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Arrests in Vietnam over UK migrant deaths case

November 1, 2019

Two people were arrested in Vietnam and one in Ireland as the UK probes the deaths of 39 migrants discovered in Essex. All victims are now believed to be Vietnamese. Police called on two haulier brothers to come forward.

An image of a woman suspected to be among the victims
Image: Reuters/Kham

Dublin's High Court on Friday remanded a 23-year-old man from Northern Ireland, pending possible extradition to Britain, over bodies found in a refrigerated truck near London on October 23.

Police in Vietnam, where the victims are thought to have originated, on Friday said they had detained two people and summoned others for questioning.

Police in the English county of Essex, meanwhile, urged two hauliers — identified as Ronan and Christopher Hughes from Northern Ireland — to help in the probe.

Read more: Vietnamese police take forensic samples from relatives of missing

"We urge anyone who has been in contact with them or has any information about where they are to get in contact with us," said leading Essex detective Dan Stoten.

The alleged driver of the truck, a 25-year-old from Northern Ireland, has already been charged over the deaths. He faces 39 counts of manslaughter as well as human trafficking and immigration offenses.

Identification still awaited

The bodies of eight women and 31 men were found east of London inside a container that had arrived in Britain from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Autopsies have been carried out, but no identities or formal causes of death have been released by British authorities.

On Friday, UK police said they believe all of the victims were Vietnamese nationals.

Police escort container truck departing industrial area at Grays, England
October 23 2019: the refrigerated truck at an industrial park in Grays, east of LondonImage: picture-alliance/empics/S. Rousseau

Vietnamese village awaits news

Families in the rural Vietnamese village of Dien Thinh told the Associated Press of fears that two men — aged 18 and 30 — may be among the dead.

Both had last contacted home on October 22. They had lived in France since 2017, and had intended to reach Britain.

Read more: Hungarian court jails four over 71 migrant deaths

One family said it had borrowed the equivalent of $17,500 (€15,700) from a bank to pay for its son, Hoang Van Tiep, to first be smuggled to France. There, he had worked in restaurants, sending money home.

To help him reach England, the family said it had last month paid an additional installment to traffickers.

Since late October, the family said it had not been asked for the second and final payment.

Some migration 'legal,' some not

Truong Cong Suu, the labor department head in the central Vietnamese district where the village of Dien Thinh is located, said about 1,000 residents took legal routes to work overseas each year — normally via registered hiring agencies.

However, a further 200 to 300 went through illegitimate channels, Suu said.

ipj/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)