Relatives struggling to take 39 UK truck death victims back to Vietnam

2019-11-14 08:18:32China Daily Global Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Grieving families in Vietnam are struggling to bring home the bodies of loved ones who perished in a refrigerated truck while trying to illegally enter the United Kingdom on Oct 23.

Many of the relatives of the 39 people who died in the freezing, airless vehicle are too impoverished to bring the bodies back to Vietnam.

Ten of the 39 victims were from the Can Loc district of Ha Tinh province, where Bui Huy Cuong is deputy chairman of the people's committee.

He told the Guardian newspaper that officials have visited bereaved families to encourage them to received ashes, instead of bodies, because it would be cheaper. But, he said, families want bodies so they can be honored in traditional funerals and are hoping the authorities will pay.

"At the moment, we are not sure if the British or the Vietnamese government will take responsibility for bringing victims back to Vietnam," he said. "Families know nothing about it. It should be clear soon (which government if any) will take responsibility … how much can British and Vietnamese governments pay, and how much will Vietnamese families need to contribute."

The brother of 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra My told the paper her family does not want ashes.

Pham Manh Cuong said: "My family wishes to bring my older sister's body back home because we all agreed we want to see her for the last time. If they do not pay for the transportation fee, and we have to pay the fee, we have to accept my sister's ashes in Vietnam, because we are in a very difficult position."

Pham Thi Tra My was the victim who came to prominence when her final text home was made public in which she said: "I'm sorry mum. My journey abroad has not succeeded. Mum, I love you so much. I'm dying because I can't breathe."

Nguyen Dinh Gia, the father of another victim, Nguyen Dinh Luong, from Nghe An province, said his family also wants a body.

He said villagers have been visited by local authorities but do not understand their options.

"They did not tell me how much the transport fee is, but told us it's costly … so it's easier to bring back ashes instead of the body," he said. "I said we are asking for help from two governments … We've had to wait for many days now and are falling into depression."

The Vietnamese government has not commented on the repatriations and the British government is dissolved pending a general election on Dec 12.

Police in the UK and in Vietnam have made several arrests in connection with the incident that claimed the lives of 31 male and eight female victims, of whom 10 were teenagers.

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