Thirty five apparent illegal immigrants were found in a shipping container at a port in south east England on Saturday, and one of them – a man – was dead.
On Sunday police revealed that they are Afghan Sikhs and said that the survivors would be questioned about how they came to be there. Sikhs make up a tiny minority in Afghanistan's population of around 31 million people.
Police said the group – which included women and children – had been sealed inside the container which arrived on a transporter from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
Essex Police Superintendent Trevor Roe told reporters: “Staff here at the port became aware of screaming and banging coming from a container from that particular ship, as a result of that noise, obviously staff were alerted and immediately breached the container to find 35 people within that unit.”
Some of the 34 who were alive inside the container had to be treated at local hospitals for severe dehydration and hypothermia, though their conditions were not life threatening and all were released by Sunday evening to be placed in the care of the authorities.
“Now they are well enough, our officers and colleagues from the Border Force will be speaking to them via interpreters so we can piece together what happened and how they came to be in the container,” Superintendent Roe said in a statement.
Investigators, who said they were treating the man’s death as homicide, are liaising with Interpol and the Belgian police.
The 50 or so other containers on the same ship were also searched as a precaution but no more stowaways were found.