Asia

Essex lorry deaths: Money raised for Vietnamese victims' families

Candles in the shape of the number 39, at the memorial service for the victims. Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The bodies of the Vietnamese nationals were discovered in a lorry container in Essex

More than $110,000 (£84,850) has been crowdfunded to help support the families of 39 Vietnamese people who died being smuggled into the UK.

The victims were found dead in a refrigerated lorry in the southern English county of Essex last month.

The money will be used to help pay for the costs of flying the bodies back to their families in Vietnam.

Vietnam's government has offered loans to relatives, some of whom told the BBC they will struggle to cover the costs.

Repatriation of a body will cost each family more than 66.2 million Vietnamese dong ($2,856; £2,204), according to the vice minister of foreign affairs.

If the body has been cremated beforehand, the cost is about two-thirds of that.

On Monday when news of the loans emerged, some of the families of the 39 victims told the BBC borrowing the money to fly the bodies home would leave them further in debt.

Pham Ngoc Tuan, brother of one of the victims, told the BBC's Nga Pham: "We already had to borrow so much money, we had to mortgage what we had. I don't even know if we can borrow any more."

Image copyright GoFundMe
Image caption One fundraiser has a target goal of $40,000 (£30,850)

Several Vietnamese organisations have helped to raise money for the families of the victims.

One GoFundMe page has raised more than $17,000 out of a target goal of $40,000.

They aim to give $1,000 to each family.

Vingroup, the biggest listed firm in Vietnam, has confirmed it will also donate 620 million dong to families.

According to Sasha Mai, one of the organisers of the funding efforts, other campaigns have raised more than $60,000 collectively.

These were organised by the Association of Nghe An people in the German capital Berlin, and the Vietnamese Association of Birmingham in the UK.

The Vietnamese government has not yet confirmed when the bodies of the victims will start to be repatriated.

Who were the victims of the Essex lorry tragedy?

The discovery of the 39 bodies in a refrigerated lorry in the town of Grays led to the launch of the largest murder investigation in the Essex police force's history.

Image copyright BBC News Still
Image caption Pham Thi Tra My was identified as one of the victims

Two lorry drivers have since been charged with manslaughter, and other people have been arrested.

The dead were eight women and 31 men. Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among the victims.

Pham Thi Tra My, 26, was among the victims who have been identified. Her family received a final mobile text message from her at 21:30 GMT on 22 October.

"I am really, really sorry, Mum and Dad, my trip to a foreign land has failed," it read.

"I am dying, I can't breathe. I love you very much Mum and Dad. I am sorry, Mother."

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