BACA Volunteer Hannah Chowdhry met with Cllr Gary Collins of Grays District Council where she signed a book of condolence which had earlier been signed by Boris Johnson.
Last night Hannah Chowdhry an Essex Youth Councillor and BPCA volunteer met with Cllr Gary Collins who is on the Prevent Strategy Board for Grays Council and shared her pain at the recent deaths of 31 men and 8 women, who had been frozen to death while being smuggled into the UK in a refrigerated lorry. Cllr Gary Collins, shared a message with Hannah, he said:
“The major incident that has unfolded in Thurrock, where 39 dead bodies were tragically found on the morning of Wednesday 23 October is devastating.
“Let us be clear, this is a terrible crime.
“I want to thank all our partners, from health partners to the businesses in Lakeside and charities who supported the emergency services, to the council staff who also supported and ensured the organisation still functioned for our residents during such a terrible situation.
“Of course, my biggest thanks go to Essex Police. They saw and dealt with things yesterday with such professionalism and clarity, which we all have the fortune of being kept away from, and we salute them for that.
“Thurrock Council will remain in constant contact with the police to support their investigation and keep the vital services in the area functioning. This will be a lengthy investigation and I can assure you that the council will work with all services to understand what can be done, if anything, to better work holistically in the future to prevent such events.
“The Thurrock community will do what the Thurrock community does, which is offer our heartfelt prayers to all those involved in this situation.”
Hannah Chowdhry with Cllr Gary Collins
When the lorry full of corpses was searched by police in Grays and became the subject of a nationwide investigation for 39 murders, inevitably the news became a global concern.
However, British Asian Christian Association question what lessons have actually been learned from the chilling deaths of these illegal migrants. We are concerned that once the current investigations are over little will be done to eradicate people smuggling.
In 2019 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published their first ever report on human smuggling (click here). It states:
“Every year, thousands of migrants die during smuggling activities. Accidents, extreme terrain and weather conditions, as well as deliberate killings have been reported along most smuggling routes. Systematic killings of migrants have also been reported, making this a very violent illicit trade. ”
The report pulls no punches and explains that those being smuggled who will have paid for the service, are often bullied, raped, extorted and subjected to violence. Though laws have been introduced to cub people smuggling such as the UN’s Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, little has been achieved.
The protocol is designed to target the smugglers and not the smuggled which is positive, however smuggling hubs seem to be stable and many have been established for a long period. This suggests that the impact of the new legislation which has now been signed by 112 countries has had little affect towards crime reduction.
The report suggests evidence leads to an estimate of 2.5 million people having been smuggled at a whopping yield of 5.5 – 7 billion for the illegal smuggling gangs, since 2016. So the scale of the problem is huge and one that will not go away anytime soon.
Human smuggling is a global concern and though Britain is currently under the spotlight, they are not the worst affected but equally that should not matter. What is important is that as a nation we mourn the lives lost on our home soil and seek ways to eradicate human smuggling.
The 39 migrants found dead in Grays was not even the worst incident of its kind in the UK. In 2000, 58 Chinese migrants were found asphyxiated in a container at Dover, Kent, in 2000. Several men were convicted the driver of which was jailed for 14 years click here. Clearly little was learned from the earlier incident.
So what can Britain and other nations do to make prevent incidents like this happening on our shores. Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for BACA said:
“Simply enhancing security at the numerous smaller ports across the UK shoreline is not a panacea but of course these concerns must be addressed, their vulnerability has been exposed and measures of prevention must be improved.
“Targeting of smuggler gangs has to have an enhanced focus it’s simply not good enough that established crime syndicates have created a billion dollar industry out of human suffering.
“Countries across the globe must not blame one another or design strategies based on personal interests. A more joined up approach to stem human smuggling must manifest and cooperation should include improved data collection and sharing.
“Most importantly the foreign aid budgets that more wealthy nations send to deprived regions must be used to better affect, repeat funding should only be given when evidence exists for positive change.
“Whatever measures are introduced to tackle these crimes what Britain and other nations must not do is remove the safe access to a safe haven required by genuine refugees and asylum seekers. ”
In her brief message in the book of condolence maintained by Grays Council, Hannah wrote:
“RIP we must all help to end unnecessary human suffering.”
Hannah Chowdhry, said:
“I was saddened when I heard about the deaths of the migrants in the lorry.
“For it to happen so close to my home made me realise how cruel our world can be.
“I wanted to express my concern and share my condolences.
“I have shared time with asylum seekers and am very aware that no-one leaves everything they have behind, risking their lives without provocation or because of a deep need.
“I hope that more is done to eradicate global poverty and persecution which disrupts and destroys lives.