Last weekend, 17th October 2014, 34 people were rescued from a shipping container at Tilbury Docks in Essex England. For one gentleman onboard had died on route. According to news reports the people inside were Afghan Sikhs; thirteen were children, including a one year old. The vessel had sailed from Zeebrugge in Belgium and arrived at the Essex port at about 6am. They are believed to be from India, possibly the Punjab region.
Staff working at the port heard screaming and banging. Those in the container were suffering from dehydration and hypothermia. They began banging when one child realised her father, in the same container, had died. One can only imagine the horror of such a realisation. The group had reportedly spent 18 hours inside the container, following a long journey from Kabul in the back of the lorry. They have claimed asylum.
It reminds us again of the lengths people must go to to find safety. The sheer desperation it takes to get on a bus for 18 hours in a container and then in the back of a lorry from Kabul to Essex.
The responsibility of European countries is clear. There is a lack of safe and legal routes for refugees to escape persecution. People therefore take dangerous journies such as this one with people smugglers who control where they go and ask for large sums of money.
We express our horror when we find containers of people like this. We are generally appalled. Yet I cannot see many people voting against
Yet at another level we are not willing to take responsibility or really look hard at our responsibility as citizens of Europe for the deaths of people. We somehow manage to dehumanise this in some way. This happens to “other” people, not to us. At best we feel we are powerless. Whatever about the bigger questions about Fortress Europe, we could at least explore, in solidarity with our fellow ordinary people of other countries, how safe, legal routes could be created for people fleeing persecution. People are entitled to refugee protection and I am sure we would want people in other countries to do the same for us if it were out families and children in that container.