At least 39 people, including a teenager, were found dead in a lorry in England in what appears to be an illegal migration attempt gone horribly wrong. The bodies were found in a refrigerated shipping container. There is speculation over whether the victims suffocated or froze to death — temperatures in refrigerated containers can go as low as -25 degrees Celcius. The incident is the first in the UK since 2000 when the bodies of 58 Chinese migrants were found in a lorry on a ferry from the Netherlands.
Police say they cannot yet say where the people were from, let alone who they were. There was initial confusion regarding how the lorry got to Essex in England, although details have since become clearer. The lorry was registered in Bulgaria under the name of a company owned by an Irish woman, according to the Bulgarian foreign ministry. The Bulgarian PM later clarified that his country has no connection with the incident apart from the registration. Essex police now believe the container came from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex, and docked in the Thurrock area early on Wednesday. The driver may have taken the unusual route to avoid checkpoints intended to curtail human trafficking. Major ports such as Dover now have heartbeat and body heat-detecting technology, making it harder for illegal migrants to use them.
But as further details about the victims keep emerging and we hopefully get answers to whether or not this was illegal migration or human trafficking, and criminal negligence or murder, one thing is certain: the victims were pursuing economic opportunities, something many developing countries cannot even offer their skilled workers. For most common citizens in developing countries, a functioning state that allows access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity would be enough to make them stay home. But for this, the rulers of such states must learn that power at the expense of the weak is not power at all.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2019.