Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed condolences Thursday to the families of the 39 migrants found in a truck near London last month, as his government vowed to repatriate them as soon as possible.
In a statement that came as British police confirmed that those discovered in the refrigerated truck on October 23 all came from Vietnam, Phuc voiced the “boundless grief” of “each and every Vietnamese person and the whole world.”
“On behalf of the Government, I would like to send my deep condolences to grandparents, parents, husbands and wives, siblings, children and relatives of the victims in the incident,” he said, according to state-run Vietnam News.
“The Vietnamese Government strongly condemns human trafficking and the illegal organization of migration and calls on countries in the region and the world to continue promoting cooperation and resolutely prevent and combat this especially dangerous kind of crimes,” added the prime minister.
“With my deep mercy, I would like to share these huge losses with the victims’ families and ask authorities and people of localities and the whole country to share, encourage and support to help their families soon overcome these huge losses that nothing could make up,” said Phuc.
Vietnam’s embassy in London expressed “profound condolences and sympathy” to bereaved families in a statement that said a government delegation already in Britain was coordinating with officials to get the bodies home.
"The Embassy of Vietnam in London is in deep sorrow over the death of 39 Vietnamese at Essex on the 23rd October 2019,” it said
"The embassy will continue to coordinate closely with the inter-agency delegation of the Government of Vietnam which is currently in the UK, the relevant agencies of Vietnam and the UK to provide consular protection and support for the bereaved families in order to bring their loved ones home at the earliest time,” the mission said.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security also noted that British authorities had confirmed the 39 migrants found in the refrigerated container on October were from the Southeast Asian country.
Local media in Vietnam said that of the 31 male and eight female victims, 21 came from Nghe An Province, 11 originated in Ha Tinh Province, while the remaining seven came from Hai Phong, Hai Duong, Quang Binh and Thua Thien-Hue.
"The Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam is very sorry and would like to extend its deepest condolences to the victims' families and hope that the victims' families will soon overcome this great pain and loss,” it said.
"The Vietnamese authorities are urgently working with UK authorities to protect citizens; at the same time, coordinate with UK Police to urgently investigate and clarify the case," the ministry said.
Nghe An and Ha Tinh, as well as the other sources of the 39 victims, are historically poorer provinces of Vietnam and have been hard-hit by environmental disaster and the intensifying effects of climate change.
Many Vietnamese households send their children abroad to make a living, especially through illegal labor, Vietnamese analysts say, often amassing crushing debt to pay for air tickets and smugglers’ fees.
Beyond poor job prospects, environmental disasters and government repression toward Catholics drive immigration, they say.
Many young Vietnamese choose this path, despite the harsh consequences they know they will face if authorities in other countries discover they are living and working illegally there, analysts say.
On social media in Vietnam, there were displays of sympathy for the victims.
“Even though they left illegally and they violated the law, they are Vietnamese, and they died in pain, in struggle, in despair, in tight darkness. That is a terrible thing that we will never want it to happen with even the most hated enemy,” said a commenter named Nga Pham.
Nga Pham called on Vietnam’s National Assembly to “spend a minute to silently remember 39 deaths in cold and choking in the lorry taking them to England” and said the government should bear the expense of bringing bodies home.
“In the end, only kindness matters,” the commenter wrote.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Paul Eckert.