Vietnam receives last of 39 remains of trafficking victims

DO THANH, Vietnam (AP) – The last remains of the 39 Vietnamese who died while being smuggled in a truck to England last month were repatriated to their home country yesterday.

Photos by the official Vietnam News Agency showed the arrival at the Hanoi airport of 16 bodies and seven urns, which were flown from London. They were loaded into ambulances on a foggy morning for a trip to their hometowns in several provinces in northern and central Vietnam, where relatives were preparing to receive them.

The bodies were found on October 23 in the English town of Grays, east of London. Police said the victims were aged between 15 and 44. While no cause of death has been officially established, the circumstances suggested asphyxiation. The 31 men and eight women are believed to have paid human traffickers for their clandestine transit into England. Several suspects have been arrested in the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

An initial batch of 16 bodies were handed over to their families on Wednesday, and funerals held the following day.

The impoverished villages the victims hailed from have largely been left out of the economic development that has turned urban centres like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi into boom towns, sending many on a risky journey looking for a better life abroad.

Relatives carry the coffin of Hoang Van Tiep for a funeral ceremony in Dien Chau, Vietnam. Tiep was among the 39 Vietnamese who died when human traffickers carried them by truck to England in October. PHOTO: AP