CATEGORY: Sussex Showcase

Ending Exploitation: what can we learn from the death of 39 victims in the Essex Truck tragedy?


The media have been highlighting the tragic deaths of 39 victims found in a refrigerated lorry at Purfleet last week. One of the victims (a 19 year old female from Vietnam) sent a text to her mother apologising and saying that she was dying. It is reported that Bui Thi Nhung paid a smuggler more than $10000 to travel to the UK hoping to work in a nail bar.




This is not the first time that we have witnessed this kind of tragedy. In 2015, 71 migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were found suffocated in the back of a refrigerated truck.

The tragedy raises many questions. What causes 39 people to risk everything on a promise to be brought to the UK for work? How should companies be identifying  and mitigating the risk of human trafficking?


Different reports have expressed the reasons why these people may have left their homeland. One of the reports state that some of the victims came from a region in Vietnam where the community has been destroyed by an environmental disaster in 2016.


Companies incorporated in the UK or carrying on business in the UK with a turnover of £36 million or above are required by the UK Modern Slavery Act to publish an annual modern slavery statement, setting out the steps they are taking to address modern slavery in their supply chain. Despite the law, it is apparent that the freight industry and ports have to reconsider managing their risk.


What are the lessons we can learn from this?


  1. Without international collaboration, this growing crime cannot be tackled where the criminals are increasingly agile, preying on the vulnerability of victims and providing a false sense of hope.
  2. Enforcement of these crimes should address the current lacuna where the risks are low and the rewards for traffickers are high.
  3. Authorities that are managing ports need to consider what kind of surveillance methods should be put in place to detect any kind of wrongdoing.
  4. Environmental pollution can impact populations to contribute to  human rights abuses.
  5. Businesses involved in logistics and transportation have to give more consideration to their supply chains.
  6. Notwithstanding lack of legal enforcement for failing to report on modern slavery risks in supply chains, business should consider the impact on their reputation.
  7. Routes that are commonly used for Vietnamese migrants attempting to travel to the UK should act as a warning to logistics and freight companies and to the authorities.
  8. Consideration should be given to whether reporting legislation that calls for companies to be more transparent about management of their human rights and environmental impacts, should be amended to introduce tougher penalties.
  9. Governments need to do more to ensure that traffickers are brought to account for their deeds.
  10. Under the UNGPs’ there is a requirement for ‘remedy’ where there is abuse of human rights. Should there be an international system where compensation is paid to the families left with huge unpayable debts?


Join us on the 14th of November at the Hotel Du Vin ‘Tackling modern slavery in Sussex’ . Book here:


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