The City Sikhs Network is very saddened to learn of the discovery of 35 men, women and children of Afghan Sikh backgrounds in a shipping container at Tilbury Docks in Essex. Our thoughts are with the people who have endured what can only be described as a terrible ordeal.

Whilst we currently do not know the circumstances in which these Sikhs from Afghanistan have found themselves in the shipping container, we must acknowledge that they are the victims of people smuggling. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of people make similar journeys from various regions around the world where they may be suffering from persecution to places of safety.

Afghan Sikhs are a distinct grouping within the faith who have been in Afghanistan for the last 500 years and they are very proud of their unique heritage. However, they have suffered immensely in the last 25 years, and a population of 50,000 in the early 1990s has now diminished to fewer than 3,000 Sikhs, most of whom are based in Kabul. Under the Taliban, they were forced to wear yellow patches on their clothes to distinguish themselves as Sikh, a practice which bore striking similarity to the yellow stars worn by Jews during Nazi Germany.

Many Afghan Sikh refugees came to Britain in the 1990s, settling primarily in Southall in West London. Britain is now home to an established Afghan Sikh community which is thriving particularly in the world of business and retail and making a strong contribution to the British economy. We at the City Sikhs Network are also proud to have Afghan Sikhs as part of our team.

It is heartening to see the local Sikh community coming together to ensure that the religious needs of the victims are being met, and we hope that the people smugglers behind this dreadful atrocity are found and prosecuted.

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Note to Editors:

The City Sikhs Network is an organisation run by British Sikhs to create positive change within Britain and is an authentic voice of British Sikhs. It has over 6,000 members throughout the UK and it is based on universal Sikh values such as equality, tolerance, social integration and community cohesion. The majority of its members are Sikh professionals from the second, third and fourth generation British Sikh community across the UK.

Its Directors have represented the City Sikhs Network and spoken on issues regarding British Sikhs on the following mainstream British media in the past 12 months: BBC1, BBC World News, BBC Asian Network, local BBC Radio, BBC Radio 2, Al Jazeera, Channel 4, Huffington Post.

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