Human rights campaigners and an MP have questioned the compassion of the UK’s immigration system following the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry container in Essex.
Essex Police has launched a murder investigation and is working to establish the nationalities and identities of 38 adults and one teenager who were found dead inside a lorry container in Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays.
Police were called to the scene at around 1.40am on Wednesday (23 October), and believe the vehicle came to the UK from Bulgaria via the Welsh port of Holyhead on Saturday.
A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Det Ch Con Pippa Mills said: “This is an absolute tragedy and very sad day for Essex Police and the local community. We will continue to work alongside many other partner agencies to find out what led to these deaths.”
In the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine asked Home Secretary Priti Patel whether she agrees that “we have to look at our own immigration system and repair it to ensure that what we provide is fair, compassionate and effective for those who want to come here”.
Patel thanked Jardine for her comments, but added: “I think now is not the time to talk about an immigration system at all.
“We have migration challenges that we are seeing around the world. People are being displaced in record numbers and many are being displaced and preyed upon through some of the most appalling behaviours, through criminal gangs.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said in a statement: “This is a heartbreaking and horrifying incident.
“People who are forced to take dangerous and sometimes fatal passages to reach the UK often do so because current immigration policies and practices deny them safe and legal options.
“As the police investigation continues our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those affected by this awful tragedy.”
Call Essex police’s Major Investigation Team with information 101.