Tilbury dock deaths: Survivors told translator they had been stowed away for 18 hours

Afghan Sikh found dead inside container named as Meet Singh Kapoor

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The Independent Online

A group of Afghani Sikhs who were rescued from a shipping container on Saturday have told a translator that they believe they were trapped inside the stifling, pitch-black box for 18 hours.

The shocking details of their ordeal came as police named the the Afghani man who was found dead inside the cargo container at Tilbury Docks as 40-year-old Meet Singh Kapoor.

35 people, including thirteen children aged as young as one, were among the Afghan Sikhs rescued on the weekend, having travelled from Belgium.

The group have since finished speaking to police and are being cared for by Home Office officials, Essex Police said. They are also now in the process of applying for asylum, according to a Home Office spokesman.

Video: Footage from the container found at Tilbury  

On Monday evening, two adults and two children were the four remaining people to be released from a  Southend Hospital .

Inquiries into Mr Kapoor’s death will now continue after a post-mortem examination was inconclusive.

Footage obtained by ITV News allegedly shows members of the group after they were released from the container. The sound of wailing and shouting can be heard as some of the migrants sit on the container floor.

Superintendent Trevor Roe said: “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.

"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."

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

"It was pitch black, without any air. It soon became extremely uncomfortable," he said.

Mr Mataharu described how there were 15 families, all from the Afghan capital of Kabul, packed into the container after they had travelled to Europe in a lorry. He added that they had told him they had been stowed inside the container for 18 hours.

"A little boy just said to me that he tried to wake his dad, but his dad didn't respond, and then they found out he was dead," he said.

"I normally never cry [during translation work], but looking at these kids, how desperate they would have been to put their lives in such a state," he added.

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

Earlier, Belgian police officers had 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, chairman 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.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK takes its international obligations extremely seriously and has a proud history of offering protection to those who need it.”

Additional reporting by PA