Vietnam and the UK are working to repatriate the 39 bodies of Vietnamese victims who were found dead in the back of a lorry in October. The remains of 16 victims have arrived in the country to grieving relatives.
The remains of sixteen of the 39 victims found in a container truck outside of London last month arrived in Vietnam on Wednesday, the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.
The bodies of the victims were returned to grieving relatives in Vietnam's rural Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces. British and Vietnamese authorities continue to collaborate on the return of the remaining bodies.
The repatriation comes a monthafter they were discovered.
'I'm dying because I can't breathe'
The bodies of the eight women and 31 men were found on October 23 on an industrial estate in the town of Grays in the English county of Essex. The container in which they were held had arrived by ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
"After waiting for so many days, my son has finally arrived," Nguyen Dinh Gia, father of victim Nguyen Dinh Luong, told Reuters.
State media showed cloth-wrapped coffins arriving at Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport and placed into the back of waiting ambulances.
"Our district arranged and sent eight ambulances to Hanoi airport on Tuesday evening in order to carry eight bodies back home and hand them over them to their families," said Bui Huy Cuong, deputy chairman of Can Loc District in Ha Tinh province, where ten of the victims were from.
Pham Van Thin, the father of 26-year-old victim Pham Thi Tra My, said local authorities would not allow the family to go to the airport to escort his daughter's coffin back.
"They may be afraid our weeping will interrupt their work," he said. His daughter's text message to her mother had said: "I'm sorry mom ... I'm dying because I can't breathe." The family alerted authorities that the victims could be Vietnamese nationals, after police initially believed all 39 victims to be Chinese.
In addition to a long delay in returning the bodies to Vietnam, the families of the victims have the added grief of paying for repatriation costs.
The Vietnamese government offered to pay the costs upfront but gave relatives 30 days to pay the money back interest-free.
The relatives were given two choices: pay approximately 1,800 dollars (€1,635) to receive their loved ones cremated as ashes or approximately 2,800 (€2,544) dollars for the body to be sent to Hanoi airport.
Most of the families in the impoverished region of central Vietnam have gone heavily into debt to pay human traffickers in the hope that their children can reach Britain and find better-paid jobs.
Vietnamese nationals who have illegally entered Britain are often employed in nail bars or on illegal cannabis farms.
Hundreds of Vietnamese are trafficked to Britain each year, according to the charity Ecpat.
mvb/stb (dpa, Reuters)