26 arrests made in connection with Vietnamese migrant deaths

Paris/Brussels, May 27 (efe-epa).- European agencies investigating the death of 39 Vietnamese migrants in the back of a truck in England last year have arrested 26 people in France and Belgium allegedly linked to human trafficking organizations.

French police arrested 13 people suspected of belonging to a smuggling ring focused on bringing people from Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, to the United Kingdom.

Another 13 were detained in Belgium during coordinated cross-border raids, according to the European Union’s justice agency Eurojust.

The raids were centered around Brussels and Paris.

“The action is the result of a cross-border investigation supported by Eurojust and Europol which looks at the criminal activity of people smuggling across the continent, and was prompted by the discovery of 39 deceased Vietnamese nationals inside a refrigerated trailer in Essex in the United Kingdom in October 2019,” Eurojust said in a statement.

A joint investigative team comprising agencies from France, Belgium, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom along with Europol was set up following the tragic discovery at an industrial state in the town of Grays last year.

The truck used to transport the migrants had crossed from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, an investigation found.

The victims died from asphyxiation and hypothermia.

They included 31 men and eight women, all from Vietnam. Ten of them were adolescents.

The incident grabbed headlines in the UK and reopened a debate on the dangers of mafia-run human smuggling rings and the necessity to reinforce border surveillance.

According to Belgian prosecutors, the 13 people arrested Tuesday included Moroccan and Vietnamese nationals and five of them have been charged with the human trafficking, of belonging to a criminal organization and forgery.

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