London: A group of 35 men, women and children found inside a shipping container at a UK port are understood to be Sikhs from Afghanistan who are victims of "people trafficking", British police said today.
They were discovered yesterday after a freighter arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex from Belgium.
The 35 people found inside the container are understood to be Sikhs from Afghanistan, Essex Police said.
Earlier, the police described them as people believed to be from the Indian sub-continent and questioned some of them.
A homicide investigation is continuing into the death of one of the 35 rescued.
They were treated for severe dehydration and hypothermia before being taken to a detention centre.
They are being held under UK immigration laws and it is expected that they will be interviewed through interpreters at the immigration centre near Tilbury.
Essex Police described the men, women and children as victims of "people trafficking" and are working with Interpol and other international authorities to try to establish what happened.
Many of the survivors spent the night in hospital but none is thought to have suffered serious injury.
One man is believed to have been questioned by officers already and most of the others have been discharged from hospital.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has confirmed being in contact with UK authorities to ascertain their nationality.
The discovery was made after the container arrived from the Belgian village of Zeebrugge early on Saturday morning when "screaming and banging" were heard coming from inside.
"It is a homicide investigation...we will be looking to see where the origin and the gangs or whoever may [be] involved in this conspiracy to bring these people in this way over to this country. Clearly we need to try and bring them to justice," Supt Trevor Roe of Essex Police told reporters at a press conference.
Belgian police said they believed the lorry which delivered the container in Zeebrugge had been identified through CCTV footage.
Chief Inspector Peter De Waele, from the Belgian police, said: "The Belgian civil police is checking all the images and my colleagues are very, very hopeful that we find the truck who put the container in Zeebrugge.
"I think it is very, very important that we have the identification of that truck and also of the driver."
It is not known where the container, one of 64 aboard the P&O commercial vessel Norstream, originated, nor where the people inside it were heading.
"It shows how desperate people are to improve their economic situation, how desperate they are to leave their own homes, and own countries, and hope to arrive in somewhere that's more accommodating, more kind, and offering them a better quality of life. Usually, they're sadly wrong," said Anthony Steen, chairman of the UK's Human Trafficking Foundation.