The remains of all of the 39 migrants found dead in a lorry in England last month after being trafficked into the country have been returned to Vietnam, a government statement said Saturday.
The final 23 victims were received at Hanoi airport in the morning and then transported to the central Vietnamese provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Hue, but also Hai Duong province and Hai Phong City in the north, according to a statement from Vietnam’s foreign affairs ministry.
“Thus, on November 27 and 30, 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs collaborated with Vietnamese and English authorities and localities to complete the return of the bodies and the ashes of the 39 victims to their families.”
The return of those who died gives the victims’ families the opportunity to hold funerals, carry out burial rituals and finally mourn.
The first arrival of 16 bodies came on Wednesday, and saw representatives of some of the families travel to the airport to see the coffins, many of whom brought white roses and wept.
The family of 26-year-old victim Pham Thi Tra My organized a funeral on Wednesday after she was repatriated and a burial on Thursday.
My’s text message to her mother saying “I’m sorry mum … I’m dying because I can’t breathe” first alerted the world of the possibility that Vietnamese nationals could be among the dead after British police initially said that all the victims were Chinese.
The Vietnamese government has offered to pay the repatriation costs upfront, but will give relatives 30 days to pay the money back with no interest.
The relatives were offered two choices: either the family has to pay almost $1,800 to receive their loved ones cremated as ashes, or more than $2,800 for the body to be sent to Hanoi airport. Some of the remains were cremated, as seen in photos of the airport arrivals.
The long delay and confusion over costs of repatriation have caused extra grief for families desperate to bring their loved ones home.
The news led to philanthropic responses from concerned individuals and companies.
A page on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe has raised $30,000, while Vingroup, a Vietnamese conglomerate, has pledged to donate $800 to each victim’s family in Nghe An and Ha Tinh.
Do Thi Kim Lien, a Vietnamese businesswoman, has also been donating funds to the families to allow them to repatriate the bodies of their loved ones.
In the central Vietnamese provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh, a total of 11 people have been arrested for suspected involvement in the lorry death tragedy.
British police have also arrested several suspects for alleged involvement in the tragedy, including truck driver Maurice Robinson, who pleaded guilty to aiding illegal immigration, but said he was not guilty of the 39 counts of manslaughter he has been charged with.
The bodies of the Vietnamese migrants were discovered in the back of a refrigerated lorry on October 23 in Essex, in southeast England.
Hundreds of Vietnamese are trafficked to Britain each year, according to the charity Ecpat.
This article first appeared on Vietnam Star