Refrigerated truck victims’ bodies return to Vietnam for burial

On 23 October, the British police discovered the bodies of 39 illegal Vietnamese immigrants. On board a commercial container from London, 16 bodies arrived today in Hanoi. The families of the victims forced to take out government loans to pay for the transfer.


Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The first remains of the 39 people found dead last month in a refrigerated truck in the United Kingdom arrived in Vietnam this morning, ending the wait for families to bury their loved ones.

A Vietnam Airlines commercial flight carried 16 bodies from London to Hanoi, which were met at N Bài Airport by ambulances and security personnel. The remains immediately began the journey to the provinces of origin, in central Vietnam.

On 23 October, in Essex (south-east England), the British police discovered the bodies of 39 people in a refrigerated truck parked in an industrial park. The bodies belonged to illegal immigrants, 31 men and eight women. Ten of the victims were teenagers, including two boys aged 15:30 came from the rural provinces of Nghệ An and Hà Tĩnh. The Vietnamese authorities report that among the 16 repatriated coffins today there are some directed towards that of Quảng Bình. Others are expected in Vietnam in the coming days, although officials have not announced a specific date.

In view of the repatriation of the bodies, the families of the victims suspended mourning for weeks. Many have made huge loans with the government to cover the costs of the transfer: they are now even more indebted. Hanoi has given families two options: to pay US $ 1,774 for the ashes; or $ 2.858 for bodies. But cremation is rare in the countryside of central Vietnam, where many Catholics live. Several families say they are already deeply in debt to pay for their children's risky journey abroad and now they don't know how to repay the loans. Vietnamese organizations are raising funds to support them: currently, they have exceeded 110 thousand dollars.

According to the reconstructions provided by relatives, many of the 39 dead people paid thousands of dollars to intermediaries with the assurance that the truck was the safest option to emigrate - defined as the "VIP route". Investigations continue both in the UK and in Vietnam. Two days ago, the truck driver, 25-year-old Northern Irishman Maurice Robinson, pleaded guilty to the crime of aiding illegal immigration. The defendant also admitted that he had acquired money from a criminal activity, but claimed his innocence in the other 41 accusations made against him. British investigators arrested several people; in Vietnam, 10 have ended up in prison, although none have yet been formally charged.

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