Grieving families in Vietnam have been told they will have to cover the costs of repatriating the bodies of their loved ones, who were found dead in a refrigerated lorry in Essex, England, last month.
Bui Huy Cuong, the Deputy Chairman of Can Loc District’s People’s Committee in Ha Tinh province, where the families of 10 of the 39 victims live, said the Vietnamese government’s decision was clear.
“After receiving official information from the Department of External Relations of the province, the district government worked with commune authorities on Monday, asking them to inform families that the UK and Vietnamese government will not pay for the costs,’’ Cuong said.
“Commune authorities today will work with families and ask them to make their choices,’’ he added.
“We can only support them to transport the ashes or bodies back home from the airport.’’
Nguyen Dinh Gia, whose son, Nguyen Dinh Luong, was among the dead, said that the government’s decision had caused him to feel much pain and sorrow.
“If the government doesn’t cover the costs, we have no choice but to pay for it ourselves,’’ Gia said.
“We do not have any cash now.’’
Pham Manh Cuong, the brother of Pham Thi Tra My, whose text message saying “I’m sorry mum… I’m dying because I can’t breathe’’ sparked global interest in the possibility of Vietnamese being among the dead, said he had “heard information that the two governments would cover the costs, so now I am quite surprised we have to pay.
“I am very sad; we have to take out a loan to repatriate her because we do not have any money.’’
Just last week, reports suggested the hold-up over repatriation is due to confusion over whether the families or the British or Vietnamese governments will cover the cost.
Details have now emerged that Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry sent a document to officials in the region last weekend, confirming that families will have to pay.
The document offers two choices: either the family has to pay $1,773 to receive their loved ones cremated as ashes, or $2,858 to receive cadavers at Hanoi airport.
Hundreds of Vietnamese are trafficked to Britain each year, according to the charity Ecpat.
A Vietnamese man was also arrested on Monday and is being investigated for trafficking people from the South-East Asian nation to Germany via Azerbaijan.
British Police discovered the bodies of 39 migrants in a parked lorry in Britain on Oct. 23.
After initially suggesting they were Chinese nationals, British Police finally named the 39 Vietnamese victims on Nov. 8.