Arrests in France, Belgium in connection with Vietnam migrant lorry deaths

British Police officers work on the lorry with the dead bodies, at Waterglade Industrial Park, east of London, on 23 October 2019.

The French prosecutor's office announced on Wednesday that 26 people had been arrested in France and Belgium in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants, including two 15-year-old boys, found in a lorry near London last October.

The 26 arrests were made after early-morning raids in the two European countries as a result of a cross-border investigation supported by Eurojust and Europol. The individuals are suspected to be members of a major migrant smuggling group, which transported mainly Asian refugees.

Maurice Robinson, the British driver of the truck from Northern Ireland, admitted last November to plotting to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property. Police have said that the Vietnamese victims were found not long after the container arrived in Britain from Zeebrugge in Belgium. The refrigerated unit was picked up at Purfleet dock, not far from Grays, while police believe the truck cab was driven over from Ireland. Autopsies of the migrants had concluded that the provisional cause of death was a combination of hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) and hyperthermia (overheating) in an enclosed space.

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