Tilbury Sikh Immigrant Death Test Draws Blank

TILBURY, UK—Tests on the body of an immigrant found dead inside a cargo container have failed to establish how he died.

Thirteen children aged as young as one were among the Afghan Sikhs rescued from the shipping container on Saturday.

Members of the 35-strong group found screaming and banging after arriving at the Port of Tilbury, Essex, from Belgium, have finished speaking to police and are now being cared for by Home Office officials, Essex Police said,

The force added inquiries would continue after a post-mortem carried out yesterday on a man, believed to be in his 40’s, found dead inside proved inconclusive.

Two adults and two children remain in Southend Hospital but are expected to leave later today.

“Tragically, one man died on the voyage and the investigation into his death is now being led by us. These people were found in an awful situation and our main priority is to look after them and ensure they are now safe following what would have been a horrendous ordeal.”

Kamaljit Singh Mataharu, a translator used by police, told ITV News that the group believed that they would have died if they remained trapped for another 30 minutes.

He added that they told him: “It was pitch black, without any air. It soon became extremely uncomfortable.”

Mr. Mataharu said there were 15 families, all from Kabul packed into the container after they had traveled to Europe in a lorry.

They told him they had been inside the container for 18 hours.

Essex Police said the group includes nine men and eight women aged between 18 and 72, as well as 13 children aged between one and 12.

Mr. Roe said: “The welfare and health of the people is our priority at this stage.

“We now understand that they are from Afghanistan and are of the Sikh faith.

“We have had a good deal of help from partners within the local Sikh community in the Tilbury area to ensure that these poor people, who would have been through a horrific ordeal are supported in terms of their religious and clothing needs.”

Belgian police earlier indicated that they believe the immigrants were probably already inside when the container was delivered to a European port before setting sail for Britain.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said: “It is a disgrace the persecution of the tiny minority of Sikhs from Afghanistan has largely been ignored and it takes an incident like this to remind us all that they are also being exploited by human traffickers.”

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “The death of the man in a container found at Tilbury on Saturday was a shocking incident. One person died and many others might very easily have done so.”

He said the developments should “highlight for us the evil of the abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable”, adding: “The police and partner agencies are continuing to investigate the circumstances of those found in that container.

“But we can be sure that almost all cases of human trafficking involve exploitation by callous organised criminal gangs.”

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