A lorry driver from Northern Ireland arrested on Wednesday for the death of 39 migrants in a refrigerated trailer in Essex, England, has been charged with manslaughter, human trafficking and money laundering.
Mo Robinson, 25, above (Image credit: Facebook) is due to be produced in a magistrate’s court in Chelmsford, a city northeast of London, on Monday.
The arrests of four more people from Northern Ireland point to an Irish gang engaged in the smuggling of immigrants.
Among the four suspects arrested were a man at Dublin port, an Irish couple in Warrington, England, and a 48-year-old man at Stansted airport in Essex.
In Belgium, police are searching for the driver who took the trailer to the port of Zeebrugge before it travelled to Purfleet port from where. Robinson carried it on his lorry to an industrial estate in Grays, Essex.
An Irish company based in County Monaghan owns the trailer and it was rented to a haulier in a nearby town on October 15.
GPS data from the trailer shows it travelled to Dunkirk near the French ferry port of Calais from where it moved to Dublin port.
Illegal migrants heading to England via Calais are lured by smuggling gangs operating in Dunkirk.
The Irish couple and the 48-year-old man were arrested on Friday on suspicion of human trafficking and manslaughter. The man arrested in Dublin on Saturday was wanted for a local crime but Essex police think he is linked to the smuggling gang.
Vietnamese among victims?
Essex police clarified on Saturday that of the 31 men and eight women found dead in the lorry container, some may be from Vietnam. Earlier, they thought the victims were from China.
In 2000, police had found 58 Chinese immigrants dead in a shipping container in Dover.
After reading reports of the truck deaths, some families in Vietnam contacted their embassy in the UK and expressed concern over their missing children.
Vietnamese ambassador Tran Ngoc An met top police officials in Essex and it was decided investigators will share details of the fingerprints of the victims with Vietnamese officials to possibly identify some of the dead.
One Vietnamese newspaper said 12 families have reported their children missing since October 23.
A UK-based group serving the Vietnamese community said they have received the photographs of some 20 people reported missing to the police.
Hoa Nghiem, a rights activist, said the mother of a 26-year-old woman Pham Thi Tra My got a text message from her that she was dying as she could not breathe. Pham wrote she was sorry she would not be able to make it to a foreign land she was heading to.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Saturday ordered an investigation into smuggling gangs operating in the country.