Campaigners’ letter urged full inquests into deaths of 39 people in refrigerated lorry
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.
“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”.
Deborah Coles, the director Inquest, welcomed the news that inquests were to go ahead.
“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.
“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.”
IOM launches open South America portal
Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open South America, available in Spanish, English and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.
The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.
The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.
Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.
“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.
“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.
29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.
About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.
Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.
He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.
Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.
“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”
Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.
“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.
Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.
The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.
FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK
The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.
Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.
Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.
Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.
“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.
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