European agencies investigating the death of 39 Vietnamese migrants, who were found dead in a refrigerated lorry in the UK’s Essex county last year, have arrested 26 people in France and Belgium allegedly linked to human trafficking organizations.
French police arrested 13 people suspected of belonging to a smuggling ring focused on bringing people from Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, to the UK, according to reports.
Another 13 were detained in Belgium during coordinated cross-border raids, according to the European Union’s (EU) justice agency Eurojust.
The raids were centered around Brussels and Paris.
On Wednesday, Eurojust said in a statement said, “The action is the result of a cross-border investigation supported by Eurojust and Europol which looks at the criminal activity of people smuggling across the continent, and was prompted by the discovery of 39 deceased Vietnamese nationals inside a refrigerated trailer in Essex in the United Kingdom in October 2019”.
Last month, UK driver pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants.
Earlier, UK police had said that the victims, 31 men and eight women, were Chinese, but a number of Vietnamese families have described how they fear their loved ones are among the dead.
He also denied one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019.
The migrants, including two 15-years-old, were found in the lorry on an industrial estate in Essex on October 23, 2019 and were mostly from poor and rural areas of Vietnam’s north-central provinces.
The container had come from Belgium into England, while the truck that transported it was believed to have originated in Northern Ireland.
It was the Britain’s largest murder probe in more than a decade.
The deaths echoed the discovery of 58 Chinese immigrants hidden in a Dutch truck in the English port of Dover in 2000. Only two had survived.