Four jailed in Vietnam over Essex deaths of 39 migrants in trailer

A court in Vietnam has jailed four people for their roles in the deaths of 39 migrants discovered in a container lorry in England. he 31 men and eight women were found in the back of the HGV in Essex in October 2019. A number of people have been arrested and charged in the UK, France and Belgium in connection with the case, including several from Northern Ireland. The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson (25) of Laurelvale, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April.

Emergency services were contacted shortly after 1.30am on October 23 last year by Robinson, who reported people inside the lorry were not breathing. Ronan Hughes (40) from Tyholland, Co Monaghan, also pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month. The deaths shocked the UK and Vietnam and shone a spotlight on the illicit global people-trafficking trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.

The defendants sentenced this week are aged from 24 to 36. They were found guilty of “organising and brokering illegal emigration” after a one-day trial in the province of Ha Tinh. They were given prison sentences of between two-and-a-half years and seven-and-a-half years by the court.

Three others were given suspended sentences. The victims, who included two 15-year-old boys, were mostly from Ha Tinh and the neighbouring province of Nghe An, where poor job prospects, encouragement by authorities, smuggling gangs and environmental issues have fuelled migration. They were discovered in the truck’s container on an industrial estate in Grays, about 20 miles east of London.

A police statement said the defendants arranged for Pham Thi Tra My, whose desperate text messages sent from inside the container first alerted her family to the victims’ plight, to travel illegally to France and then to Britain for £22,000. “I honestly don’t want the defendants to face long prison sentences as I know that it was just an accident,” said Tra My’s father Thin, who attended the trial. “Handing them long prison terms won’t help me get back my daughter.”

Nguyen Dinh Gia, who lost his 20-year-old son Luong in the tragedy, said he believed the defendants should not have been given jail terms. “They were just trying to help and then the accident happened,” he said. “He was an adult who made his own decision and joined the trip voluntarily with the aim to improve his life, earning money to alleviate our poverty.” Mr Gia said his son had wanted to travel to Britain from France, where he had been living illegally since 2018.

The journey to Britain, where he aimed to look for work in a nail salon, would have cost him around GBP11,000 (EUR12,000). “It has been almost a year but whenever I think about this, it’s still painful,” he said. His son and the majority of the other migrants came from a handful of poor central provinces, hotspots for illegal migration.

The lorry carrying the victims arrived on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

They died from lack of oxygen and overheating, according to the post-mortem examinations carried out.

Belfast Telegraph

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