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27.11.2019 Europe

First bodies of UK truck victims received by mourning families in Vietnam

NOV 27, 2019 EUROPE

The first remains of the 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain last month have arrived in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi where they were met by crowds of grieving relatives.

Sixteen bodies were flown from London to Hanoi, where they were quickly shuttled in ambulances to their hometowns in central Vietnam.

The rest of the remains are expected to arrive in Vietnam at the weekend, though officials have not announced the schedule.

Thirty-one men and eight women were found dead in a refrigerated truck in an industrial park in Essex, east of London, on 23 October.

Ten of the dead were teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys.

The 16 victims bodies repatriated on Wednesday hailed from three provinces – Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.

Borrowing money to bring back bodies
Victims' relatives have taken out loans from the government to cover the cost of repatriation: $1,800 to bring back ashes, or $2,900 for the cost of a coffin carrying the body.

Cremation is rare in the Vietnam countryside, where many of the victims were from.

Some funerals were due to start Wednesday and burials could take place later this week.

Increase cooperation to prevent human trafficking

Britain's ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward sent his condolences to families in a video message, saying it was a "very difficult time".

He promised families the UK and Vietnam would cooperate to "prevent human trafficking and protect vulnerable people here".

The tragedy has exposed the dangers of illegal journeys from Vietnam to the UK, a top destination for migrants from Vietnam.

Many are promised well-paid jobs, possibly in nail bars or cannabis farms where many Vietnamese migrants end up.

41 charges against Northern Irish driver
On Monday, the Northern Irish driver of the truck, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson, pleaded guilty to conspiring to assist illegal immigration.

He also admitted acquiring cash that came from criminal conduct. He did not enter pleas to 41 other charges levelled against him.

Several others have been arrested in the UK over the incident, while Vietnam has held at least 10 people, though none have been formally charged.

(with AFP)