Migrants travelling illegally to the UK were treated like 'freight' by smugglers, court hears

One of the Afghan Sikhs was found dead in a shipping container last year

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An international smuggling syndicate that treated human beings like “freight” masterminded the illegal transportation of 35 Afghan Sikhs into UK that led to one of them dying in a shipping container, a court has heard.

Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, was found dead at Tilbury Docks in Essex on 16 August 2014. He was among 35 immigrants, including 15 children. Jurors heard the group were found distressed and in cramped conditions.  Four men deny organising the operation in a trial at Basildon Crown Court.

Prosecutor Michael Goodwin said the men were part of a syndicate which had been foiled attempting to break UK immigration laws on at least one previous occasion.

“This operation involved effectively smuggling human beings as freight,” he said.

Mr Goodwin said the defendants had taken huge risks but had a “substantial financial motive”. “Some of the immigrants had paid substantial amounts of money,” he added. All are now claiming asylum in the UK.

Stephen McLaughlin, 34, of Limavady, Londonderry; Timothy Murphy, 33, of Elmgrove, Londonderry; Martin McGlinchey, 47, of Derryloughan Road, Coalisland, County Tyrone; and Taha Sharif, 38, who is Kurdish, have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to facilitate illegal entry into the UK. The trial continues.