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.


India coronavirus cases hit 2.5 million

Updated 15 August 2020

India coronavirus cases hit 2.5 million

  • India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases
  • Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed

MUMBAI: India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have crossed 2.5 million with another biggest single-day spike of 65,002 in the past 24 hours.
India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases.
The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported another 996 deaths for a total of 49,036. The average daily reported cases jumped from around 15,000 in the first week of July to more than 50,000 at the beginning of August.
The Health Ministry said the rise shows the extent of testing with 800,000 carried out in a single day. But experts say India needs to pursue testing more vigorously.
India’s two-month lockdown imposed nationwide in late March kept infections low. But it has eased and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas.

The new cases spiked after India reopened shops and manufacturing and allowed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to return to their homes from coronavirus-hit regions. Subways, schools and movie theaters remain closed.