UK police believe 39 truck victims are Vietnamese

By Minh Nga   November 1, 2019 | 04:44 pm PT
UK police believe 39 truck victims are Vietnamese
Police are seen at the scene where 39 dead bodies were discovered in a truck container, in Grays, Essex, the U.K, October 23, 2019. Photo by Reuters/Peter Nicholls.
Police in the U.K.'s Essex County believe 39 people found dead in a refrigerated container truck in the county last month are Vietnamese nationals.

"At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese government. We are in direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the U.K., and we believe we have identified families for some of the victims whose journey ended in tragedy on our shores," Essex police’s assistant chief Tim Smith, who is in overall charge of the investigation into the deaths of 39 men and women discovered at Grays, Essex on October 23, said in a statement released by the Essex police Friday night (2:20 a.m. Hanoi time).

The confirmatory evidence needed to formally present cases to Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for her consideration has not yet been obtained, read the statement.

This evidence is being gathered across a number of jurisdictions worldwide and as a result, Essex police cannot at this time announce the identity of any of the victims but they will continue to "cooperate closely" with the Vietnamese government, and others, to identify the victims, it said.

They continue to appeal to anyone who has information that may assist them in their process to identify the victims to make contacts.

"Details of how you can pass information can be found at where there are also details on how to contact us translated into Vietnamese," they said.

The Vietnamese Embassy in the U.K. said in a statement released Saturday that it was "deeply saddened" at the findings.

"The embassy will closely coordinate with the relevant authorities of Vietnam and the U.K. to support the families of the Vietnamese victims, if any, to bring their loved ones home," it said.

On the same morning, Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement saying the Ministry of Public Security and the U.K. police are working together and making efforts to identify the victims who are suspected to be Vietnamese nationals.

The Vietnamese authorities have cooperated with the British side, providing relevant information from Vietnam to assist the confirmation of the victim's nationality, opening a hotline, receiving information and preparing protective measures in case any victims confirmed as a Vietnamese citizen, the foreign ministry spokewoman Le Thi Thu Hang said.

The Vietnamese Embassy in the U.K. has also passed the identification of victims from British police to Vietnamese authorities for cross-checking, she said, and expressed gratitude towards the British government, police and related agencies.

She said Vietnam strongly condemns human trafficking, considers it a serious crime and believes that all culprits must receive strict punishment.

On Friday, police in Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh said they have arrested two persons following 10 families reporting their children going missing in the U.K. after the 39 victim tragedy.

Since launching the investigation Thursday, Ha Tinh police have summoned a number of individuals for questioning and determined that they're not only involved in the 10 families' cases but also in other trafficking incidents that have occurred over the past few years.

19 other families in the nearby Nghe An and Thua Thien-Hue Provinces have also reported their children missing the U.K., fearing they were among the truck victims.

U.K. police initially believed all of the dead persons found in Essex were Chinese nationals, but retracted it later as reports surfaced saying several victims may be Vietnamese.

Maurice Robinson, the 25-year-old truck driver, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and other offences including conspiracy to traffic people.

Three other people arrested in connection with the investigation have been released on bail until November 11-13.

Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security has collected DNA samples of the parents with missing children for sending to the U.K. to help determine whether they are among the 39 people found dead inside the container.

Last Wednesday, Minister of Public Security To Lam also called the U.K.'s Home Secretary to discuss identification of the victims.

Vietnam reported 490 human trafficking victims last year, according to the U.S.'s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Some 70 percent of Vietnamese trafficking cases in the U.K. between 2009 and 2016 were linked to labor exploitation, with young people forced to work in cannabis production and nail salons, according to a British government report released in 2018.

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