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United Kingdom

UK police identify container stowaways as Afghan Sikhs

Authorities in southeastern England have said that the 35 people found in a shipping container originated from Afghanistan. It remains unclear how long they had been sealed off before their discovery.

Almost all of the 35 stowaways discovered in a shipping container Saturday had been released from the hospital by Sunday afternoon.

"We now understand that they are from Afghanistan and are of the Sikh faith,” Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police said on Sunday.

Members of the Sikh faith - a monotheistic religion based today largely in the Punjab region, which includes parts of northeastern Pakistan and northwestern India - make up roughly 1 percent of Afghanistan's population of about 30 million.

On Saturday, workers at Tilbury Docks, located east of London on the Thames river, discovered the men, women and children stowed away in the shipping container after they began banging on its walls and screaming.

One of the men hiding in the cargo had already died before the group's discovery. The remaining 35 were found suffering from dehydration and hypothermia.

"Now they are well enough, our officers and colleagues from the Border Force will be speaking to them via interpreters so we can piece together what happened and how they came to be in the container," Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police said on Sunday, adding that the agency would also be working with the local Sikh community to ensure the migrants' well-being.

UK police plan to work together with Interpol and Belgian police to determine the circumstances surrounding their illegal passage.

kms/mkg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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