AS THE bodies of 39 migrants were removed from a refrigerated semi-trailer in Grays, Essex, police investigations revealed that the eight women and 31 men were mostly Vietnamese and had either been suffocated or frozen to death at a reported -25C.
The unaccompanied trailer arrived at nearby Purfleet docks having sailed from Zeebrugge, Belgium. A tractor unit was sent from Northern Ireland to pick up the trailer and take it from the docks.
However, the lack of controls displayed by UK Border Force rang alarm bells with the Road Haulage Association.
Speaking on a BBC Radio 5 Live programme, RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett was asked if he thought that Border Force were on top of the situation.
‘If I’m honest, no,’ was his response. ‘My sense is that for a long time we have not been listened to. We have not been taken seriously as an industry. For years we have been shouting from the rooftops that these things have been happening week in and week out.
‘Despite this I think that the drivers who are making these journeys feel that they are not being heard; that they’re not being listened to or supported. We have tried hard with the Home Office and with Border Force to make sure that the drivers making the journey from the European mainland to the UK have a voice.
‘I am of the firm opinion that there is insufficient focus and support and that this issue isn’t being tackled. If you think about Brexit now, how on earth with everything that we are facing can we get the support of the European countries to make sure that we have the proper measures in place to tackle this issue and to prevent it from happening again?
‘The tragedy in Grays has highlighted the fact that we’re not just talking about the risk to goods crossing the Channel post Brexit, lives are also being risked, and lost.’