BELFAST/LONDON • British police said on Friday they now believe all 39 people found dead in the back of a truck in Essex, near London, last month were Vietnamese.
"At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese government," Essex Police assistant chief constable Tim Smith said on Twitter. "We are in direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the UK, and we believe we have identified families for some of the victims," he added.
Police had initially believed the victims to be Chinese.
A second man has been charged with manslaughter over the 39 deaths, British police said Friday.
In Vietnam, police said they had detained two people.
The discovery of the bodies in a container truck on an industrial estate has shone a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.
The alleged truck driver has already been charged over the deaths, and on Friday, detectives said Eamon Harrison, 23, from Northern Ireland, was also facing 39 counts of manslaughter as well as human trafficking and immigration offences.
Harrison appeared at Dublin's High Court at the start of proceedings to extradite him from Ireland to Britain. He has been remanded in custody until Nov 11.
Vietnam calls upon countries in the region and around the world to step up cooperation in combating human trafficking in order to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy.
MS LE THI THU HANG, spokesman for Vietnam's foreign ministry, urging help to tackle the scourge of trafficking.
The bodies were found in the early hours of Oct 23, after the container arrived in Britain from Zeebrugge in Belgium. It was picked up at Purfleet dock in Essex, east of London, by a truck allegedly driven by Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland. The victims were found not long afterwards. Police have not confirmed the exact cause of their deaths.
Vietnamese police on Friday said they arrested two people in central Ha Tinh province for human trafficking and summoned others for questioning, for allegedly helping people to travel abroad illegally, after opening a criminal probe into suspected human trafficking.
The police began the criminal investigation after 10 families from Ha Tinh province reported the disappearance of their relatives.
Most of the victims are thought to have come from central Vietnam, where easy-to-find brokers help to arrange trips to Europe - often via Russia - for migrants hoping to earn money overseas.
British police on Friday also appealed to Mr Ronan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, from Armagh in Northern Ireland, who they said were crucial to their inquiries. They are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking.
Mr Daniel Stoten, the officer leading the investigation, said police had spoken by telephone to one of the two men recently but needed to question them in person.
Lawyers for Global Trailer Rentals, which owns the trailer, have said Mr Ronan Hughes signed the papers to rent the container, giving an address matching the haulier, C Hughes Transport. Mr Christopher Hughes is listed as a director of C Hughes Logistics, based in Armagh.
Meanwhile, Vietnam yesterday said it "strongly condemns human trafficking and considers it a serious crime", according to a statement from foreign ministry spokesman Le Thi Thu Hang.
She called the incident a "serious humanitarian tragedy", urging help to tackle the scourge of trafficking.
"Vietnam calls upon countries in the region and around the world to step up cooperation in combating human trafficking in order to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy," she added.
Officials are working to identify the victims after DNA samples were collected from families in Ha Tinh and Nghe An provinces in central Vietnam.
"I think my son could be among the 39 dead," Mr Nguyen Dinh Gia told AFP yesterday from Ha Tinh province, where he has been anxiously waiting for news about his child Nguyen Dinh Luong.
REUTERS, NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE