Italian police arrest man allegedly involved in UK truck deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants

Italian police have arrested a man who is the subject of an international arrest warrant from the UK for the manslaughter of 39 people who were being smuggled into Britain in the back of a refrigerated truck.

Key points:

  • The bodies of 39 Vietnamese migrants were found in the back of a truck in the UK in 2019
  • The 28-year-old Romanian man is accused of supplying the truck used to smuggle the migrants into the UK
  • Eight others connected to the incident have so far been convicted

The 28-year-old Romanian man, Stefan Damian Dragos, allegedly provided the truck which was used to smuggle the group of Vietnamese migrants.

There was no immediate statement from the suspect or from any lawyer representing him.

He was arrested in the town of Cinisello Balsamo, north of Milan, but police gave no further details.

All 39 migrants were found dead in a freight container on the back of the vehicle in the town of Greys in October 2019.

The truck and the trailer took separate journeys before both ending up on the grounds of the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, 40 kilometres east of London on the River Thames.

The truck is believed to have travelled from Northern Ireland to Dublin, where it took a ferry to Holyhead in Wales last Sunday before picking up the trailer at the dockside in England.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov confirmed the red Scania truck was registered in Bulgaria in 2017, but had not entered Bulgarian territory since.

The billion-dollar business of human trafficking

The discovery of 39 bodies in a container in Essex is a stark reminder of the human cost of the well-organised, multinational criminal networks which peddle hope to desperate people.

The discovery of so many dead people — one just 15 years old — in the back of the truck on an industrial estate shone a shocking spotlight on the illicit global trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.

Most of the victims were from the neighbouring provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh, in north-central Vietnam, where poor job prospects, encouragement by authorities, smuggling gangs and environmental disaster all contribute to the wave of migrants.

As oxygen levels fell in the back of the truck, some tried desperately to escape, but in vain.

Others used mobile phones to say their last farewells to devastated relatives on the other side of the world.

One of the victims was Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old woman whose heartbreaking final text message to her mother vividly brought home the scale of the tragedy.

A young woman with sunglasses on her head and a flower behind her ear. Pham Thi Tra My sent a message to her mother saying she couldn’t breathe, Human Rights Space reported.(

Twitter: Hoa Nghiem, Human Rights Space

)

Her family had been unable to contact her since the text arrived saying she was suffocating.

“I’m so sorry mom and dad … My journey abroad doesn’t succeed,” she wrote. “Mom, I love you and dad very much. I’m dying because I can’t breathe …

Mom, I’m so sorry.”

Two men including the truck driver have already been convicted over the deaths in the UK, as have four others in Vietnam

Reuters