NGHE AN: With tears in their eyes and white roses in their hands, friends and relatives of the 39 Vietnamese people who were found dead in the back of a British truck last month sobbed as the first bodies to be repatriated arrived in rural Vietnam.
The bodies of 16 victims arrived in the South-East Asian country early yesterday morning, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“After waiting for so many days, my son has finally arrived, ” said Nguyen Dinh Gia, father of victim Nguyen Dinh Luong.
Under grey and rainy skies, a parade of ambulances snaked through crowds of mourners in the rural town of Dien Chau, Nghe An province, from which some of the victims began the doomed journey.
Five of the 16 bodies would be returned to Nghe An, an official there said.
“We are deeply saddened, but we have to hold back the emotion to organise the funeral for my son, ” Gia said from neighbouring Ha Tinh province, where another 10 victims were from.
Cloth-wrapped coffins arrived at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport early yesterday and were loaded into the back of a fleet of waiting ambulances, state media showed.
The bodies would be taken to the homes of their next of kin in Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces, the foreign ministry said.
Vietnamese and British authorities continued to coordinate to repatriate the remaining bodies, it added without giving further details.
Police in Vietnam have arrested 10 people in connection with the deaths.
On Monday, the British driver of the truck admitted plotting to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.
“This is a very difficult time, ” Britain’s ambassador to Vietnam, Gareth Ward, said in a video statement released on Wednesday.
“But I promise the families and the Vietnamese people as a whole that we will continue to boost the cooperation between the UK and Vietnam to prevent human trafficking and protect vulnerable people here.”
The grisly discovery last month on an industrial estate near London, a magnet for Vietnamese migrants, has shone a spotlight on the people-smuggling trade bringing the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.
In Vietnam, poor job prospects, environmental disasters and the promise of financial rewards are all factors pushing people to leave. — Reuters