Fortress Europe: UK Truck Deaths Put Human Trafficking in the Spotlight

Written by | Monday, October 28th, 2019

The 39 people, including at least one teenager, found dead in a lorry shipped from Belgium to Britain are “all are believed to be Chinese nationals,” British police said in a statement on Thursday (24 October). Police and paramedics discovered the bodies early on Wednesday in a truck container on an industrial estate at Grays, about 20 miles (32 km) east of the British capital, London. Belgian prosecutors confirmed the container was shipped from the port of Zeebrugge a day earlier. The tragedy brings back the dark memories of the deaths of 58 migrants in 2000 found in a cargo of tomatoes in Dover, England, who had undertaken a perilous, months-long journey from China’s southern Fujian province.
The latest discovery of scores of dead bodies near London has raised concerns over the risks that smugglers force upon desperate people. British police have opened a murder investigation into the case. A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder, while the Bulgarian foreign ministry said the truck had been registered in Varna to a company owned by an Irish woman. The tragedy has again brought into spotlight the issue of human trafficking and the increasing securitization of the EU’s internal and external borders at the time the UK is readying to depart the EU. Only a small percentage of trailers are checked on the UK-Belgian border because both are in the European Union’s single market and customs union.
But a lot more deaths may never become known, warns Gabriella Sanchez, research lead at the European University Institute’s Migrant Smuggling Observatory. “There are no routes, this happens all the time.” About 200 people each month makes the attempt to cross the English Channel in small boats from France to the UK. “In order to claim asylum in the UK you must physically be here, unless you come via a resettlement program,” said Clare Mosely of Care4Calais, a charity supporting migrants and refugees in Northern France and Belgium. “Other than this it has become almost impossible for people to come to the UK in a safe way.”

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