Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Lorry horror born out of desperation

'Europe has made it more difficult for those seeking a new life to cross its borders' (stock photo)
'Europe has made it more difficult for those seeking a new life to cross its borders' (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

While little has been made public, or indeed is yet known, about the deaths of 39 people found in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Essex, it can safely be described as a massive human tragedy.

The presumption is that these were people seeking a new life in the UK who had taken a huge risk in trying to enter the country illegally.

If that indeed is the case, it mirrors the deaths of thousands of asylum seekers and illegal migrants who have sought to find sanctuary or a better existence in various parts of Europe in recent years.

The United Nations has reported that 17,500 migrants have drowned after taking to the seas, particularly the Mediterranean, in small, unsuitable crafts at the behest of people smugglers.

The fact that they, along with thousands more who made landfall, were prepared to put their lives on the line shows their desperation to escape persecution in their homelands.

Europe has made it more difficult for those seeking a new life to cross its borders.

That has increased the desperate measures which they are prepared to take.

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Lorries have been a favourite method of transport because of the huge traffic through ports — an estimated 3.6 million vehicles and containers entered the UK last year, making it impossible to check every lorry.

The scale of this tragedy and its proximity to our own shores has struck home in a way that few other such incidents have.

These are not mere statistics but human beings who had visions of a better life.

We don’t yet know who they were or where they came from, but it would take a heart of stone not to feel empathy with their as yet unknowing relatives, who will receive the worst possible news in the coming days and weeks.

Thousands of families on both parts of this island have seen loved ones set off for different parts of the world in pursuit of new lives.

While that migration was a far cry from the desperate measures adopted by those seeking asylum in Europe in recent years, there was often a dread that the high hopes of those leaving home could end in tragedy or, at the very least, disappointment.

Our thoughts are with the relatives of those found huddled together in death in the back of that lorry in an Essex industrial estate, their lives and hopes snuffed out.

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