Trap tragedy isn't just a UK issue

Editorial | Mary Ma 28 Oct 2019

The initial reports had it that the 39 victims in the back of that deadly refrigerated truck at Purfleet, Essex, were Chinese. After days of head scratching, a much less baffling picture has emerged in the British media: the victims - at least some of them - were from Vietnam and the lorry was most likely part of a three-vehicle convoy.

The initial accounts had left many people baffled.

For although the Chinese economy has slowed amid rising unemployment due to the Sino-US trade war, was it really so bad as to force mainlanders to return to attempting that potentialy deadly journey via Europe to try and carve out a life for themselves in the British black labor market.

British police have since shifted the focus of investigations to local Vietnamese communities where mushrooming nail salons in recent years have provided jobs for many young Vietnamese.

The tragic find at Purfleet gives many a peek at a rarely-seen contemporary human tragedy - slavery - that can only be tackled if it's handled globally.

Human trafficking has always been a major source of cash soaked in blood, sweat and tears for criminal syndicates. While tens of thousands of North Africans fled to Europe to escape wars, Asians have mostly been going there for economic reasons.

Vietnam is seeing an economic boom as manufacturers move factories from mainland China. Nonetheless, many parts of Vietnam are underdeveloped with low income levels.

One of the Purfleet victims reportedly came from a village about 200 kilometers north of Hanoi that has a history of young villagers venturing overseas to send back money to allow their families to build big houses they couldn't afford on local salaries.

When ex-British prime minister Theresa May was still home secretary, she made it tougher for illegal immigrants to live in Britain, punishing restaurant owners with hefty fines for every illegal worker they hired and making it an offense to rent premises to anyone without residency documents.

But the illegal immigrants kept on coming.

The family of one of the 39 victims said their daughter had first traveled to China. She then left for France to make the final tragic leg of her short life in the back of a truck that must have seemed like hell had frozen over.

Some less intrepid travelers on such journeys may be content with stopping in France, which, according to Euronews, has the second largest population of illegal immigrants after Germany. Britain isn't even among the top four destinations for the illegals.

But those with relatives in Britain usually opt to carry on.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying's response was appropriate in answering at a time when all the 39 victims were thought to be mainlanders. Hua said it was an enormous human tragedy and that the international community should strengthen cooperation to fight illegal immigration.

By contrast, state-owned daily Global Times was ignorant as it singled out Britain and European countries for propaganda attacks, saying they should be held responsible for failing to protect people from such a fate.

Wasn't it aware China was often used as a major transit or starting point?

It's hyprocritical to blame others while turning a blind eye to one's own failure to stop such tragedies in the past.

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