Tilbury
34 Afghans were found in appalling conditions in the shipping containerEssex Police

Two truck-drivers from Northern Ireland have been charged following the discovery of 35 people inside a shipping container at Tilbury Dock. One of those inside the container had died.

Timothy Murphy and Stephen McLaughlin, both 34 and from County Londonderry, will appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on a charge of conspiring to facilitate illegal entry into the UK. In a statement Essex Police said: "The men, who are both lorry drivers, have been detained in police custody to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court today."

Port of Tilbury authorities made the shocking discovery on 16 August when they heard screams and banging from a shipping container being unloaded from the Norsteam, which arrived from Zeebrugge in Belgium. When the authorities opened the container they found 34 illegal immigrants including children, in appalling conditions inside the airtight container.

Meet Singh Kapoor (40) had already died in front of his wife and children, and 19 more were treated in hospital for dehydration and hyperthermia. A post-mortem failed to establish the cause of Mr Kapoor's death and inquiries are continuing.

Dead within 30 minutes

Translator Kamaljit Singh Mataharu, who was with the police when they searched the container, told ITV News the survivors believed they all would have died within 30 minutes had they not been rescued.

"A little boy just said to me that he tried to wake his dad," said Mataharu, "but his dad didn't respond, and then they found out he was dead." He continued, "Looking at these kids, how desperate they would have been to put their lives in such a state?"

All the people in the container, aged between one and 72, were from Afghanistan's diminishing Sikh community and are claiming asylum in the UK.

The tragedy highlighted the continuing issue of desperate migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the UK for a better life. Days after the Tilbury incident a German lorry driver was arrested when 20 people were found crammed inside a truck in Somerset.

In the worst UK incident of recent times, 58 Chinese immigrants were found dead in a lorry in Dover in 2000. Dutch lorry driver Perry Wacker was found guilty of 58 counts of manslaughter and received a 14-year sentence.