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U.K. Police Release Names of 39 People Found Dead in Essex Truck

LONDON — The police on Friday released the names, ages and home provinces of the 39 Vietnamese people who were found dead in a refrigerated trailer in southeastern England last month, after dozens of families had waited weeks for confirmation that their missing relatives were among the victims.

There were 10 teenagers among the people found in the refrigerated trailer on Oct. 23 in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, the police said in a statement. They ranged in age from 15 to 44.

Among the victims was Pham Thi Tra My, 26, from a village in Ha Tinh, Vietnam, who had texted her mother hours before the bodies were discovered, “I’m sorry, Mom, my path abroad didn’t succeed.”

Ms. Pham added: “Mom, I love you and Dad so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe.”

Nguyen Huy Hung and Dinh Dinh Binh, both 15, were also among the victims, as was Tran Ngoc Hieu, 17.

The grisly discovery of the bodies in October shed a grim light on human trafficking and smugglers who prey on desperate people trying to reach Europe for a better future. An estimated 18,000 Vietnamese people a year set on the journey.

Vietnamese smugglers also call it the “CO2” route, a poorly ventilated trip across the English Channel in shipping containers or trailers, which marks the final leg of a perilous 6,000-mile journey across Asia and Europe.

For many in Vietnam, Britain represents a chance at better economic opportunities than other European countries. That prospect has turned Vietnam into a major source of human-trafficking victims to Britain, experts say, the second-highest after Albania.

Most Vietnamese end up working in cannabis farms, restaurants, nail salons and in the catering industry, said Nando Sigona, the chairman of international migration and forced displacement at the University of Birmingham.

Mr. Sigona, who has studied the migration path of young Vietnamese to Britain, said worsening livelihoods in Vietnam have forced people there to take on higher debts than many others traveling from other Asian countries.

“The more risks you’re able to take, the less you will pay,” Mr. Sigona said. “It’s survival migration.”

But hopes that migrants will earn more money in Britain than in other Western European countries are often illusionary, Mr. Sigona added, leading many to take more unnecessary risks.

“There is this idea that Britain is a better place for migrants than, say, France,” he noted. “Once they’re here, they realize it might not be so true. Yet those back home in Vietnam keep thinking that one more step to Britain will be worth it.”

Ten of the victims identified were from Ha Tinh, one of Vietnam’s poorest provinces, where officials estimate 41,000 people left in the first eight months of this year. But most of the victims found in the trailer were from Nghe An, according to the Essex Police, which said 20 had originating from there.

Among them was Nguyen Dinh Tu, a 26-year-old father of two children, ages 5 and 18 months, who had borrowed $ 17,000 to build a house for his family. Mr. Nguyen had worked at a food company in Romania, and later at a restaurant in Germany, before embarking on a final journey to England, hoping to make more money.

“If you want your life in the village to change,” Mr. Nguyen’s brother said in October, “the only way is to go overseas.”

Last month, a journalist from The Times met four families that feared their relatives were among the victims.

Nguyen Dinh Luong, a 20-year-old farmer whose body was also found in the trailer in Essex and whose first name the police spelled Lurong, had traveled to Russia, then Ukraine, before reaching France in July 2018.

He had hoped to find to work there as a waiter. In October, he went to Belgium, aiming to reach England and to work in a nail salon. His father, Nguyen Dinh Gia, had given DNA samples to the police to help in the identification.

Ms. Pham, the 26-year-old woman who wanted to work as a manicurist in England, shared the same hopes. She had tried to reach Britain, convinced that she could find a job as a manicurist and help her family, which had accumulated $ 19,000 in debt. She had worked in Japan but decided to try to reach England, convinced that she would earn more there.

Her parents said they had taken out a mortgage on their home to finance her trip. But the last words they received from her were the desperate text message.

On Friday, upon hearing that his daughter’s body was found in the trailer, Ms. Pham’s father said: “I do not know what to say. I only wish the governments of two countries will help us to bring my daughter back to Vietnam.”

He said his wife had been unable to get out of bed ever since they had realized their daughter was among the victims.

The Essex Police said the Vietnamese and British governments were working together to repatriate the victims’ bodies. For weeks, the British authorities had scrambled to identify the victims, first announcing that the bodies found in the trailer were believed to be Chinese and that one minor was among them — instead of three as announced on Friday.

“Our priority has been to identify the victims, to preserve the dignity of those who have died and to support the victims’ friends and families,” said Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith of Essex Police, the senior officer overseeing the investigation.

Mr. Smith said that the families had been “given some time to absorb this tragic news before we publicly confirmed their loved one’s identity.”

Sui-Lee Wee and Chau Doan contributed reporting from Vietnam, and Anna Schaverien from London.

Source: NYT > World News

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