Sat, 16 Nov 2019

All 39 bodies found in a refrigerated truck outside London last month have now been identified as citizens of Vietnam, officials said on Thursday.

Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security said it was now working to repatriate the 31 men and eight women discovered dead in the back of the truck on October 23.

The tragic case has exposed the deadly risks of migration to Europe, with Vietnamese nationals among the many who try to reach the continent illicitly on dangerous journeys.

Nguyen Dinh Gia, the father of Nguyen Dinh Luong, told AFP on Thursday that officials had called him the previous day to confirm his son was among the victims.

"Our hope now is the body of my son will be brought home soon," he said.

In a letter to the victims' families obtained by AFP, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the tragedy had caused them and Vietnamese people around the world "endless pain".

He vowed his government would work with British officials "to soon bring the victims back to the homeland, their families and their loved ones".

Essex Police, the local force investigating the gruesome discovery, confirmed a coroner had now formally identified all the victims and their families had been informed.

"This is an important step in the investigation and enables us to work with our Vietnamese police colleagues to support the families of those victims," Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith said.

The bodies were found in the early hours of October 23 on a truck that had just entered Britain on a ferry from Belgium.

Essex Police had initially said the victims were believed to be Chinese nationals, until several Vietnamese families came forward to say they feared their relatives were on board.

Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security said they hailed from six provinces - Hai Phong, Hai Duong, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Thua Thien Hue - which are common feeders for illegal emigration.

Several families of the suspected victims told AFP their relatives were seeking better lives abroad, and they were now worried about how to repay thousands of dollars of debt their children took on for the ill-fated trip.

Vietnamese authorities have detained 11 people in connection with the deaths for helping people travel abroad with the intention of staying overseas illegally. None have been formally charged.

Meanwhile police in Britain have charged the 25-year-old driver of the refrigerated lorry, who comes from Northern Ireland, with manslaughter, money laundering and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

They are also in the process of extraditing another suspect from Ireland and searching for others potentially involved.

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