Afghan Sikhs
Afghan Sikhs protesting in Kabul in 2007 as they are not even allowed to cremate their dead as per their faith.Reuters

The horrific case of human trafficking of 35 Afghan Sikhs to Britain in a shipping container, in which one man died of severe hypothermia and dehydration, has appalled the global community, and the London police have launched an international manhunt for the smugglers who trafficked these migrants.

The illegal immigrants, including women and children, were found trapped inside a shipping container that arrived in Essex from Belgium on Friday, after workers at the dock heard them screaming and banging inside the 'metal coffin'.

Some members of the group later revealed to the police that another group of 12 was also stuck in one of the containers. The incident has brought to the fore the plight of the Afghan Sikhs, given the drastic steps the group took to illegally migrate to England.

The Afghan Sikhs are one of the most vulnerable minorities in the world, according to an article in The Telegraph, which stated that the community comprises just a few hundred families left in Afghanistan who have faced persecution in a Muslim-dominated country, especially from the hardline Taliban.

Such has been the discrimination against the community that has been living in Afghanistan for more than 200 years, that, almost on the anti-Semitic lines of discrimination against the Jews, Sikhs under the Taliban rule were made to wear distinctive yellow arm bands, hang yellow flags over their homes and businesses and were barred from government posts, according to Al Jazeera.

The Sikhs in Afghanistan have been fleeing from the Taliban-dominated country ever since the mujahideen rose to power after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

They have had to face religious intolerance, and were even stripped of their basic rights of burying their dead in keeping with their faith, according to The Guardian. The report said Sikh children were deprived of their rights to education due to harassment and pressure of conversion at schools.

They have also never been given political rights, and only last December, the Afghan Parliament rejected a decree issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a seat to be reserved for the Hindu and Sikh communities in the country.

The UK has been a popular destination for the Afghan Sikhs to migrate to, which is what the group of people found stuck in the shipping container may have aspired for.

"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," Anthony Steen, chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, told The Times of India, following the trafficking incident.

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