Over the last ten years or so there has been a noticeable increase in the deaths of migrants in mass casualty disasters caused by those at the head of the human trafficking treating people as if they were just expendable cargo. Thousands of people from places like China, Vietnam and Mexico have paid tens of thousands of pounds each to be smuggled into Britain and America in the belief that they will suddenly have an amazing life and be able to support their families back home.
What they do not realise is that the journey will be a huge risk to life and when they get to their destination they will be forced to work as either poorly paid labourers or in many cases be subject to slavery.
On 23rd October 2019 a lorry, which had just left a cross-channel ferry in Essex, pulled up for the driver to check on his human cargo. What he found was 39 dead bodies, all succumbed to hypoxia and overheating during the voyage. The victims were all from Vietnam and the police investigation later convicted a number of people who were given long prison sentences.
This wasn’t the first time a lorry had been found like this. A Dutch lorry on 18th June 2000 was selected for examination at Dover after it had made the trip from Zeebrugge. Customs officers found 60 people in the back of the lorry, but only two of those were alive. It was later determined that they had died from asphyxiation after being trapped in the container for over 18 hours in extreme heat. The gang involved in the disaster and the driver were all given long sentences.
But this is just Great Britain, across the world there have been many incidents that have led to mass deaths of migrants:
- 27 June 2022 – 53 migrants found dead in the back of a truck in Texas after crossing border from Mexico. 16 others survived. The driver was arrested and the case is ongoing.
- 27 August 2015 – Truck is found abandoned on an Austrian motorway and investigation found the bodies of 71 illegal immigrants who were from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Due to the high level of decomposition several were not able to be identified. Several people involved in the deaths were later convicted and jailed.
- 9 April 2008 – 54 suffocate to death in a seafood container in Thailand after the driver fled. The container had a total of 121 people inside so this could have been so much worse if it had carried on the journey.
It is not just trucks that hold a large death toll though, for the journey starting at the home countries and ending at their destination is always mostly by truck, it is the part in between that holds the most risk – a crossing of the seas. The boats used in these crossings are sometimes flimsy dinghys, old fishing boats or whatever the smugglers can get hold of. Poor quality lifejackets are provided with the clueless migrants being told that it will be a short and simple journey.
What they face is hundreds of miles of terrifying seas, bad weather and the threat of capsize. But what they do not know is just how many of these boats never make it. In the last decade there have been hundreds of boats sink on the journey across from Africa to Europe across the Mediterranean. In April 2015 one unnamed fishing boat approached a cargo vessel and tried to cause a collision in the hope that the 700 people on board would be rescued and taken to Italy. But the boat capsized and sank with just 28 survivors. The wreck was later raised and a total of 675 people were confirmed to have died.
This was the worst of them, there have been so many more, thousands of innocent people, including new born babies, lost to the sea, their lack of knowledge about what is actually going on meaning that they unwillingly risk their lives in these ventures, not knowing that at the other end there is slave labour or arrest and deportation. Although there are rescue teams on standby, charities to help the survivors and police doing their hardest to investigate the criminals, it is a huge operation with a lot of money involved, and while ever these gangs are allowed to continue their evil trade these migrant disasters will keep happening all across the world.