Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Authorities have arrested eight in Vietnam on global human trafficking charges in connection with the bodies of 39 migrants found inside a truck trailer in Britain last month.
The victims are Vietnamese, not Chinese as initially reported. Essex Police said eight women and 31 men were found dead inside the refrigerated trailer on Oct. 23. Each carried a bag with personal belongings, clothes and an identification.
The eight taken into custody are being held on suspicion of aiding trafficking overseas, authorities said. The Vietnamese foreign affairs ministry called the case a "serious humanitarian tragedy."
"At this time, we believe the victims are Vietnamese nationals, and we are in contact with the Vietnamese government," said Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith. "We are in direct contact with a number of families in Vietnam and the U.K., and we believe we have identified families for some of the victims whose journey ended in tragedy on our shores."
In a new report Monday, the British foreign affairs committee acknowledged the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants -- and warned against lawmakers reacting by closing off borders. The analysis says doing so would escalate the crisis -- driving migrants to take even more dangerous routes and make them more available to smugglers.
The committee said the human cost of "irregular" migration makes international partnerships "essential."
Police said they have arrested five others in connection with the smuggling ring and have made a public plea for two others to turn themselves in. The truck driver, Maurice Robinson, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and is set to appear in court Nov. 25. Another man, Eamon Harrison, was arrested on human trafficking and immigration offenses. Britain has started the extradition process.
Three other suspects, a 46-year-old man, 38-year-old man and 38-year-old woman were also arrested last week, but they were not charged and ultimately released. Two brothers from Northern Ireland are wanted in the case.
The case is the largest involving multiple homicides the history of Essex Police, the department said. British Parliament members were shocked by the incident and said it should be a "wake up call" for the government.
A new report published Monday warns that a policy of closed borders drives more migrants to go to smugglers to get into the country.
"The case of 39 people found dead in a lorry in Essex shocked us all," Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat said. "The full story won't be clear for some time but this tragedy is not alone. Today, hundreds of families across the world are losing loved ones who felt driven to take the fatal gamble to entrust their lives to smugglers."
The report also said British attempts to limit migration fuels human rights abuses in countries such as Niger, Libya and Sudan.
On Saturday, a remembrance service for the victims was held at the Church of the Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Bow in London, which has a large Vietnamese congregation.