Thirty-one men and eight women were found dead Wednesday in the container of a truck, which came from Belgium.
The 39 dead found in a refrigerated truck near London in the night of Tuesday to Wednesday were Chinese nationals, said Thursday, October 24 the British police, who launched an extensive investigation to determine the circumstances of the tragedy.
There were 8 women, including a young adult, and 31 men. Representatives of the Chinese Embassy in the UK are scheduled to visit the scene Thursday, Chinese authorities said.
The tragedy echoes a precedent in the United Kingdom: in June 2000, 58 Chinese illegal immigrants were found dead asphyxiated in a truck in the port of Dover. The driver of the truck was sentenced to fourteen years in prison and nine Chinese were sentenced for human trafficking in the Netherlands.
A major investigation is underway to determine the circumstances that led to the deaths, which provoked horror and indignation in the country, as well as numerous calls to strengthen the fight against illegal immigration more risky in the face of stricter controls.
The 25-year-old truck driver from Northern Ireland was held for 24 hours on Thursday as part of a murder investigation, police said. Three searches took place on Wednesday night in Portadown, County Armagh, where the young man is from, according to British media reports.
On Wednesday, the security forces were alerted shortly before 1:40 (2:40 pm French time) by the emergency services of the presence of a truck containing 39 bodies lifeless in an industrial area in Grays, France. Essex, about thirty miles east of London and near Purfleet Harbor, on the Thames.
A "complex and long" investigation
The police have traced the route of the truck and that of the container. The truck entered the UK on Sunday, October 20th via the port of Holyhead, on the west coast of England, from Dublin. Then he took charge of the container around 0:30 Wednesday at Purfleet, where he had arrived from Zeebrugge, Belgium.
The truck and its cargo left the port at about 1:05 am. About 30 minutes later, the police were called by the ambulance service in the area who told him about the discovery of the 39 bodies. The investigation into the circumstances of their deaths is announced "Complex and long", according to the police.
A local taxi driver interviewed by the BBC reported seeing trucks stop in the area and disembark migrants.
"They arrive, they do not speak English, they give you a phone, you have someone on the other end of the line who asks you to bring them to an address, usually to London. "
When did the victims enter the container?
The Belgian federal prosecutor, who has also opened an investigation, said the container arrived in Zeebrugge on Tuesday at 14:49 and had left the port in the afternoon to arrive at Purfleet at 1 am Wednesday. "For the moment, we do not know when the victims were placed in the container and if it happened in Belgium", he said. The survey will focus "About the organizers and all the other people involved in this transport".
The truck was registered in Bulgaria, confirmed the prime minister of that country, Boyko Borissov, on behalf of a company based in Northern Ireland, but had not entered Bulgarian territory since 2017.