With hopes of finding a better life, 39 migrants from Asia risked and lost their lives trying to reach the United Kingdom.
Composed of eight women and 31 men, the victims’ bodies were discovered naked or with minimal clothing inside a truck found in Grays, Essex. The container reportedly crisscrossed the Channel via refugee hotspots. The bodies have been moved to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford where they are being formally identified.
While it was initially believed that the victims were Chinese, dozens of Vietnamese families have since reported missing relatives whom they suspect to be among the dead. Families have been reaching out to the media, community organizations and acquaintances in the U.K., hoping for any news about them.
Recent findings revealed that as many as 25 of them were from the same impoverished Vietnamese village. Several of the victims were going to work in nail salons, according to their relatives.
British organization VietHome, which aids U.K.-based Vietnamese residents, noted that it had so far received 20 photographs and names of people feared to have been inside the lorry container. Among the suspected victims were Anna Bui Thi Nhung, Pham Thi Tra My, Nguyen Dinh Luong, Nguyen Dinh Tu, Vo Ngoc Nam, Nguyen Huy Hung and cousins Hung Nguyen and Hoang Van Tiep.
Anna Bui Thi Nhung is a 19-year-old aspiring nail technician from Vietnam who paid an agent over $10,000 so she can enter the U.K., Reuters reports.
Her family revealed that Nhung’s father died of cancer a few years ago while her mother was unable to work due to health complications. Relatives and loved ones pooled their money to finance Nhung’s search for a better life abroad.
On October 21, days before the news of the tragedy emerged, she wrote this on Facebook: “Being grown up means having to hide your sadness in the dark, and keeping a smile on your face.” According to her relatives, they had heard from a friend living in the U.K. that “Nhung is one of the victims.”
“Nhung didn’t have the qualifications to get a good job with handsome pay. Nor do her friends and many others here,” Nhung’s uncle, Hoang Binh, was quoted as saying. “Going abroad and sending back money was the only choice.”
Meanwhile, parents of suspected victim Pham Thi Tra My admittedly paid smugglers over $38,500 so their daughter can travel to the U.K. via China “in search of a better life.”
Grieving parents Nguyen Thi Phong and Pham Van Thin said their 26-year-old daughter sent them a series of messages saying: “I’m sorry Dad and Mom. The way I went overseas was not successful. Mom, I love Dad and you so much. I’m dying because I can’t breathe. Nghen, Can Loc, Ha Tinh, Vietnam. Mom, I am so sorry, Mom.” They believed the message was sent just before her death.
The pair, who make around $400 a month together, said they saved the money to pay for their daughter’s travel fees.
According to Pham, the smugglers did not tell them how their daughter would be transported to the U.K.
“The smugglers said that this was a … safe route, that people would go by airplane, car … if I had known she would go by this route, I would not have let her go,” he said.
A local human rights worker told the BBC that Tra My was forced to make to the trip because her family was in debt and she wanted to help them.
“She had just returned from Japan where she was working to try and pay off the debt. And that was not enough and so she looked for a better future,” she said.
A 20-year-old man named Nguyen Dinh Luong is also among the suspected victims. Luong, who had been living illegally in France since last year, reportedly told father Nguyen Dinh Gia two weeks ago that he was planning to go to Britain to work in a nail salon.
He noted that he needed to pay $14,000 for the journey. However, the father had not been able to reach him since last week. Days ago, he received a call from a Vietnamese man saying, “Please have some sympathy, something unexpected happened.”
“I fell to the ground when I heard that,” Gia told the Agence France-Presse. “It seemed that he was in the truck with the accident, all of them dead.”
Nguyen Dinh Tu, one of the recent suspected victims, asked his wife Hoang Thi Thuong to help him raise $14,000 a few months ago so he can travel to the U.K.
Tu had been working in Romania and Germany illegally and decided to seek help from his wife for money so he can move to the U.K. Now, Thuong is left with nothing but debts.
“I lost contact with him on October 21,” Thuong said. “I have a big debt to pay, no hope, and no energy to do anything.”
According to Tu’s father, Nguyen Dinh Sat, their relatives in the U.K. knew that Tu was inside the truck and had been planning to pick him up at the drop-off point. Sat said he hasn’t heard anything from his son since.
Vo Ngoc Nam, a 28-year-old father of two, called his wife Ta Thi Oanh last Tuesday afternoon to say that he was on a truck going to Britain. He also asked her to call her parents and ask them to pray for him.
“After reading information about the 39 people in the container in the UK, my family is extremely shocked,” Nam’s father, Vo Ngoc Luyen, said. “We are anxiously waiting for official information from the authorities.”
Cousins Hung Nguyen and Hoang Van Tiep were also feared to be in the doomed container as friends and loved ones have yet to hear from them.
In hopes that they might be found alive, their aunt posted photographs on social media, begging for any information that would confirm their safety.
A Vietnamese woman has also come forward to claim that her 15-year-old brother Nguyen Huy Hung could be among the victims. Hung had reportedly longed to be with his father Nguyen Huy Tung and his mother Nyguen Thi Huyen who are both illegally living in Britain. The teenager had reportedly spent the past two months traveling to the U.K. to be reunited with his parents, his uncle said.
Over the weekend, the U.K. police said that none of the victims have been identified. Identifying the victims has reportedly been difficult as only a few of them were carrying official identification. Britain has since asked Vietnam for assistance in identifying four of the dead bodies. According to the investigators, they are hoping to identify the victims through fingerprints, dental records and DNA, as well as photographs from friends and relatives.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the victims and their families with a goal of $25,000.
Featured Image via Twitter / Hoa Nghiem, Facebook / Nguyen Dinh Luong