A group of 35 men, women and children found inside a shipping container at a UK port on Saturday are understood to be Sikhs from Afghanistan, British police said here.
They were discovered after a freighter arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex from Zeebrugge village in Belgium early Saturday morning. One of them was dead.
Workers at the Tilbury docks reported hearing bangs and screams coming from the container, leading to the discovery. It is not known where the container, one of 64 aboard the P&O commercial vessel Norstream, originated, nor where the people inside it were heading.
Earlier, the police, which is treating the 35 as victims of trafficking, had described them as people believed to be from the Indian subcontinent and questioned some of them.
The survivors were treated for severe dehydration and hypothermia before being taken to a detention centre, where they are being held under UK immigration laws. While many of the survivors spent the night in hospital, none is thought to have suffered serious injury. A homicide investigation is on into the death of one of them.
Essex Police is working with Interpol and other international authorities to try to establish what happened.
The Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed being in contact with UK authorities to ascertain their nationality.
“It is a homicide investigation… We will be looking to see (what was) the origin and the gangs or whoever may (be) involved in this conspiracy to bring these people this way,” Supt Trevor Roe of Essex Police told reporters.
Belgian police said they hoped to find the lorry that delivered the container in Zeebrugge through CCTV footage. Chief Inspector Peter De Waele said: “My colleagues are very, very hopeful that we will find the truck that put the container.”