Essex Lorry Tragedy

Jasmine O’Connor

Dear Jerry,
Like many of you who have been in touch with us this past last week, we are shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of the 39 people who tragically and needlessly died in a lorry container in Grays, Essex.

Although the authorities are still investigating, it's looking increasingly likely that the people who sadly lost their lives are Vietnamese. We still don’t know whether they had been trafficked.

What this tragic case highlights are the extraordinary and dangerous risks that vulnerable people take in order to provide for their families, and as such, may accept precarious job offers and make risky decisions in their quest for a better life.

With complex migration pathways, such as journeys that mean crossing multiple borders, these may begin as cases of people smuggling, but can turn into human trafficking along the journey, especially when a debt is involved.

In the case of Vietnamese people, it often starts with a big debt to pay for travel, often with family homes taken as collateral, which leaves them controlled by the criminals who enticed them to take these risks. At the end of their journey, victims are often trapped, reliant on their traffickers and extremely vulnerable.

To solve human trafficking, it is important that governments create safe places and methods for vulnerable and at-risk people to seek help. This then makes it harder for anyone who has the intention to exploit others, to do so.

This case should also highlight the fact that the UK’s tough stance on immigration contributes to people being pushed into taking huge risks, exploited and trapped in modern slavery. Immigration might be a contentious issue, but surely, we can all agree that people being forced to travel into the UK in a refrigerated lorry is simply not right. We have to develop mechanisms for people to migrate safely.

We have analysed the trafficking of Vietnamese people into Europe in our “Precarious Journey” report, which you can read about here. (see link below) By identifying the methods by which victims are trafficked, we are better equipped to identify policy changes in Vietnam, the UK and transit countries, that would better protect victims and ultimately end the practice.

Thank you for standing with us in the fight against slavery.

Jasmine O’Connor OBE
Chief Executive Officer
Anti-Slavery International


Precarious journeys of Vietnamese children trafficked to Europe by

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