A Sikh leader in Afghanistan said on Monday that he was trying to contact families over reports that 35 stowaways found in a shipping container in Britain were from the tiny, persecuted community.
“I am urgently seeking more information,” Rawel Singh, a prominent leader of Afghanistan’s Sikh community, told AFP.
Rawel, vice-president of the Hindu and Sikh Council of Afghanistan, said only a few thousand Sikhs remained in Afghanistan, a sharp drop from before the civil war in the 1990s.
Many of those remaining complain of brutal persecution in a Muslim-majority country that has been ravaged by decades of war.
“Our rights are trampled and we are treated badly by the Afghan people,” Rawel said.
“We are discriminated against, our children cannot attend school, and our land has been stolen. Therefore, many Sikhs are forced to flee Afghanistan.”
Afghan Sikhs and Hindus often live in the same communities in Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar, working as labourers or in the clothes and traditional medicine businesses, said Rawel.
He said most Sikhs who had recently left Afghanistan headed for Australia and Russia rather than Britain.