First 16 of 39 Bodies Found in U.K. Returned to Vietnam.

Eugene Whong
vn-uk-16-bodies-crop.jpg Airport personnel carry a coffin containing a body repatriated from the U.K. on the tarmac of the Noi Bai airport on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Vietnam News Agency via AP

The bodies of 16 of the 39 dead Vietnamese found in a refrigerated truck in the U.K. last month were returned to Vietnam and delivered to their families Wednesday.

The 39 are believed to have been trying to enter the U.K. when they perished. Authorities suspect they paid human traffickers for secret passage to England.

The brother of one of the deceased confirmed Wednesday that his family received the body in a phone call with RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“[His body] arrived at 1:30 p.m. today,” said Nguyen Dinh Oanh, whose brother Nguyen Din Luong, was only 20 years old.

“We will take him to the cemetery and bury him tomorrow afternoon,” said Oanh.

The government of Vietnam financially assisted the families with repatriating the deceased. In the Nguyen family’s case, they had to borrow 66.24 million dong (U.S. $2854.21) to bring Luong’s body to their home in Ha Tinh province’s Can Loc district.

“They advanced the money to bring him home and we will pay it back later,” said Oanh, adding, “We appreciate the help from the government to bring him home.”

The 39 bodies were discovered Oct. 23 in Grays, a town east of London. According to local police, the 31 male and eight female victims ranged between ages 15 and 44. Several arrests in connection to the case have been made both in Vietnam and in the U.K.

Gareth Ward, the British ambassador to Vietnam said in a video statement Wednesday that both Vietnam and the U.K. would continue their efforts “to prevent human trafficking and protect vulnerable people here.”

“We will continue working with Vietnamese authorities to investigate the criminal acts that led to this tragedy,” he said. “In the coming time, I plan to visit the affected communities to express my condolences and reinforce the British government’s commitment to preventing anything like this from happening again.”

A truck driver in London Monday pleaded guilty to conspiring with several other people to assist in an illegal immigration plot and acquire illegal property, British media reports said.

Police said the driver, Maurice Robinson of Northern Ireland, drove the truck’s cab to the port city of Purfleet. It picked up the container with the 39 Vietnamese after it had arrived there from Zeebrugge, Belgium.

British police also arrested a 36-year-old male on suspicion of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration Monday. Two others have also been arrested in Ireland and Britain in connection with the case.

Additional reporting and translation by RFA's Vietnamese Service.

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