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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 09:49 GMT
Chinese police help cockle probe
Shrine at Morecambe Bay
Two memorial services have been held for the dead
A team of Chinese police officers is being sent to the UK to help identify the bodies of the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers who drowned earlier this month.

Lancashire police confirmed a team of five officers is due, although it is unclear when they are coming.

Twenty migrant workers drowned on 5 February when they were caught in the dark on the mudflats by a rising tide.

None has been formally identified yet, although police suspect they know who 12 are from their immigration records.

A Lancashire police spokeswoman said it was hoped the Chinese police could help with the formal identification process.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the country's Ministry of Public Security wants to repatriate the Chinese illegal migrants who survived the tragedy.

And it claims only one of the dead had any identity papers.

Dispute

The death toll in the tragedy rose to 20 on Sunday when the body of a woman was found on a sandbank in the bay.

Hours earlier, a leading member of the Chinese community, Gina San, had warned that as many as 24 people may have died.

Seven people have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and have been released on police bail.

Two survivors and a fishing boss, among those arrested, later released statements denying responsibility for the deaths.

There was never any suggestion that these people were cockle-pickers. The complaint was about noise
Geraldine Smith MP

Meanwhile, Labour's Geraldine Smith, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, has called for an inquiry into "inaccurate and misleading" information she claims was sent by the Home Office.

In response to a question from the MP about immigration operations in the area, Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes said in a letter: "A successful police and immigration operation went ahead in August 2003."

She added: "On this occasion 37 cockle-pickers were arrested."

Ms Smith claimed this raid was about a noise disturbance, not cockle-picking.




SEE ALSO:
Howard speaks of cockle tragedy
18 Feb 04  |  Lancashire
Cockle death police find body
15 Feb 04  |  Lancashire
Cockle death survivors speak out
13 Feb 04  |  Politics


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