Rob Watson, a 53-year-old driver who has been driving since he was 18, said: "It is very easy to get inside those trucks. I have seen many people jumping out of trucks on M25."
Trucks are part of everyday life in Thurrock, Essex County, England. From the Tilbury Shoals to the Port of Purfleet, the second longest coastline in the UK is adorned with a number of international cargo destinations. This is often annoying traffic for local people. However, sometimes it also exposed the brutal underworld of human smugglers. On October 23, 39 people were found dead in a container at an industrial park in Grays, near Purfleet.
The victims were initially identified as Chinese, but were later thought to be Vietnamese. The container was moved from Zeebrugge, Belgium to the Port of Purflee, then a truck – from Dublin, received the cargo. Currently, truck drivers are facing 39 murders.
According to News Statesman, the 39 deaths in the container were not the first such incidents. In 2014, 35 Afghans, including 13 children and one male, were found dead in a locked container in Tilbury. In 2000, 58 Chinese citizens were found dead in a container in Dover. A year later at the port of Rosslare, Ireland, 13 Turks, Algerians and Albanians were also found inside a container. Eight of these, including children, were asphyxiated.
"It's easy to get inside those trucks," Rob Watson, a 53-year-old truck driver in Essex, who used to park near an industrial park in Grays, told News Statesman. "They can get in the car through the side curtain or tie themselves under the car. I've seen many people jump out of trucks on M25."
As a driver from the age of 18, Mr. Watson said, the situation is getting worse for people who go for tickets illegally. "A lot of people want to go to the UK, I don't know why, probably for many reasons."
Nearby, Rhys Griffiths, an employee who has been working at Grays for the past eight years, said he had witnessed people being arrested in the back of trucks and "illegal migrants" being discovered. "I saw that a few times but no one died."
Ports on the east coast of England are "ideal places" for organized crime groups, such as traffickers, said Nick Alston – Essex police chief from 2012 to 2016. "Purfleet is right next to M25, where many containers are passing and close to London. In recent years, many crimes have happened … The chances of traffickers are huge and makes border guards difficult to cope, "said Nick. Both the Border Guard and the British National Crime Agency have highlighted the risk of people being smuggled in containers in recent years.
Sitting on a bench in the playground, behind the back are the cranes of the Tilbury shallow, John Kent – former head of Thurrock Labor Council from 2010-2016 recalls discovering a container 35 people in 2014.
"It is really worrisome because 5 years after what happened in Tilbury with the Afghans, the tragedy recurs again with much more horrifying consequences. You will ask why the warnings from Co two years ago, the British National Crime Agency didn't pay attention, "said John Kent.
Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative MP, representing Thurrock, said the removal of refugee camps in Calais since 2016 has forced migrants wishing to cross the Manche Sea to choose a different route. Jackie expressed terror but was not shocked to hear about the 39 deaths. "Many people get into containers every day to get to the UK and it is only a matter of time before someone dies," says Jackie.
Andrew Wallis, head of the anti-slavery charity Unseen, said smuggled workers entering the UK were forced to work in cannabis factories, restaurants, sex industry, nail shops. "We need to create a safe journey for people seeking asylum. In the UK, you can only apply for asylum once you've arrived in this country."
Thurrock residents lit candles at churches and offered condolences at the city council building. A woman named Ding Ding wrote condolences in both English and Chinese. 12 years ago, she came from England to China as a student and now works for a company in Purfleet.
"When I arrived in the UK, many people asked me about scallop picking," Ding Ding said, referring to the 23 Chinese laborers who had sunk in Morecambe Bay in 2004. "Now I am at a similar event again, The world doesn't change. I have put a lot of effort in this country. I love England and they also want a better life but no other choice. "