By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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Families left in torment after Essex lorry deaths

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Issue 2678
A vigil held in London last week for the victims
A vigil held in London last week for the victims (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Vietnamese families fear that their relatives were among the 39 refugees who died in a ­refrigerated truck in Essex last week.

Their torment came as British and European Union (EU) politicians joined calls for more border security that will force desperate people to take deadlier routes.

One Vietnamese family received a text from their daughter, Pham Thi Tra My, saying, “I can’t breathe.”

‘I could’ve been one of the 39 who died’—refugees speak out over lorry deaths
‘I could’ve been one of the 39 who died’—refugees speak out over lorry deaths
  Read More

She sent it on Tuesday night of last week when the refrigerated container was being shipped from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet, Essex.

Pham Thi Tra My’s family paid people smugglers £30,000 to ­transport her to Britain in the hope of a better life.

She travelled through China and France, but lost contact with her family.

Her final text read, “I’m sorry Mom. My path to abroad doesn’t succeed. Mom, I love you so much! I’m dying bcoz I can’t breathe…I am sorry, Mom.”

Pham Thi Tra My’s parents reported her missing. Police have not confirmed whether she is one of the 39 victims.

British and Vietnamese ­authorities have responded to the horror with fake tears—and by going after ­suspected people smugglers.

Maurice “Mo” Robinson, the lorry driver, appeared in court on Monday on 39 counts of ­manslaughter, ­conspiracy to traffic people, ­conspiracy to assist unlawful ­immigration and money laundering.

Three other people who were arrested in connection with the deaths have been released on bail.

And Vietnamese media are reporting that authorities have arrested a woman in Vietnam in ­connection with people smuggling.

People smugglers are ­gangsters that feed off the state’s racist immigration rules. If migrants had safe and legal routes to Britain and Europe, they wouldn’t be forced into the hands of organised criminals.


Every time politicians have ramped up border security, it has only forced people seeking a new life to use ­deadlier means.

Fear of being detecting by thermal imaging and sniffer dogs means migrants and refugees use freezer vans.

Politicians have responded with calls for a tougher security in the wake of the Essex deaths.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott called for a break from the “assumption that immigrants are a threat and migrants are always a problem”.

But Abbott disgracefully said that the solution was “thermal imaging” and “more border guards”.

She said, “One of the things we are seeing is these smaller east coast ports are more vulnerable than Dover, for instance, which has a lot of very serious safeguards.

“So, one thing we should do is look at security in those smaller ports.”

Meanwhile, the European ­parliament last week voted against search and rescue for refugees in the Mediterranean.

It was defeated by an alliance of conservative, racist populist and far right parties, including Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The Tories’ four MEPs didn’t vote, helping to defeat the motion.

The only solution is to open the border and let people in safely.

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