Vietnam has jailed four people for helping to smuggle 39 of the country’s citizens to the UK – where they suffocated to death in the back of a lorry.
Nguyen Quoc Thanh, 26, Nguyen Thi Thuy Hoa, 36, Tran Dinh Truong, 35, and Nguyen Xuan Trieu, 24, were sentenced to a total of 51 years in prison at a court in the city of Ha Tinh, in central Vietnam, on Monday.
Three others – 53-year-old Vo Van Ky, 68-year-old Vo Van Ho, and 53-year-old Le Van Hue – were given suspended sentences totalling three and a half years.
All seven defendants were charged with ‘illegally sending people abroad’.
It comes after 39 migrants – 29 men, eight women and two teenage boys, all from Vietnam – were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Grays, Essex, in October last year.
Vietnam has sentenced four people – Nguyen Quoc Thanh (standing far left), Nguyen Xuan Trieu (seated second left) Nguyen Thi Thuy Hoa (standing second right) and Tran Dinh Truong (standing far right) to a total of 51 years in jail for people smuggling
The sentences come after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found suffocated to death in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Essex, in the UK, in October last year
Three other Vietnamese – including Vo Van Ho, 68 (pictured) – were also sentenced over the smuggling operation, but were given suspended sentences
All seven defendants were sentenced for ‘illegally sending people abroad’ as part of an international smuggling ring that has also seen arrests in the UK, Belgium and France
The migrants had been taken to the UK via Belgium, where they were lodaed inside a container that as driven to the port of Zeebrugge.
Once at the port, the container was loaded on a ferry bound for Purfleet, in Essex.
Police say the plan was then to take the container eight miles to Collingwood Farm, where the migrants would be unloaded and driven away in a ‘fleet’ of cars.
But a short time later emergency services were called to an industrial park in nearby Grays after it was discovered that the migrants inside the container had died.
Ronan Hughes, 40, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter of Vietnamese migrants who were found dead in a lorry container in Essex
The driver of the lorry – 25-year-old Maurice Robinson, from Northern Ireland – was arrested and charged with murder, but has since pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Haulier Ronan Hughes, 40, pleaded guilty to the same charges last month. Both are awaiting sentencing
Eamonn Harrison, 23, who is accused of driving the container through Belgium, has also appeared in court but pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration. He is due to go on trial in October.
Speaking after the verdict in Vietnam, Nguyen Dinh Gia – who lost his 20-year-old son Luong in the tragedy – said he believed the defendants should not have been given jail terms.
‘The people involved were just trying to help and then the accident happened,’ he said, adding that he had not known the trial was taking place.
‘He was an adult who made his own decision and joined the trip voluntarily, with the aim to improve his life, earning money to alleviate our poverty.’
Eamon Harrison, 23, from County Down, is the man believed to have delivered the ill-fated container to Zeebrugge, Belgium, and was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter today. Mo Robinson, 25, who picked it up, has already appeared in court accused of the same thing
The victims including 10 teenagers have been identified as coming from various provinces of Vietnam with the youngest being two boys aged 15. Pictured: The industrial park in Grays, Essex where the 39 people were found
It had been alleged that Hughes played a leading role in the operation, with his trailers (pictured, the truck which carried the migrants) and drivers used to transport migrants
Gia said his son had wanted to travel to Britain from France, where he had been living illegally since 2018.
The journey to Britain, where he aimed to look for work in a nail salon, would have cost him around 11,000 pounds ($14,000).
‘It has been almost a year but whenever I think about this, it’s still painful,’ Gia said.
Luong and the majority of the other migrants came from a handful of poor central provinces, hotspots for illegal migration to Europe.
The lorry carrying the victims – including two 15-year-old boys – arrived on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge in the early hours of October 23.
They died from lack of oxygen and overheating, according to post-mortem examinations.
A number of people have been arrested and charged in Britain, France and Belgium in connection with the case.
The victims were were from five provinces in the central, coastal area of Vietnam and two provinces near Hanoi
Who were the 39 people who died in the Esssex lorry container?
These are the names of the victims of the Essex truck tragedy are:
Pham Tra My, 26, has been confirmed as among the 39 people who died in a lorry in Essex
Fifteen-year-old Nguyen Huy Hung (left) was the youngest of the group, 10 of whom were teenagers. Nguyen Dinh Lurong, 20, (right) was also named among those who died
Pham Thi Tra My, a 26-year-old woman from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Dinh Lurong, a 20-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Huy Phong, a 35-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Vo Nhan Du, a 19-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Tran Manh Hung, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Tran Khanh Tho, a 18-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Vo Van Linh, a 25-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Van Nhan, a 33-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Bui Phan Thang, a 37-year-old man from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Huy Hung, a 15-year-old boy from Ha Tinh
Tran Thi Tho, a 21-year-old woman from Nghe An
Bui Thi Nhung, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An
Vo Ngoc Nam, a 28-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Dinh Tu, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An
Le Van Ha, a 30-year-old man from Nghe An
Tran Thi Ngoc, a 19-year-old woman from Nghe An
Nguyen Van Hung, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An
Hoang Van Tiep, a 18-year-old man from Nghe An
Cao Tien Dung, a 37-year-old man from Nghe An
Cao Huy Thanh, a 33-year-old man from Nghe An
Tran Thi Mai Nhung, a 18-year-old woman from Nghe An
Nguyen Minh Quang, a 20-year-old man from Nghe An
Le Trong Thanh, a 44-year-old man from Dien Chau
Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, a 28-year-old woman from Nghe An
Hoang Van Hoi, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Tho Tuan, a 25-year-old man from Nghe An
Dang Huu Tuyen, a 22-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Trong Thai, a 26-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Van Hiep, a 24-year-old man from Nghe An
Nguyen Thi Van, a 35-year-old woman from Nghe An
Tran Hai Loc, a 35-year-old man from Nghe An
Duong Minh Tuan, a 27-year-old man from Quang Binh
Nguyen Ngoc Ha, a 32-year-old man from Quang Binh
Nguyen Tien Dung, a 33-year-old man from Quang, Binh
Phan Thi Thanh, a 41-year-old woman from Hai Phong
Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, a 34-year-old man from Thua Tien Hue
Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, a 18-year-old man from Hai Phong
Tran Ngoc Hieu, a 17-year-old boy from Hai Duong
Dinh Dinh Binh, a 15-year-old boy from Hai Phong