39 migrants found dead in Essex, England

by Chris Bertram on October 24, 2019

Yesterday morning, 39 migrants, now revealed to be Chinese nationals, were discovered dead in a transport container in Essex, England. Politicians were not slow to give their opinions about who was responsible, even though it is on ongoing murder investigation. I have a short piece on this case at the London Review of Books blog.

{ 25 comments }

1

Alan White 10.24.19 at 2:23 pm

This was a very thoughtful big-picture commentary on the ongoing tragedies associated with rampant nationalism. Thank you.

2

Cervantes 10.24.19 at 3:15 pm

The Guardian has a similar response.

“The discovery of 39 people dead in the back of a lorry in Essex has renewed focus on the risks taken by undocumented migrants to travel to the UK to seek safety and shelter.

A lack of safe and legal routes into the UK is in part driving a dependence on life-threatening methods including squeezing into the back of refrigerated lorries or riding in vulnerable dinghies across wild seas.

People fleeing the threat of torture, rape or death cannot claim asylum in the UK without physically reaching Britain, aside from a few limited programmes including the Syrian refugee resettlement programme. Family reunion routes – that is, those granted refugee status in the UK being able to apply to bring relatives to join them – have been drastically curtailed.”

3

steven t johnson 10.24.19 at 3:26 pm

There is a recent series on Netflix, a procedural that focuses on the interrogation of the accused in the police station. Although the episodes all use the same set, some are set in Spain, France, Germany and the UK. One of the UK stories was about the police trying to persuade a driver to tell them where he abandoned a truck full of immigrants, lest they freeze to death.

4

Anonymous 10.24.19 at 6:18 pm

Thank you.

5

Anarcissie 10.24.19 at 9:17 pm

Thanks for the article. I forwarded URLs for both to a friend who is now beginning to do activism along the border in the US Southwest to counter, resist, or mitigate the evils being visited upon immigrants and refugees there. It is dangerous work and he needs all the information he can get. One can learn further by doing searches on the Net for the people and organizations mentioned.

I sometimes tell people that national borders are a species of violence; some get it, some don’t.

6

Matt 10.25.19 at 2:11 am

It’s a nicely written piece, Chris. I especially like the discussion of how the idea of “people smuggling” and trafficking have been illegitimately merged in both official and popular discourse, and the first also pushed beyond any reasonable bounds. For my own purposes, I’d be glad to see these terms eliminated, replaced in all cases by more careful and specific descriptions of different sorts of acts, both in law and in general discourse. The only hesitation I have comes from having spoken recently with some refugee rights activists from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia at a recent workshop in Melbourne. None of these countries are parties to the refugee convention, but the people I spoke with said that there is very little public sympathy for “refugees” in those states, and even often contempt, but that there is a good deal of sympathy for people who have been “trafficked” or who are “victims” of “people smugglers”. I wasn’t completely sure that I understood the reasoning (of the populations, not the activists), but the people I spoke with were worried about trying to change these terms, for fear of losing one of the few keys that they have.

7

eg 10.25.19 at 2:44 am

The behaviour of countries like this towards migrants reveals that they are governed not with an eye to the welfare of people, but property.

I don’t know whether or not there is a technical term for this sort of governance, but it is repellent.

8

Tim Worstall 10.25.19 at 9:53 am

“People fleeing the threat of torture, rape or death cannot claim asylum in the UK without physically reaching Britain,”

That correct, that’s how international law on asylum works. You have a right to asylum and that right must be exercised in the first place you reach it is safe to do so.

Whether it should be this way is an interesting question but that is the way it is and the UK is no different in this respect.

9

Trader Joe 10.25.19 at 11:02 am

I’m in agreement with the spirit and sentiment of the piece, but….

I think you’re pretty far out on a limb to suggest that your so called ‘entrepreneurs’ who assist migrants political or otherwise deserve much praise for the task they undertake.[There is nothing in my piece that “suggests” this and you need to look to your reading skills Trader Joe. CB] While no doubt there are some exceptions, the vast majority are exploitative criminals who deserve to be subjected to the exact same treatment that they subject their ‘cargo’ to. They spend zero seconds thinking they are helping a refugee and all of their moments figuring out how to exploit someone vulnerable and not get caught. They are effectively drug dealers just catering to a different need.

39 people don’t die in a lorry because some nice guy made an innocent mistake – they die because someone with no regard whatsoever for human life decided to save their own neck at the cost of others.

Also – I’m no fan of Boris, but his reaction didn’t deserve your pot-shot (at least yet). He expressed the appropriate outrage and indicated the appropriate intentions about capturing the bad guys. Reserve the outrage for the policies that caused the need for such trafficking – not his support for entrepreneurs.

10

Chris Bertram 10.25.19 at 11:04 am

@Tim Worstall writes

“You have a right to asylum and that right must be exercised in the first place you reach it is safe to do so.”

This assertion is often made by politicians and journalists, and indeed was made by Tim Worstall’s fellow UKIPper Suzanne Evans. It has no basis in international asylum law, however as Colin Yeo, who knows what he is talking about, explains

https://www.freemovement.org.uk/are-refugees-obliged-to-claim-asylum-in-the-first-safe-country-they-reach/

11

Chris Bertram 10.25.19 at 11:08 am

@Matt thanks

12

john 10.25.19 at 11:22 am

Thoughful piece. Thank you.

