HÀ NỘI — Two separate groups of public security and foreign affairs officials departed for the United Kingdom at the weekend, following news that all victims in the Essex lorry tragedy were believed to be Vietnamese.
Minister of Public Security Tô Lâm confirmed on Monday morning that the ministry’s mission had arrived in London the previous day.
“The ministry has assigned a set of tasks, of which the foremost priority is to rapidly confirm the victims’ identities,” Lâm told reporters during the ongoing National Assembly meeting.
“Our mission has brought along various essential documents and DNA samples to match and cross-check with those of the UK side to reach a final conclusion.”
The minister said that the Government would implement citizen protection work as soon as Vietnamese nationals were confirmed as being involved in the case.
“If a Vietnamese national is identified, we will try to bring them home in the fastest way possible,” Lâm said.
He added that the mission could only send their first working report back to Việt Nam at 3pm on Monday at the earliest due to the time difference.
The authorities so far are yet to confirm how many missing persons reported by Vietnamese families were connected to the Essex lorry case, the minister said.
“Families who lost contact with their children all assumed they could be among the 39 victims. But after a few days, some families found out that their children were still in Việt Nam or had gone to another country,” Lâm said.
Police in the central provinces of Nghệ An and Hà Tĩnh received 34 reports of missing persons between October 24 and November 1. Three families in Nghệ An, however, on Saturday announced that they managed to contact their thought-to-be-missing members who were abroad.
During a meeting on Saturday night on the deaths of 39 alleged illegal migrants in Essex, Deputy Prime Minister Trương Hòa Bình asked relevant ministries and agencies to keep coordinating closely with the UK to identify the victims and make an official announcement to the public as soon as possible.
It was reported at the meeting that a delegation of the Ministry of Public Security was headed to the UK on Friday night. A deputy foreign affairs minister also led another delegation to the country the next day to work with British agencies to identify the victims.
In a statement late on Friday (UK time), Essex police said they believed the victims in the Essex lorry case were Vietnamese, adding that they have identified some of the victims and have contacted the Vietnamese Government and some families in the UK and Việt Nam.
The confirmatory evidence needed to formally present cases to HM Senior Coroner for consideration has not yet been obtained, they said.
"This evidence is being gathered across a number of jurisdictions worldwide. As a result, we cannot at this time announce the identity of any of the victims,” said the statement.
Essex police will continue to co-operate closely with the Vietnamese Government and others to identify the victims and offer support to all those affected by this tragedy.
Also, during Monday morning’s NA session, Nguyễn Hữu Cầu, chief of police in the central province of Nghệ An, said that eight people have been arrested in connection with the case.
He sent his condolences to all the families who are suspected to have relatives found in the lorry, stressing that it is a “heart-breaking humanitarian tragedy.”
Cầu also posited that while there are no official conclusions yet, the victims have likely gone through several countries before finding their way to the UK.
They were likely not trafficked directly from Việt Nam, Cầu said, adding that the charge of those detained was likely assisting unlawful emigration, according to the Vietnamese Penal Code.— VNS