Radio 2

27 in court after 39 Vietnamese migrant deaths

Twenty-seven defendants face charges in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants, who died in a refrigerated lorry making the crossing from the Flemish port of Zeebrugge to Essex in England. The two-day trial started before Bruges magistrates today.

The migrants died as a result of heat exhaustion and lack of oxygen.  Their deaths were discovered when the trailer was opened on 23 October 2019.  The refrigerated trailer that had not been turned on started its journey in the north of France.

According to lawyers the 39 migrants were held in an airtight space of 30 square metres.

Belgian prosecutors discovered a people-trafficking operation that every day transported dozens of migrants, chiefly Vietnamese.  The investigation revealed that several of the migrants that died also spent some time in Belgium.

Thirteen people, charged with sheltering and transporting the migrants, were soon detained.  The migrants are thought to have paid the traffickers 25,000 euros each.

In all 27 defendants are now standing trial.  Five alleged ringleaders are in custody.  Other defendants include Brussels taxi drivers charged with transporting the migrants from safe houses to the pick-up point.

Defendants risk up to 15 years in jail and fines of up to 150,000 euros.

Earlier English justice meted out jail sentences of up to 27 years for those convicted of organising the transport and driving the truck. Also, in Vietnam seven people have been convicted.

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