A relative lights an incense stick infront of a portrait of Bui Thi Nhung, who is feared to be among the 39 people found dead in a truck, inside her house in Vietnam on Saturday. AFP
More Vietnamese citizens are feared among 39 people found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain this week, families and community organisers said on Saturday, after the tragedy laid bare the risks of illegal migrant routes to Europe.
British police initially said all 31 men and eight women found in a lorry in an industrial park in Essex this week were believed to be Chinese.
But several Vietnamese families have come forward saying their relatives went missing on route to Britain, a prime destination for Vietnamese migrants seeking better lives abroad.
All of the families come from impoverished and remote corners of central Vietnam, a hotspot for migrants embarking on dangerous journeys and lured by promises of earning quick riches overseas.
Many are smuggled illegally through Russia or China, often indebted tens of thousands of dollars and carrying falsified documents, and end up working off the books on cannabis farms or in nail salons.
Five people have been arrested in the UK in connection with the tragedy, which sparked the largest murder probe in Britain in almost 15 years.
Several families told AFP on Saturday they feared their relatives were among the dead.
In central Ha Tinh province, the father of 20-year-old Nguyen Dinh Luong said he received a call from a Vietnamese man in the UK this week saying his son had died en route to Britain.
"I fell to the ground when I heard that," Nguyen Dinh Gia said. "It seemed that he was in the truck with the accident, all of them dead."
Britain-based community group VietHome said it had received "photos of nearly 20 people reported missing, age 15-45" from Vietnam.
The truck carrying the migrants arrived in Purfleet on the River Thames estuary on Wednesday, on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.
British police refused to confirm if any of the victims were Vietnamese on Saturday, after all the bodies had been transferred to hospital for autopsies.
But a senior officer said he had met Vietnam's ambassador to discuss how to fast track the process of finger print identification and DNA testing to identify the victims.
Vietnam's Prime Minister on Saturday called for government agencies to help establish victims' identities and look into illegal migration.
Police did not rule out the possibility that the victims could have been trafficked into the UK by "criminals."
"We've got to be realistic. We know that... we have people coming into the country, either being trafficked or as asylum seekers," Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore told reporters.
"It must be clear that criminals — and that's what we're dealing with, criminals, murderers — are taking more and more chances with these vulnerable people," he added.
An Irish man in his early 20s was arrested on Saturday in connection with the incident, police said.
Migrants are humans too. Fleeing poverty, conflict and persecution, they risk their lives looking for safer shores. Many of them have lost their lives while doing so, but the world does not seem to bother.
If the place you stay in becomes toxic, what will your next step be? No option there, but to move out and hunt for a safer abode. That is the case with people who knock at the borders
The world is going through a very difficult time where humans are bereft of humanity (“Do not turn hope into despair for migrants,” Jan.11, Gulf Today). The world should be peaceful,
Hundreds of soldiers were called for duty and heavy machinery deployed in Vietnam on Thursday to search for survivors after landslides caused by torrential rain from Typhoon Molave, which whiplashed the country.
Chagoury said: “It is so frustrating. It is like (the patient) is already useless (when we could still function.)"
Tunisia has opened an investigation after reports that the suspect in the Nice attack is Tunisian, the spokesman for a specialised counter-militancy court, Mohsen Dali, said.