UK Charges 4 With Manslaughter after Death of 39 Migrants
After finding 39 frozen bodies in a tractor-trailer last week, UK authorities arrested the driver and three other suspects of manslaughter, Essex police announced Monday.
Maurice Robinson, a 25-years-old driver from Northern Ireland, appeared in court to face 39 manslaughter charges, as well as charges to conspiracy to traffic people, to assist unlawful immigration, and launder money.
The three have been released on bail but the driver remanded in custody.
‘’The man and woman from Warrington have both been released on bail until 11 November, while the man from Northern Ireland has been bailed until 13 November,’’ police said in a statement.
Police discovered the bodies on Wednesday, after emergency services were also alerted about people in the container on an industrial site about 20 miles from central London, in Essex. Upon arriving at the scene, police found the bodies of 31 men and 8 women, including one minor.
‘’We believe that the lorry is from Bulgaria and came into the UK through Holyhead on the 19th of October,’’ police said.
By the time the ambulance arrived at the scene, the victims were already dead and nothing could be done for them as they are thought to have been exposed to temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than 10 hours.
Police later said that the victims were Chinese nationals.
Police have not yet determined where the migrants entered the container, but believe the lorry had travelled from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium into Purfleet on the River Thames in Essex, docking in Thurrock. Investigators conducted searches at three locations in Northern Ireland, where the driver is from.
"At unaccompanied ports, the driver will drop off the trailer at the port, the port will load the trailer onto the ship and a different driver will pick it up on the other side and drive it away," Mark Simmonds, head of policy and external affairs at British Ports, told Al Jazeera.
Police also told the Telegraph that they were focusing in on a south Armagh-based criminal gang with links to dissident paramilitaries.
According to the Telegraph, police will try to discover involvement on three people with bases very close to the Irish border, with one of them being linked to the company from Bulgaria that is the owner of the lorry cab that transported the refrigerated container.
The spokesman for the Bulgarian foreign affairs ministry said the truck was registered in the country under the name of a company owned by an Irish citizen. The Bulgarian Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation and announced that authorities would work with UK police to resolve this tragic case.
‘’The investigation will focus on the organisers of and all other parties involved in this transport,” the Office said. ‘’It is not yet clear when the victims were placed in the container and whether this happened in Belgium.’’
In Britain's biggest illegal immigrant tragedy in 2000, British customs officials found the bodies of 58 Chinese people crammed into a tomato truck at the southern port of Dover.
The death of a migrant has become a topic that no longer hits the headlines, while countless refugees and economic migrants are still putting their lives in danger trying to get to the UK and Europe.
According to the UN, the problem peaked in 2016 when almost 3,780 deaths on sea were registered. More than 1,000 people already drowned this year.