In the latest example of human smuggling with international dimensions, one person died and 34 others from the Indian sub-continent were found crammed in a shipping container that arrived in a port in Essex from Belgium on Saturday morning.
The police were not certain about the nationalities of the individuals, but said they were from the 'Indian sub-continent'. Efforts were on to use Asian language translators to communicate with the group that did not have English-language skills.
Britain has been a major destination for international human smuggling gangs, including those used by Indians desperate to immigrate to Europe for a better life. The police said the investigation into the incident will be conducted in several countries.
Several members of the groups were found suffering from severe dehydration and hypothermia, when port personnel heard screaming and banging when the vessel belonging to P and O reached Tilbury Docks, Essex, at 6 am.
Essex police superintendent Trevor Roe said: "All we know at the moment is that we believe them to come from the Indian subcontinent, but it is still early days. It is a homicide investigation from the police point of view at this time."
The group was taken to nearby hospitals for treatment after they were discovered from the vessel named Norstream that arrived from Zeebrugge, Belgium, and was being unloaded.
The Essex Police said it had launched a homicide investigation and officers are were being assisted by their Belgian counterparts. Roe said about 50 other containers were being searched to make sure there were no other people inside.
Roe said: "This is a humanitarian issue and the welfare of these patients is a priority".
Describing the incident as 'tragic', South Basildon and East Thurrock MP Stephen Metcalfe told the BBC: "The fact that so many people appear to have travelled so far and are so desperate to get into the UK - either on their own or being trafficked is really very sad."
He added that it was important "to get to the root causes of what is motivating people to go to such extreme lengths to travel from other parts of the world to get into the UK" and tackle people-trafficking.