In the latest turn of events, authorities have found out that the nationalities of the 39 bodies found inside a refrigerator lorry in Essex, UK on October 23, were not Bulgarians but Chinese nationals.
Essex Police have been granted an extra 24 hours to question lorry driver Mo Robinson, 25, on suspicion of murdering the eight women and 31 men. The National Crime Agency is also working in the case to establish if there’s an involvement by “organised crime groups”, BBC reported.
Police said the tractor unit or the front part of the lorry entered the country via Holyhead in Wales on Sunday, October 20 from Dublin.
The lorry has far been moved to a secure site at Tilbury Docks for further investigation of the “largest murder investigation in the force’s history”, said the Essex Police.
Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xioming has tweeted that the Chinese embassy had read the reports of the deaths “with heavy hearts” and was in close contact with British police.
In earlier reports, Essex police initially suggested the lorry could be from Bulgaria after a spokesman for the Bulgarian foreign affairs ministry confirmed the truck was registered in the country under the name of a company owned by an Irish citizen.
However, they later said the officers believed the lorry entered the UK from Belgium as the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office stated the container arrived in the Belgian port of Zeebrugge at 14:29 on Tuesday and left later that afternoon.
It was not clear when the victims were placed in the container or if the crime happened in Belgium, a spokesman said.
UK, an ideal destination for refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers
Ahmad Al-Rashid, a Syrian refugee from the war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria recalling his and his fellow refugees’ gruesome experience in the hands of human traffickers in 2013, said he could relate to what the Chinese victims have gone through.
In an interview with Channel 4 news, Ahmad said that sometime in 2013, he was told by the traffickers to take the lorry along with the other refugees to get to Europe.
“[We were] kept at the back of a lorry in 2013. I was kept there for two hours and [sic]could not breathe in there anymore. It was freezing cold and so we knocked and knocked and knocked (the walls of the container) then the smuggler came and he lead us out,” he recalled.
“I can relate to this horrendous experience because you would see death with your own eyes,” said Ahmad about his ordeal.
The father of two said he was “in a survival mode” when he dared take the dangerous journey back in 2013 in an attempt to escape the ISIS extremists who invaded his country and looked for a safe place where his children could grow up and have a bright future.
UK government agencies’ dilemma in dealing with illegal migrants
The Immigration Services Union (ISU) admitted that the large number of lorries that come into the UK made it impossible for the ISU, a group that specialises on borders, immigration and customs, to look inside them all.
“We don’t have the facility to check the vast majority of freight which arrives in the UK, whether it moves or not,” Lucy Moreton of ISU said.
“But it’s certainly the case that disconnected freight containers, which are then transported separately, are somewhat less likely unless we have intelligence to the contrary that suggests we need to do that,” Moreton added.
Meanwhile, the Home Office, UK’s ministerial department responsible for immigration, security and law and order said it searched lorries and containers “on a targeted basis using a range of different technologies”.
Shaun Sawyer of the National Police Chiefs Council that lead authority against modern slavery and human trafficking, said while forces had prevented thousands of deaths, “tragically, for 39 people that didn’t work yesterday”.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Sawyer explained even if there were routes perceived as easier to get through, organised criminals would still exploit people who could not access those.
“You can’t turn the United Kingdom into a fortress,” added the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police.
Police officers and councillors have signed a book of condolences which was opened at Thurrock Council’s chambers.
A vigil was held outside the Home Office to “call for urgent action to ensure safe passage” for people fleeing war and poverty.
According to data gathered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 22,500 migrant deaths and disappearances took place globally since 2014. However, there could be more deaths that have been left unrecorded for various reasons.
Sometimes, it is because deaths occur in remote regions of the world, while in other cases, it may simply be due to the lack of priority given to collecting such data by national authorities, or a lack of resources to collect such information, the IOM said. (Source: BBC)