‘Tempted? You’re only human’.
When 35 Afghan migrants were considering whether to pay their way into Tilbury – theUK port downriver from London, their travel agent aka human trafficker may have mentioned the North Sea crossing from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge; but failed to inform them of the P&O website offering ‘up to £320 free spending money’ on selected cruises.
Having paid the price of a fortnight’s cruising – exclusive yet all-inclusive (there you go, P&O, you can have that tagline for free), the stowaways completed their journey in a sealed container on board the P&O cargo ferry Norstream; with no opportunity for ‘café hopping and boutique shopping’ en route.
Amateur footage shows 34 of them shortly after the container was prized open at 6.30am on Saturday, around 18 hours after they were sealed into it. Circled by Port ofTilbury personnel in high visibility vests (motto: ‘safety first’), mostly sitting on the floorof a dockside holding area (yellow arrows and industrial paint in the manner ofManchester’s Hacienda club); variously howling, mewling, having difficulty breathing – except for the teenage girl in red shalwar kameez, who is standing calmly to one side, holding on tight to a matching canvas school bag.
Their faces have been blurred beyond recognition. But it’s clear who owns the clip: ITN; and the fee for further use is £699.
Missing from the group photo is 40-year-old Meet Singh Kapoor, who was declared dead after his young son failed to wake him on arrival. Mr Kapoor entered Tilbury in one box and left in another.
Shortly afterwards, the surviving stowaways were dispersed to three different hospitals across Greater East London: one group was taken to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London E1; another to the ‘university hospital’ in the post-war new town of Basildon; and a third group to Southend hospital.
Whitechapel, Basildon and Southend mark the beginning, middle and end of the A13,the arterial road which runs alongside the Thames from the East End to the Estuary; also the route taken by previous generations of East Londoners in ‘white flight’ from earlier immigrants.
It is well known that life expectancy goes up as you migrate along the A13. Now in thehands of the Home Office, it’s not clear whether London’s latest migrants consider their travel worth the price.