A Vietnamese court has sentenced four people to between two-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years in prison for their role in the deaths of 39 migrants, whose bodies were discovered in the back of a truck in England during October last year.
- Prosecutors said the people involved organised travel to Europe for the victims
- The bodies of 31 men and eight women were discovered in the truck container
- The father of one of the victims says he believes it was “an accident”
The deaths shocked Britain and Vietnam and shone a spotlight on the illicit global trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.
The Vietnamese defendants, aged between 24 and 36, were found guilty of “organising and brokering illegal emigration”, after a one-day trial in the central province of Ha Tinh, Pham Van Thin, the father of one of the victims said.
The victims, who included two 15-year-old boys, were mostly from Ha Tinh and its neighbouring Nghe An province, where poor job prospects, encouragement by authorities, smuggling gangs and environmental issues have fuelled migration.
They were discovered last October in a container at the back of a truck on an industrial estate in the town of Grays, about 37km east of London.
A police statement said the defendants arranged for Pham Thi Tra My — whose desperate text messages sent from inside the container first alerted the world to the victims’ plight — to help them travel illegally to France and then to Britain.
Ms Pham, 26, was found dead with the 38 other victims in the container.
“I honestly don’t want the defendants to face long prison sentences as I know that it was just an accident,” Mr Thin, Ms Pham’s father said.
“Handing them long prison terms won’t help me get back my daughter.”
Last month, a 40-year-old Irish haulier, Ronan Hughes, became the second man to plead guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter relating to his involvement in the case.
The other was Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland, who was driving the truck when the bodies were found.
A third man, Eamonn Harrison, 23, also from Northern Ireland, pleaded not guilty to the same charges.
A trial is due to begin on October 5.