There were eight women and 31 men. The 39 victims found in a refrigerated truck near London, on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, were Chinese, said the British police, Thursday, October 24.

Representatives of the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom were due to visit the macabre discovery site some 30 kilometers east of London on Thursday, according to Chinese authorities.

The drama recalls a precedent in the United Kingdom. In June 2000, 58 Chinese stowaways were found dead asphyxiated in a truck in the port of Dover (southeast).

Searches and extension of police custody

A major investigation is underway to determine the circumstances of these deaths. Three searches were carried out on Wednesday night in Northern Ireland, in the home region of the truck driver. Aged 25, he was held in police custody as part of the murder investigation.

Since the discovery of the truck in an industrial area near the port of Purfleet, on the Thames, the police have traced the route of the truck and that of the container.

The truck entered the UK on Sunday, October 20th, in the port of Holyhead, on the west coast, from Dublin. Then he took charge of the container at 00:30 on Wednesday at Purfleet, where he had arrived from Zeebrugge, Belgium.

"For the moment, it is not yet known when the victims" entered the container "and if it happened in Belgium," said the Belgian federal prosecutor. The survey will focus "on the organizers and all other people involved in this transport".

Increasingly risky methods

The truck was registered in Bulgaria but had not been entered since 2017, according to local authorities.

The tragedy provoked horror and indignation, as well as numerous calls to strengthen the fight against illegal immigration channels, with increasingly risky methods in the face of strengthened controls.

According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), the number of smugglers entering the UK on board containers and trucks has increased in recent years.

With AFP