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Inquests will be opened into deaths of Vietnamese migrants

Campaigners’ letter urged full inquests into deaths of 39 people in refrigerated lorry

Vietnamese migrants

Inquests will be opened into the deaths of the 39 Vietnamese migrants whose bodies were discovered in a refrigerated lorry in Essex last year, it has been confirmed.

The Guardian reported earlier on Tuesday that bereaved families and campaigners in the UK have called for inquests to be held into the deaths. A letter urging the home secretary, the Essex coroner and the chief coroner to ensure the inquests take place was sent.

On Tuesday, Essex county council, speaking on behalf of the Essex coroner, confirmed to the Guardian that inquests into the 39 deaths would be opened.

A spokesperson said: “When all the documentation is available, inquests touching upon the deaths of the 39 Vietnamese migrants will be opened by the Essex senior coroner.”

While criminal proceedings related to the tragic deaths continue, until now there had been no indication whether there would be any wider investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

A letter from the charity Inquest, Liberty and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants had been sent to the Essex coroner, Caroline Beasley-Murray, urging her to confirm that she will hold full inquests into the deaths. It had also been sent to the chief coroner, the home secretary and Home Office ministers.

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“Very serious concerns arise as to the circumstances in which 39 men, women and children came to die in such desperate circumstances in a refrigerated lorry in Essex on 23 October,” the letter states.

The three organisations question how and why the migrants came to travel undetected, particularly while crossing the border, and whether there had been a safer route for them to take. There is no legal route for unskilled workers from Vietnam to come to the UK.

“An indication from you that it is your intention that inquests should be held into these deaths would be likely to provide some welcome reassurance to the families of the deceased,” the letter says.

It adds that such confirmation would also reassure the wider public “that these deaths will be fully and fearlessly investigated in the context of widespread concern that vulnerable people are engaging in more and more desperate measures to reach the UK”.

READ ALSO: IOM’s concert for safe migration,social cohesion strikes right cord

Deborah Coles, the director Inquest, welcomed the news that inquests were to go ahead.

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“We hope the scope will be broad enough to satisfy the families about how and why their loved ones died,” she said. “Vulnerable people are engaging in more and more desperate measures to reach the UK and are at risk of extreme exploitation, serious harm and death. Men, women and children died in the most shocking circumstances and we owe it to them and their families to have the most searching scrutiny of these deaths in the hope of that changes will be made to help in preventing similar future deaths.”

Pham Van Thin, the father of Pham Thi Tra My, whose text saying “I’m sorry, mum … I’m dying because I can’t breathe” was circulated around the world, said: “I hope the British government can prevent such a tragedy from being repeated and reduce the risk for all people. I support such a thorough inquest.”

Nguyen Dinh Gia, the father of Nguyen Dinh Luong, who died in the lorry, said: “We did not arrange any activities this lunar new year because we are devastated. We just stayed at home and wiped away our tears when thinking of him. Our health has worsened recently. We don’t know how we can continue to live.

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“We organised the 100-day anniversary of his death on Sunday. Last year, he called us to congratulate us during lunar new year, but not this year. I agree and totally support an inquest to prevent such a case from happening again.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals last October was a shocking tragedy, and those responsible must be brought to justice. We are fully supporting Essex police with their investigation in this case, and are throwing the full force of the law at it.”

(theguardian.com)

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

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“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  Nigerian girl held captive in Lebanon cries for help

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

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“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  Ailing migrant dies as IOM supports 13 stranded travellers along Cote d’Ivoire –Ghana border

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

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Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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