A leading Catholic refugee organisation has criticised the UK government’s ‘failure’ to give sanctuary to asylum seekers after 39 Vietnamese people were found dead in a lorry container in Essex.
Sarah Teather, Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK, said: “This horrendous tragedy highlights the urgent need for more safe and legal routes to migrate and to seek asylum.”
“The desperation of those in the container is an indictment of our failure to provide sanctuary to those in flight for their lives.”
JRS is an international Catholic organisation, which seeks to support refugees. The organisation has a particular concern for asylum seekers who are detained under immigration rules.
At 1.40am on 23 October, the East of England Ambulance Service reported to the police that 39 people had been found dead in the trailer of a lorry on Waterglade Industrial Park in Essex. The lorry had recently arrived in the UK.
“Of these, 38 are believed to be adults, and one is a young adult woman,” a police statement said.
The statement also said a murder investigation is underway-the largest in the history of Essex police force.
“This is devastating news,” Sarah Teather said.
“We know very little about the people who lost their lives at this point, but they are someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, father, mother, friend or neighbour.”
Looking forward, she advised the government to focus on providing asylum seekers with safe and legal passage.
“If the government wants to ensure this does not happen again, it is not enough to focus only on criminal gangs-it must ensure that those seeking sanctuary in Britain can get here safely,” she said.
“It must build bridges, not walls.”
The lorry driver has been arrested and named as Mo Robinson, 25, from Portadown in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Sarah Teather offered consolation and prayer for the dead.
“We pray for those who died and for their families and friends,” she said.
Picture: Floral tributes are laid at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, on Thursday October 24 2019 after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry on the industrial estate. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)