20 Vietnamese feared among 39 UK truck dead

NGHE AN, Vietnam (AFP) – As many as 20 Vietnamese citizens are feared among 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain this week, families and community organisers said yesterday, as one of the alleged truck owners denied involvement in the tragedy.

British police initially said all of the 31 men and eight women found early on Wednesday in a refrigerated lorry in an industrial park in Grays, east of London, were believed to be Chinese nationals.

Four people have been held over the incident, which has shocked Britain and shed light on dangerous trafficking routes into Europe taken by undocumented migrants.

Several Vietnamese families now fear their relatives, who may have been carrying falsified Chinese passports, are among the victims.

Britain-based community group VietHome said it had received “photos of nearly 20 people reported missing, age 15-45” from Vietnam, a popular source for smuggled migrants looking to better their lives in the United Kingdom (UK).

The truck carrying the migrants arrived in Purfleet on the River Thames estuary on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge just over an hour before ambulance crews called the police at 1.40am. The driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, was arrested at the scene.

The police investigation is Britain’s largest murder probe since the 2005 London suicide bombings.