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After 39 bodies are found in truck, Catholic leaders in UK vow to fight human trafficking

ESSEX
BEN STANSALL | AFP
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Thirty-one men and eight women, believed to be Chinese nationals, were found frozen to death in Essex.

Catholic leaders in Great Britain were leading prayers and calling for stricter measures to fight human trafficking in the wake of Wednesday’s discovery of 39 bodies inside a refrigerated tractor trailer. Thirty-one men and eight women, believed to be Chinese nationals, were found frozen to death in the truck.

The bodies were discovered in Waterglade Industrial Park, in Essex. Nearby, the Catholic parish of Grays is having special prayers on Sunday, with the Paschal Candle lit at all Masses.

“Our Easter Candle, depicting the Risen Jesus, burns in our church today as we remember the 39 people found dead in the container lorry in Grays on Wednesday,” said Canon Brian O’Shea. May they—made in God’s image and likeness—rest in the love and mercy of God. We remember their distant loved ones. We pray for the emergency services in their difficult and sensitive work.”

Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleenan of Westminster, the lead bishop for migration and asylum issues, said the Church is praying for the 39 people and their families, “and for all those across the world who have lost their lives while trying to reach a better future. This tragedy underscores the urgent need to redouble our efforts in establishing safe passages and combatting criminals who exploit desperate people.”

The BBC reported Friday that two people have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. The man and woman, both from Warrington, Cheshire, were also being held on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic. Detectives also were questioning the truck driver.

The trailer arrived by sea from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Belgian investigators were working to establish where the trailer came from before reaching the port, Agence France-Presse reported.

The French wire service quoted a Beijing-based political analyst named Hua Po, who blamed stricter living conditions under China’s President Xi Jinping for a spike in emigration. The flow of Chinese workers to Europe has gone up as “China’s own policy has become more and more conservative and closed,” Hua said. “The survival of private enterprises is becoming more and more difficult, resulting in an increase in the number of unemployed people.”

Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, commented that “the desperation of those in the container is an indictment of our failure to provide sanctuary to those in flight for their lives.”

“This horrendous tragedy highlights the urgent need for more safe and legal routes to migrate and to seek asylum,” Teather told the Tablet. “If the government wants to ensure this does not happen again, it is not enough to focus only on criminal gangs—it must ensure that those seeking sanctuary in Britain can get here safely. It must build bridges, not walls.”

The Jesuit Refugee Service Europe has long been involved in calls for humanitarian visas, to make it easier for forcibly displaced people to travel safely, the Tablet noted.

According to the Tablet, the Bishop of Bradwell, the Right Reverend John Perumbalath, commented that this and similar tragedies in the recent past “are a symptom of a deeper problem—namely the failure of the wider human family and governments in providing safety to the most vulnerable and displaced people among us.”

 

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