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UK police arrest 7 over Chinese worker deaths
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-10 11:00

Police in Britain have nabbed seven people on suspicion of manslaughter, after the deaths of 19 Chinese workers who drowned while collecting cockles on the west coast of England last week.

The seven people arrested are now being held for questioning by British police.

The suspects were being questioned about any involvement they may have had in organizing the trip that led to the tragedy, said a spokesman for Lancashire Police.

The nationalities of the arrested were not released.

British detectives promised to do everything possible to find out who had sent the 19 low-wage workers -- including 17 men and 2 women -- to gather cockles in Morecambe Bay.

The group was engulfed by the fast-rising tides of the Irish Sea on Thursday. Cockles are a small shellfish delicacy.

The group is believed to have been controlled by unscrupulous profiteers, who took advantage of the immigrants willingness to work for about a British pound a day.

Meanwhile, UK police have also staged multiple raids in Liverpool, seizing computers and documents in association with illegal work gangs, with more warrants expected as they try and find those who employed the cocklers, according to ABC news online.

Local police are still trying to identify the dead, which was proving hard because of language difficulties and the reticence and apprehension of some of the 16 survivors in aiding detectives.

The 16 survivors include two Europeans and 14 Chinese.

Among the 14 Chinese -- two women and 12 men, only one has a Chinese passport, officials with the Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The ministry confirmed the Chinese survivors are from various provinces and autonomous regions of China, including Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Anhui, Henan, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Guangxi and Hainan.

The deaths have fuelled calls for laws to be tightened to stop the exploitation of migrant labourers, local media reported.

Gradwell told reporters the dead workers had probably paid a lot of money to be brought to England, yet had been forced to work in appalling conditions without the proper equipment.

Alex Pinfield, a British Embassy spokesman, told China Daily in Beijing Monday the police investigation is "very big. "I am part of the police investigation and we are trying to find out who organized the trafficking in Chinese people,'' Pinfield said.

"Police now are questioning some people and their investigation could become a global inquiry.''

Chinese Consulate-General staff in Manchester reached the site in Lancashire to help with the investigation.

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