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Migrant lorry tragedy shows need for an urgent rethink on illegal immigration, say MPs

A mass prayer and vigil is held for the 39 victims found dead in the back of a truck in Grays, Essex, at The Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, London’s Vietnamese church
A mass prayer and vigil is held for the 39 victims found dead in the back of a truck in Grays, Essex, at The Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, London’s Vietnamese church
The lorry in which the bodies were discovered
One of the dead, Pham Thi Tra My

By Joe Gammie

The "tragic" deaths of 39 people found in the back of a lorry in Essex should be a "wake up call for the government" to rethink its approach to illegal migration, MPs have said.

In a new report, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee warned that a policy focused on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes and push them into the hands of smugglers.

The committee said the human cost of so-called "irregular" migration made international partnerships, including with the EU, "essential".

Committee chair Tom Tugendhat said until the UK left the EU it should return to the meetings where migration is discussed and plan the response to illegal migration together.

The report comes less than a fortnight after 31 men and eight women were found dead in the refrigerated container in an industrial estate in Grays.

The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland, has appeared in court charged with a string of offences, including 39 counts of manslaughter. There is no suggestion he is connected to other cases.

Mr Tugendhat added: "The case of 39 people found dead in a lorry in Essex shocked us all.

"The full story won't be clear for some time but this tragedy is not alone.

"Today, hundreds of families across the world are losing loved ones who felt driven to take the fatal gamble to entrust their lives to smugglers.

"This case should serve as a wake-up call to the Foreign Office and to the government.

"The UK has been relatively isolated from the different migrant crises in recent years - but it's wrong to assume that we are protected from their impact.

"The UK has a proud history of helping those fleeing conflict and persecution and cooperating with others to protect human rights. We should lead by example."

The report, 'Responding to irregular migration: a diplomatic route', also raised concerns about deals to limit migration with countries such as Libya, Niger and Sudan as risking fuelling human rights abuses. It warned that these deals could be used as leverage by partner governments, such as Turkish President Erdogan's recent threat to "reopen the gates".

The committee said that although the Home Office leads the UK response to irregular migration, this could lead to the "error of focusing on preventing migration to the exclusion of other goals such as preventing conflict and promoting stability and respect for fundamental human rights".

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