Essex lorry deaths: Victims' bodies arrive back in Vietnam

Vehicles carrying some of the remains of the 39 UK truck victims leave Noi Bai airport in Hanoi on November 27, 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ambulances will take the victims' bodies to their homes

The bodies of 16 Vietnamese people who were found dead in a refrigerated lorry in the UK have arrived back in Vietnam.

They were among 39 migrants - eight women and 31 males, including two boys aged 15 - found in Essex on 23 October.

The bodies were flown to Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport, and will be taken by ambulance to their family homes.

Investigations are under way in both the UK and Vietnam, and a lorry driver has admitted plotting to assist illegal immigration.

"We have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. We will organise the funeral as soon as he's returned," said Vo Van Binh, the father of one victim, Vo Van Linh.

Speaking to AFP from Ha Tinh province, he said the family were "very sad, but happy as finally my son is back".

The bodies of the remaining victims will be repatriated in the coming days, though a date has not been confirmed.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The remains arrived in Hanoi early on Wednesday

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

The Vietnamese government had offered loans to relatives, though some have said this will only add to the debts they incurred by helping their relatives make the journey to the UK.

Several Vietnamese organisations have helped to raise money for the families of the victims. More than $110,000 has now been crowdfunded to help support the families.

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

On 23 October, police found the bodies at the back of a refrigerated lorry in the town of Grays in Essex, eastern England.

One of the victims, Pham Thi Tra My, had sent distressing messages to her family on the evening of 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."

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