Two incidents of human trafficking unearthed

Just three days after a group of 34 people were discovered and rescued from a container in the Tilbury Docks in Essex, another group of 15 migrants were found in the back of a refrigerated lorry at a service station in Somerset.

The two episodes have once again thrown into focus the issue of human trafficking, and the extreme dangers to which poor migrants in search of greener pastures are exposed to.

In Tuesday’s incident, the truck was stopped on the A303 after the police were alerted to shouts and banging coming from the back of the truck. When the truck was opened, 11 men, three women and a 15-year-old boy emerged from the refrigerated box. They claimed they were from Eritrea and India. All of them were in an advanced state of dehydration.

In the case of the Tilbury container stowaways, who were Sikh Afghans, a 40-year-old man who the police identified as Man Singh Kapoor was found dead, and the others very close to death. The 34 survivors include 10 men, nine women and 15 children. The oldest was 72. Here too, the police were alerted by dock workers who heard bangs and shouts from inside the container.

The police have arrested one man on suspicion of manslaughter in the Tilbury case.

In the second and more recent incident, a man from Germany was arrested on the charge of facilitating the unlawful entry of the stowaways, who are believed to have boarded the truck between Belgium and Calais. The truck was supposed to have been transporting pharmaceutical goods to Devon.

A Home Office spokesperson confirmed that all 34 persons who were rescued in Tilbury are in the process of claiming asylum in the U.K. and are being provided accommodation and support. The case is with the National Crime Agency.

“The U.K. takes its international obligations extremely seriously and has a proud history of offering protection to those who need it,” the Home Office source said.

Human trafficking is a very well coordinated and organised crime and involves middle-men who pass on groups of victims from one point to another across vast overland routes. Transportation of human cargo, much as in the days of slavery, also takes place on ships, the difference being that today they have to be concealed in containers on board. The victims, who are at the mercy of ruthless gang leaders, often do not survive the long journeys across the seas.

This is a highly organised activity that is run by gangs who rarely bring their human cargo by the most direct route. They may come by containers overland through various land routes and eventually get to France or Belgium and get transported across by sea. They come from as far as China and other East Asian countries.

These are well-coordinated activities, sometimes organized by East Europeans, but also others.

How it works.

People in India put the groups together. The trafficking is often linked to slavery. People are paid after they get here, and they are at the mercy of the gang who are ruthless. Once they get here they must work in dodgy factories rarely breaking out of the debt cycle.

Use of containers

The people are transported in containers for long distances, even across the Pacific into Seattle. Many of them die enroute. There have been cases of some of them breaking out of the containers in the container yards and wandering around the yards, which are dangerous places to be because operations there are entirely mechanised. The escapees are often injured by straddle carrier vehicles that lift the containers out of the yard and are operated by people off-site with have limited vision. There have been reports of stowaways from China who have broken out of containers and are found walking around bewildered in these dangerous container yards.

If the Tilbury stowaways had not raised the alarm, they would have been moved to another area, and from there transported by truck to the end point, often a house, where the container would have been opened.

The container business is most vulnerable to these sorts of illegalities because there is really no effective way to scan containers. They are opened in the warehouses of the consignee, far from the prying eyes of the law. The percentage of containers being scanned and opened on a tip-off are in the low single digits worldwide. A container is a huge item, and has to be taken to a separate area to be scanned and opened.

The way to apprehend illegal trafficking of any kind through containers is by tracing the route of the container – truck drivers are usually complicit or at least in the know, and the entity to whom the container is consigned to is also in the conspiracy.

After 9/11, the Bush administration passed legislation for all containers to the US to be scanned at the point of origin. In major cities there is no geography for big trucks to be scanned. The tailback would paralyze the city. The legislation being so difficult to implement was set aside. It had a 2012 deadline, but was eventually shelved as it was not practical. Huge areas of land would have to be set aside for containers. They are 40ft in length, and in a big port a container is off-loaded every two minutes. Technology is just not good enough to pick up small items.

There was a reported case of a terrorist after 9/11 who set himself up in a container bound for Canada. The Italian police apprehended him after a tip off. Opened the container and found that he had set up comfortable quarters for himself, and could even make satellite telephone calls from within. He had a chemical toilet, food, water -- everything. This opened people’s eyes; he was on a mission to strike at Canadian airports.

And yet there are huge commercial benefits to the container business…we depend on them for virtually everything, from the coffee you drink to the shirt on your back.

Container Bob was the nickname given to Amir Farid Rizk who was found in a shipping container in Italy in October 2001, apparently attempting to travel from Egypt to Canada.[1]

His container was equipped with a bed, toilet, heater, food and water, a laptop, cell phones and a satellite phone. He was found when workers in the Italian port of Gioia Tauro heard strange noises coming from his container. The container ship had left Egypt five days earlier and was bound for Canada.

Forty-three-year-old Rizk was born in Egypt and had been a Canadian citizen for almost 20 years. He was carrying a valid Canadian passport that he had obtained in Cairo in August.[2] He also carried a confirmed airline ticket for travel from Rome to Montreal (where he had family[2]), as well as an aircraft mechanic certificate and security passes for airports in Canada, Thailand and Egypt.[1][3] According to Italian prosecutors he had studied in Egypt and North America to become an airline mechanic.[4]

Shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, Rizk's story raised fears of a terrorist connection. Rizk was arrested on terrorism charges and interviewed. He was released on 15 November 2001.[5]

According to his lawyer, he chose the container because he believed a hostile brother-in-law was attempting to prevent his departure from Egypt.[1]

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 11:13:28 PM |

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