The group of 35 Afghan Sikh stowaways found in a container in Essex on a ship that arrived from Belgium on Saturday have claimed asylum in Britain, while the police on Tuesday identified one member of the group who died as Meet Singh Kapoor, 40.
Sikh communities and gurdwaras around Tilbury, Essex, rallied to support the police and other authorities when the group was released from the container. Sikhs are reported to be among minorities in Afghanistan who face persecution; some of them have migrated to India.
Kamaljit Singh Matharu, a translator used by the police, told ITV News that the group believed that they would have died had they remained trapped for another half an hour.
He said there were 15 families, all from Kabul, packed into the container after they had travelled to Europe in a lorry. They told him they had been inside the container for 18 hours.
Matharu said: "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 he had tears in his eyes while translating: "I normally never cry, but looking at these kids, how desperate they would have been to put their lives in such a state."
The 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.
A Home office spokesman said all the people involved were now in the process of claiming asylum in Britain. "The tragic incident is a reminder of the devastating human consequences of illegal migration and we will do all we can to help bring those responsible to justice."
He said, "The UK takes its international obligations extremely seriously and has a proud history of offering protection to those who need it."
Man arrested over immigrant's death
The British police arrested a man on Tuesday on the suspicion of manslaughter over the death of an Afghan Sikh immigrant, whose body was found in a shipping container.
"The police in Northern Ireland have arrested a man on the suspicion of manslaughter and facilitating illegal entry into the UK in connection with an Essex police investigation into the death of a man found in a container at Tilbury docks," the Essex police said.
The suspect, aged 34 and from Limavady near Northern Ireland's northwest coast, was arrested at Banbridge in the southeast on the A1, the main road from Belfast towards Dublin in the republic of Ireland.
The man is in police custody, pending transfer to mainland Britain for questioning by the Essex police.