Is Tilbury Tragedy Sign of New Human Trafficking Trend?

Is Tilbury Tragedy Sign of New Human Trafficking Trend?
Tilbury Port Container Terminal

The discovery of 35 Afghani Sikhs in a shipping container in the UK port of Tilbury in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 16, has sent shockwaves through the British media, as the realisation of how fortunate the 34 survivors of the ordeal were to be alive dawns upon the general public, Dryad Maritime reports.

 Tragedy had struck in the last leg of the illegal migrants’ route that terminated with a passage from Zeebrugge to Tilbury in the airless steel container that threatened to become a cold and dark coffin for all of its occupants.

With ages ranging from 1 to 72, the families brought their ordeal to an end by drawing the attention of dock workers to their plight with a frenzied banging and screaming from within, sadly not before one of their number, 40 year-old Meet Singh Kapoor, had died in his family’s arms.

“A shipping container is no place for human cargo; almost airtight, subject to extremes of heat and cold and impossible to escape from when locked from the outside without help, it is little wonder that this incident ended in tragedy and surprising that it wasn’t an even more tragic end.

The really worrying aspect of this latest incident is the potential for this to be the start of a new trend, as organised criminals seek to exploit destination ports less used to the daily ‘cat and mouse’ games played out at the Channel ports,” Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer at Dryad said.

According to Dryad, targeting new destinations and using new modes of transport, such as shipping containers, could be the criminals’ latest attempt to seize the initiative and combat increasingly efficient border controls and alert truck drivers who are well aware of the significant fines imposed if they unwittingly transport migrants across national borders.

“The sheer number of container movements and the known criminal methods of circumventing security measures that can make seals and contents lists meaningless, means that we are likely to see other similar and equally dangerous attempts to transport desperate people for criminal profit,” Millen added.

“Just like the dangerously overcrowded boats that we see leaving the shores of North Africa for a better life in Europe, there is no shortage of desperate people either fleeing war and persecution or hoping for a better life for their families.

Equally, there is no shortage of organised criminal groups who care nothing for their welfare and are purely motivated by greed. If their fee-paying clients perish in the act of fleeing, then there will always be plenty more where they came from.

Only by tracking them down and bringing them to justice is there any hope of reducing the number of such tragic events.”

Sadly, with armed conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq and other nations and economic inequality across the globe, will inevitably mean that desperate people will continue to risk life and limb to win the prize of a better life, with or without the assistance of organised criminals.

The challenge for the maritime industry, ports and border officials is to reduce the probability of these potential tragedies by engaging in increasingly innovative technologies, intelligence-led operations and cooperation.

Police Service of Northern Ireland has reported that PSNI detectives assisting Essex Police and other agencies in the investigation into the Port of Tilbury container tragedy arrested a 34 year old man in Northern Ireland yesterday morning. The suspect was arrested after police stopped a vehicle on the A1 near Banbridge.

The arrest, on suspicion of manslaughter and conspiracy to facilitate unlawful immigration into the UK, was made by detectives from PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch. Searches at a number of properties were also carried out.

The suspect has been taken to the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim police station before being transferred to Essex for questioning. A number of Essex Police officers have travelled to Northern Ireland as part of the investigation.

Press Release, August 20, 2014; Image: London Container Terminal

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