Indian human cargo drifts to Sweden, deported
May 10, 2007 - 7:03:39 PM

Stockholm, May 10 - Eight famished and frightened Indian illegal immigrants, container-bound from Belgium to a port in Britain, drifted all the way for three days to the Swedish west coast port of Gothenburg before being deported to Belgium Thursday.

'While the cargo ship was being unloaded, distressful noises emanated from one of the containers,' Swedish border police inspector in Gothenburg, Hans Borjesson, told IANS.

'When the container was opened, eight very frightened, hungry and thirsty Indians stumbled out -. All of them were, indeed, in a very sorry, dishevelled condition'.

'From what we understood, they had paid their 'agent' a lot of money to smuggle them into England,' said Borjesson. 'Apparently, arrangements fouled up and they found themselves in Sweden instead.'

The fees paid allegedly amounted to 5,000 pounds per head. For this amount, the group was first smuggled out from India to Italy and then via France to Belgium, IANS learnt from a Swedish immigration source who did not wish to be identified.

According to the same source, after a wait in Belgium for some weeks, they were locked up in a container and informed that they would be unloaded in England - port unknown to Swedish police - in a few hours. Instead, after two nights and three days at sea they turned up in Gothenburg.

'Aged between 20 and 40, the Indians could hardly speak a word of English, leave alone Swedish,' the source said.

While the Swedish police sought to investigate the circumstances of the human smuggling, whose pattern 'is becoming all too familiar', the Indians were transferred to police custody in Stockholm, the Swedish capital on the west coast.

Border police commissioner Peter Konberg who handled the investigation from Stockholm told IANS: 'It was very frustrating to deal with these involuntary visitors to Sweden. Besides the language barrier, all the eight lacked any sort of identifying document, no passport, nothing.'

'We were left with the only alternative to deport them to the country from which they had embarked on the ship,' said Peter Konberg. 'We have deported them today to Belgium.'

Counsellor at the Indian embassy in Stockholm, Ragunath Mishra, told IANS: 'We have no information whatsoever about this case. Neither the Swedish foreign office nor the immigration nor police authorities have seen fit to inform us. I learnt about the case from newspapers and wrote the foreign office a letter requesting information. To date we have received none.'

Mishra explained further: 'In such cases the Swedish police and other concerned authorities follow the practice that only if the persons in custody desire to contact the respective embassy they should help them do so. Not of their own volition.'

Meanwhile, three illegal immigrants from India, who managed to sneak their way into Britain past border controls in a German delivery lorry, have been arrested in Southampton after they were caught escaping.

When challenged, the men, aged 24, 22 and 21 could not prove their identities or speak English, a police spokesperson said. They are being held in cells at Southampton Central Police Station.

Said Stephen Carter of the Home Office: 'We are able to confirm that three Indian nationals are being interviewed by immigration staff today. It's not easy to say what will happen next.

'We use heat-seeking and heartbeat-tracking technology to prevent this sort of thing happening, but every now and then people will penetrate our borders unlawfully.'

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