Discovery of 39 bodies in refrigerated truck sparks concerns of Vietnamese families
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Discovery of 39 bodies in refrigerated truck sparks concerns of Vietnamese families

The bodies were found hours after the refrigerated trailer left the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Credit: © Belga

As British authorities work to identify the 39 victims found inside a refrigerated truck in England hours before it left Belgium, Vietnamese families worry that their relatives may be among the dead.

The bodies were found inside the truck as it reached the town of Grays, Essex, just hours after it left the Belgian port of Zeebrugge in the early hours of 23 October.

Federal prosecutors in Belgium have launched an investigation which will focus on finding and identifying the suspected organisers of the victim’s transport.

Belgian authorities on Thursday said that it was not yet clear in what location the victims had been placed in the container, but the mayor of Bruges declared it “virtually impossible” that they had entered the truck in the port of Zeebrugge.

On Monday, Belgian police officers will travel to England to assist police there with the investigation.

According to the preliminary findings of the investigation launched by English police, the bodies found inside the truck belonged to 38 adults and one teenager. The bodies belonged to eight women and 31 men.

In the immediate aftermath of the discovery, several media reports suggested that the victims were Chinese nationals, but the identification of the bodies is still ongoing.

Human trafficking probe launched in Vietnam

The discovery has sparked concerns among at least 24 Vietnamese families, who fear their relatives may be among the dead, according to the Belga news agency.

Families said that some of their relatives had paid thousands of pounds to ensure their safe passage into the UK, where they would work to provide for their families back home.

A total of 24 people are reported missing in the central Vietnamese provinces of Ha Tinh et Nghe An, with Vietnam’s prime minister on Sunday ordering the opening of an investigation into human trafficking.

British officials said the process will be lengthy, as the victims had not a lot of identity papers on them, with documents sent to the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security as part of the process, the BBC reports.

A total of five people have been arrested in the UK in connection with the harrowing discovery, three of whom were released on bail.

A fourth man said to be in his twenties, was arrested in Dublin on Saturday and is said to be “of interest” to the investigation, with reports by Belga news agency suggesting that he drove the truck into Zeebrugge.

A Northern Irish man, identified as 35-year-old Maurice Robinson, who was driving the truck was arrested and is set to appear before a court on Monday.

Robinson is facing charges on 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffick people and to assist in unlawful immigration and money laundering.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times