Still being driven to desperate measures

August 21, 2014 — Comment

Written by Harmit Athwal

At the weekend, a group of stowaways were found at Tilbury Docks desperately trying to escape a container they had been sealed into. By the time it was opened, one of the migrants, 40-year-old Meet Singh Kapoor was already dead.

Thirty-four migrants, Sikhs from Afghanistan, were found in the container, ten men, nine women and fifteen children, with their ages ranging from one to 72. Among them were Meet Singh Kapoor’s children and wife. Apparently they had had to watch him die.

The survivors were treated at hospitals across the South East for dehydration and hypothermia, all have now been released to the custody of the immigration service and are understood to be claiming asylum.

And just a few days later, twenty other migrants, thought to be from Eritrea and Kashmir, were found dehydrated in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Somerset.

This is by no means unusual. Migrants are seeking new ways to enter the UK as legal routes are increasingly closed to them.

Two Asian men found on a roadside in Witham, Essex in June 2006

Two Asian men found on a roadside in Witham, Essex in June 2006

Many have died in the same horrific manner. Fifty-eight Chinese men and women were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Dover in June 2000, with only two survivors suffering from shock and dehydration. In June 2006, three men were dumped by a roadside near Witham, Essex. One was already dead, and the two others found with him were severely dehydrated and in a critical condition. Only one survived.

Just a few weeks ago an unidentified Arabic or African migrant was run over by a coach, under which he had hidden in Norfolk. Other deaths that have been reported include the Asian man who died in April 2006 after slipping beneath the wheels of the lorry he had been hiding under and being dragged for a mile along the A14 in Cambridgeshire; and a 16-year-old Afghan boy, Ramahdin, who died in April 2010 after apparently falling from a lorry that had just boarded a boat near Dunkirk.

The people who die in such circumstances often cannot even be identified. Even if the deaths are reported then the story will contain phrases such as ‘unidentified’ and ‘illegal’, and will be accompanied by pictures that show a ‘likeness’ which even further dehumanise those people being reported about.

These deaths have to be the tip of the iceberg. Dead migrants do not make the headlines unless they are found in ‘dramatic’ circumstances, like those of last weekend. But what remains true is that people in desperate situations will be driven to desperate measures.

Related links

Download the IRR’s report: Driven to desperate measures 2006-2010 (pdf file, 432kb)

Download the IRR’s report: Driven to desperate measures 1989-2006 (pdf file, 401kb)

Read the IRR’s roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 2005 onwards

Read the IRR’s roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 2002-2004

Read the IRR’s roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 1989-2001

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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