Socialist Worker

Tragedy in Tilbury - Afghan refugee killed by cruel border system

by Adam Cochrane
Issue No. 2417

Border controls push vulnerable people to risk more dangerous methods to escape war and poverty

Border controls push vulnerable people to risk more dangerous methods to escape war and poverty (Pic: Alan Denney/flickr)

Some 35 Afghan Sikh migrants were discovered inside a cargo container in Tilbury docks, Essex, last Saturday. 

The group from Kabul, the Afghan capital, included 12 children and a baby.

One of them, Meet Singh Kapoor, 40, had died on the voyage to the Britain. The remaining survivors have claimed asylum.

They are fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, where Sikhs are a minority and face intimidation and violence. 

Dock workers discovered them at 6.30am when they heard banging and screaming.

The 34 refugees emerged from the 8ft by 20ft container visibly weak and disorientated, many of them weeping. Some of them were so dehydrated that they had to be carried out.

A local Sikh temple has been supporting the family. 

A representative told Socialist Worker, “We provided them with food and clothing for the last three days. There were young children and the eldest was 82 years old.   

“They are human beings and we are all concerned as to why they had to take the steps to come here like this.” 

The migrants told a police translator that they had been trapped for 18 hours and would have been dead after another 30 minutes in the container. 

The container had been placed on a P&O ferry which travelled from the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Tilbury docks.

Belgian police have said that the refugees must have been in the container before it was loaded there. They explained that it was sealed and only there for one hour. 

The migrants were initially taken to Southend, Basildon and the Royal London Hospital. 

But they have now been brought to a “reception centre” in Tilbury. Police say they “are now in the care of Home Office officials.”

A “reception centre” is simply another name for a detention centre. But locking up migrants is nothing new in Britain. Just under 30,000 migrants are held in detention every year. 

The mainstream media has mainly reserved its condemnation for the traffickers who helped bring the migrants to Britain. 

But it has not condemned the racist border controls that force people to go to such lengths to enter Britain.


Local Tory MP Stephen Metcalfe said the fact that the migrants “appear to have travelled so far and are so desperate to get into the UK—either on their own or being trafficked—is really sad.”

This is pure hypocrisy form a Tory MP. 

There are many other “desperate” migrants who “have travelled so far” to get to Britain. 

They are rotting in the cruel detention centres or having their lives made unbearable by the racist Immigration Act that the Tories passed this year.

Migrants face repression and unbearable conditions wherever they go in search of a safe and better life. Many migrants seek to enter Britain through the Channel Tunnel.

They are forced to wait in squalid makeshift camps in Calais, northen France, for their chance to cross the border. 

Instead of trying to improve the desperate conditions, the deputy mayor of Calais has now  announced that the camp is to be dismantled. This will mean violent police raids.

The original camp was destroyed in 2009. 

The British government has also spent millions of pounds on equipment to prevent migrants from entering Britain.  This includes thermo detection cameras, vehicle scanning devices and perimeter fencing.

But this is not the solution to the inequality that forces people to risk their lives.

Every year hundreds of migrants die while trying to cross the Mediterranean sea into Europe. Migrants will not be deterred by border controls so long as poverty and inequality remain. 

The government should stop wasting money on trying to police borders. 

It should stop interfering in and invading other countries, which forces people to extreme lengths as they try and flee war and poverty. 

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