THE discovery of 35 migrants at Tilbury Docks on Saturday
morning, screaming and banging on the container in which they had
been locked for 18 hours, should alert Britain to its "proud and
honourable tradition of offering sanctuary", the Bishop of
Bradwell, the Rt Revd John Wraw, said on Tuesday.
The migrants, believed to be Sikhs from Afghanistan, are aged
from one to 72, and include 13 children. One man, Meet Singh
Kapoor, a 40-year-old father of two of the children on board, was
found to be dead. On Tuesday, Essex police confirmed that a man had
been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, and of facilitating
illegal entry into the UK.
On Tuesday, Kamaljit Singh Mataharu, of Grays Sikh temple, a
translator used by the police, told ITV News that conditions inside
the container had been "horrendous. . . They'd tried for hours and
hours for somebody to hear their voices, and hear the banging. . .
. Another 20 minutes, and all would have been dead in there."
The migrants had spoken of persecution in Afghanistan: "They
said they'd rather die than live a life like that." The container
arrived in the docks from Belgium, on the P&O commercial vessel
Norstream. After being treated for dehydration and
hypothermia, the migrants were questioned by police. On Monday, the
Home Office said that all 34 survivors were applying for
On Tuesday, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, Maurice
Wren, described the "desperate measures" taken by those in fear of
perscution: "For those trying to access Fortress Europe, this
usually means having to rely on people-smugglers. Unless we want to
see more deaths on our doorstep, the UK and EU must create safe,
legal routes for people fleeing persecution to obtain the refugee
protection they are entitled to."
Ruth Grove-White, policy director of the Migrant Rights'
Network, said that, despite the "very hostile" atmosphere in the UK
towards migrants, it was "heartening to see the level of compassion
for those discovered at Tilbury."
Bishop Wraw said: "This is not about the whys and wherefores of
policies on immigration, but simply reaching out in compassion to
fellow human beings in need and offering a place of safety to men
women and children who have suffered horrors beyond imagining."
Although it is unclear whether the migrants were victims of
trafficking or people-smuggling, the Revd Steve Chalke, chair of
Stop the Traffick, said both involved exploitation. "Everyone is
vulnerable, and [is] promised things that are not delivered." He
urged churches to become "resilient communities" trained to spot
victims of such exploitation. "Who is closer to most vulnerable
communities than anyone else? Professionals go home at five, but
the Church is the people."