified as families of Afghan Sikhs, were suffering from hypothermia and dehydration on their nine hour journey across the English Channel in which one man, named as Meet Singh Kapoor, lost his life. The shipping container didn’t contain enough ventilation holes and the stowaways were drifting in and out of consciousness in the pitch black.
The 34 survivors included a baby, 13 children and a 72-year-old man. All were taken to Basildon University Hospital to receive emergency medical treatment once discovered.
A homicide investigation is being launched into Meet Singh Kapoor’s death. His children and wife were also hidden away in the container which was full of pallets of a bottled cleaning fluid behind which the families were able to hide from boarder inspectors. Another investigation is underway into the human trafficking network that brought the families 4,000 miles from Afghanistan, across Europe in a lorry and into the “metal coffin.”
Afghan Sikhs are a persecuted minority in Afghanistan where 99 percent of the population is Muslim. When the Taliban ruled, the Sikh families were forced to wear yellow armbands to identify themselves. Despite their new legal protection under the country’s constitution, they are still harassed and persecuted.
In Afghanistan in the 1970’s, the Afghan Sikh community numbered 50,000, but this number dwindled when the soviets invaded in the 1980’s and then again when the Taliban came to power and imposed strict Islamic sharia law in the 1990’s.
An Essex Police spokesman said the Afghan Sikhs found in the container as well as the other family members would be taken to a “suitable location” by Border Force officials, although it is understood they are not in immigration detention.
– Charles Bell