By Alfred de Tavares
Stockholm : Eight Indian illegals, 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 back 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 (on April 29). All of them were, indeed, in a very sorry, dishevelled condition".
"From what we understood, they had paid their Â´agentÂ´ 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 would 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 barriers, 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 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."