(Vietnamese truck deaths) – Findings show 2 people smugglers to be guilty on Monday of the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese men, women and kids. They suffocated to death within the back of a refrigerated truck. It happened in October last year as they tried to make their way to Britain.
The discovery of numerous dead people – some as young as 15 – shocked Britain and Vietnam. It also shone a spotlight on the illicit global trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.
As oxygen levels fell within the back of the truck, some tried desperately to flee, but vainly. Others used mobile phones to mention their last farewells to devastated relatives on the opposite side of the planet.
“This is an unimaginably tragic case: driving 39 vulnerable people desperate for a brand new life to place their trust. Especially in a network of unscrupulous people smugglers,” said Russell Tyner, a prosecutor within the Organized Crime Division.
“They died through lack of oxygen, desperately trying to flee from the container. Some were able to express their last words to their families on their mobile phones. Especially once they knew their situation was hopeless.”
Eamonn Harrison, a 24-year-old trucker from Northern Ireland. Also, Gheorghe Nica, 43, from Essex, was found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter. Also one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, following a 10-week trial at England’s Central criminal court in London. The giving of their sentence will be at a later week.
Two of the smuggling team had overseen two similar journeys earlier that month.
“The men who were found guilty today made their money from misery,” said the police chief of Essex Police, Ben Julian Harrington.
‘LIFE MUST GO ON’
Most of these who died were from Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces in north-central Vietnam. It is where poor job prospects, environmental disasters and the promise of monetary reward abroad fuel migration.
“I’ve never stopped pondering my son since the tragedy happened. And that I still wish for a miracle to bring him home with us,” Nguyen Dinh Gia, father of Nguyen Dinh Luong, one of the victims.
“Now I don’t really care if the smugglers will face an extended sentence or not,” Gia told Reuters by phone from Ha Tinh.
“Life must persist and that I hope there won’t be any such accidents happening to people seeking an improved life,” Gia said.
In neighbouring Nghe An, Diep, the brother of victim Bui Thi Nhung said he now not wanted to speak about the incident.
“It’s like opening the wound over and all over again,” he said.
British police released tributes from the relatives of those who had died. Also including the parents of soccer fan Nguyen Huy Hung, 15, and from the young son of victim Phan Thi Thanh, 41.
His poem “Beloved Mommy” included the line: “For the those who still have a mommy, Please don’t make her cry. Please love her, and be kind. It’s our mommy, my friend.”
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