Relatives of John Hoang Van Tiep, a victim of 39 deaths on a truck container in the UK, mourn near his coffin during his funeral at home in Nghe An province. Picture: Kham/Reuters
Relatives of John Hoang Van Tiep, a victim of 39 deaths on a truck container in the UK, mourn near his coffin during his funeral at home in Nghe An province. Picture: Kham/Reuters

LOOK: First bodies returned to Vietnam a month after lorry tragedy

By Chris Humphrey And Bac Pham Time of article published Nov 27, 2019

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Hanoi - After an agonizing wait, the bodies of some of the 39

migrants found dead in a lorry in England last month were repatriated

to Vietnam on Wednesday.

Vietnam's foreign ministry said 16 bodies were repatriated on

Wednesday morning. The rest will reportedly be brought back

imminently, although the timeline remains unclear.

"My daughter's body is on the way back home from [Hanoi] airport,"

Pham Van Thin, the father of 26-year-old victim Pham Thi Tra My,

said.

"Her body will arrive home at about 1 or 2 pm today [0600-0700 GMT].

We will organize the funeral today and then a burial for her at 3 pm

on Thursday."

Thin added that local authorities would not allow the family to go to

the airport to escort the coffin back.

"They may be afraid our weeping will interrupt their work," she said.

My's text message to her mother saying "I'm sorry mum ... I'm dying

because I can't breathe" first alerted the world of the possibility

that Vietnamese nationals could be among the dead after British

police initially said that all 39 victims were Chinese.

Shortly after the aircraft landed, representatives of victims'

families from Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces received the

bodies of 16 victims and began the process of transporting them to

the families, the statement said.

Airport personnel load a coffin into an ambulance at the Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Vietnam. The bodies of 16 of the 39 Vietnamese who died when human traffickers carried them by truck to England last month have been repatriated to their homeland. Picture: Vietnam News Agency via AP

"Our district arranged and sent eight ambulances to [Hanoi] airport

on Tuesday evening in order to carry eight bodies back home and hand

them over them to their families," said Bui Huy Cuong, deputy

chairman of Can Loc District in Ha Tinh province, where ten of the

victims were from.

The bodies of the Vietnamese migrants were first discovered in the

back of a refrigerated lorry on October 23 in Essex, in south-east

England.

The long delay and confusion over costs of repatriation have caused

extra grief for families desperate to bring their loved ones home.

The families will have to pay for the repatriations themselves, with

the Vietnamese government offering to pay upfront and giving

relatives 30 days to pay the money back interest-free, the Vietnamese

state announced.

The relatives were offered two choices: either the family has to pay

almost 1,800 dollars to receive their loved ones cremated as ashes,

or over 2,800 dollars for the body to be sent to Hanoi airport.

A convoy of ambulances leaves the Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Vietnam. Picture: VnExpress via AP

The news led to philanthropic responses from both concerned

individuals and companies.

A page on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe has raised over 27,000

dollars, while Vingroup, a Vietnamese conglomerate, has pledged to

donate 800 dollars to each of the victims' families in Nghe An and Ha

Tinh.

Do Thi Kim Lien, a Vietnamese businesswoman, has also been donating

funds to the families to allow them to repatriate the bodies of their

loved ones.

Hundreds of Vietnamese are trafficked to Britain each year, according

to the charity Ecpat.

dpa

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