Twenty-six held over migrant lorry tragedy in Britain

British Police officers stand on duty near to where a lorry, believed to have originated from Bulgaria, and containing 39 dead bodies, was discovered at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, east of London. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 May 2020

Twenty-six held over migrant lorry tragedy in Britain

  • The migrants — 31 men and eight women — were found dead in the truck in an industrial zone east of London in October
  • Police swooped in a series of raids around Brussels and Paris as part of a probe also involving British and Irish investigators

BRUSSELS: Police in Belgium and France have arrested 26 suspected people smugglers over the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a refrigerated truck in Britain last year.
The migrants — 31 men and eight women — were found dead in the truck in an industrial zone east of London in October, sparking an international outcry.
The driver of the lorry has already admitted manslaughter over the deaths but Tuesday’s arrests targeted the ring of smugglers suspected of organizing the migrants’ journey.
Police swooped in a series of raids around Brussels and Paris as part of a probe also involving British and Irish investigators.
In Belgium — where some of the victims stayed before their fateful journey — police held 13 people, including 11 Vietnamese nationals.
“The network set up by the smugglers is suspected of having likely transported up to several dozen people every day for several months,” Belgian federal prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.
“The organization focused on transporting refugees from Asia, particularly from Vietnam.”
Prosecutors suspect the gang organized the transport of the Vietnamese migrants in the container where they died.
Most of those arrested in France are also Vietnamese, according to an investigation source.
The probe has discovered that the migrants who died were loaded onto the truck in northern France, and that the network continued its operations even after the tragedy, charging 15,000 to 20,000 euros to cross from France to Britain.
Even the coronavirus lockdown did not stop the gang’s smuggling activities, the source said.
The tragedy shone a spotlight on the extraordinary dangers migrants are willing to risk to reach Britain, with some paying smugglers up to $40,000 for the perilous journey.
Post-mortem tests found the victims died from lack of oxygen and overheating, and one sent a poignant text message to her family in Vietnam as she lay dying in the truck.
The victims came from impoverished and remote corners of central Vietnam, a hotspot for people willing to embark on dangerous journeys in the hope of striking it rich abroad.
Many are smuggled illegally through Russia or China, often left owing huge sums to their traffickers and ending up working on cannabis farms or in nail salons.
The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson of Northern Ireland, last month pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the 39 deaths.
Four other men are on trial in London over the tragedy, while another man, Ronan Hughes, is facing extradition from Ireland to Britain on 39 counts of manslaughter and one of conspiracy to commit unlawful immigration.
Hughes is accused of organizing and controlling the drivers in the trafficking operation.


Four in Daniel Pearl case to remain jailed in Pakistan for now

Updated 5 min 10 sec ago

Four in Daniel Pearl case to remain jailed in Pakistan for now

  • A Karachi court sparked outrage when it acquitted British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other men who had been convicted of Pearl’s murder
  • The men were kept in custody following their acquittals, under a law allowing authorities to detain high-profile militants for three months

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities renewed the detention orders Thursday for four men whose convictions in the kidnapping and killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl had been overturned, meaning they will remain jailed at least three more months, an official said.
A Karachi court sparked outrage in April when it acquitted British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other men convicted in Pearl’s 2002 kidnapping and beheading.
The men were kept in custody following their acquittals, under a law allowing authorities to detain high-profile militants for three months.
“We have received orders from the (provincial) government for them to be detained for a further three months,” a prisons official in Karachi’s Sindh province told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Pakistan’s supreme court is expected to hear an appeal of the acquittal cases in September.
Pearl, 38, was South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story on extremists.
A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later.
Observers at the time said the killers were acting out of revenge for Pakistan’s support of the US-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.