13

Trader Joe 10.25.19 at 11:43 am

@9 Trader Joe – CB’s editorial

From the piece:
“Johnson’s revulsion at ‘traders in human beings’ suggests an uncharacteristic aversion to entrepreneurship. But the rhetorical attempt to appeal to our sense that lives should not be bought and sold masks the fact that states also criminalise people who assist migrants and refugees out of solidarity and concern: the Sea Watch captains Carola Rackete and Pia Klemp were arrested by Italy for rescuing people in the Mediterranean; Scott Warren was prosecuted for providing aid in the Arizona desert; Cédric Herrou, a French farmer, was brought to trial for giving shelter to Africans freezing in the Alps.”

I’ll accept I didn’t spend hours pondering this passage – but I’m not sure how to take it other than as an equalization between whomever might have left the 39 humans in the truck and the legitimately good work of all the people you mention who were/are in fact good Samaritans. That may not have been your intent – but its surely how it reads.

My point was entirely to say while there are some good people involved in assisting refugees with borders, and that the rules quite often are bad, these people are not those people – if my reading skills failed me in this interpretation, I’d allow that others might be reading it the same way.

14

Philip 10.25.19 at 2:12 pm

I do not see how Chris’s statement equalizes between ‘good’ work’ and the actions of those who left 39 humans in the truck. In fact he makes a clear distinction between those who help out of solidarity and those who act out of a profit motive. I read Chris’s point to be that it is states’ actions which criminalise both activities and it is this which makes a false equivalence between different motives. There also seems to be some ambiguity in Johnson’s statement as to whether his revulsion is to the conditions that the people were kept in or that people tried to profit from that. As Johnson has done nothing to try and improve the conditions of irregular migrants then it might be assumed that his revulsion is to the profit motive. That would then be inconsistent with Johnson’s general views on profit and how the law fails to differentiate between motives.

15

Collin Street 10.25.19 at 8:55 pm

So… Tim Worstall is actually a professional public intellectual? he lives on the money peopleepay him for the products of his thinking? jesus fucking wept. Here I was thinking he was a no-name person-in-the-street like me and I was going to carefully explain exactly why “first safe country” is an obviously foolish and impractical standard, but, like… people actually pay him and he needs help to do basic shit like this?

First safe country is stupid because people can only be deported to their country of citizenship. If a person presents at the second safe country… there’s no mechanism to get the first safe country to accept them, is there. The choices open to an official are “admit the person” or “send them back to their country of citizenship”, and whether the second is a good idea doesn’t depend on their itinerary.

That took me, with no domain knowledge and a standard uni education, five minutes of not-particularly-hard thinking. Tim… clearly wasn’t up to that, and he purports that his thinking is of high professional standard. I cannot regard that claim as being true.

(note the fundamental assymetry. Countries have to accept non-citizens presenting…. unless the country is tim’s country, which can pick and chose. It really doesn’t make sense in a world where the self and others have equivalent authority, only if you special-case yourself)

16

Dipper 10.25.19 at 9:21 pm

[Dipper: I don’t want you on my threads, whatever you say, on any subject.]

17

ph 10.27.19 at 12:38 am

Hi Chris. First, thanks for posting this and for your long commitment to removing borders, a cause I don’t support. I just read a selection of fairly good articles on the routes, fees, practices and arrival points in Britain.

Several of the regulars (Henry, John-Belle, Corey) have sound reasons for not posting here, and are perhaps sharing all their best writing and web-data with Mark Z. and his investors. They’re missed.

Or, perhaps these CT posters share the frustration expressed in a comment condemning commenters as a ‘tedious’ lot. Speaking as an infrequent reader, I’ve noticed that only you, JQ, and Harry are producing regularly readable work. The comments are just that – comments.

I’m reading a critic now from a different time, who prefaced his plunge into a difficult topic by noting, that ‘poor framing of a question in imprecise and vague terms results only in frustration and additional useless discussions.’

That’s how I read a great deal of the antipathy on the nets and in some of your own posts. Conflating immigrants with refugees, and avoiding the terms like foreign nationals, or citizens of other nations, or passport holders from China and Viet Nam, as these poor folks are, obscures central key facts from our discussions.

I don’t see CT as a site promoting ‘group hugs’ and I’m certain that’s not your intent.

But it isn’t clear to me how vague and sometimes incorrect language is moving the needle, improving discussions, or reducing the palpable frustration which permeates so much of the internet today.

If the CT community is a collection of happy, productive bunnies all brimming with optimism and the confidence which follows hard work well done, then I apologize. There’s so much to enjoy and admire in the writing of the CT posters. I feel, however, that too few are willing to jettison practices, beliefs, and ideas that may no longer be working, or useful.

A little more rigor and open-mindedness would be very welcome, and probably provide a welcome breath of light and fresh air.

Britain is a wonderful place to live. 39 people from other nations just lost their lives trying to get to a place that is too often described at CT as a kind of hell. The world is full of light and has in many, many respects never been better.

You’d never guess that as a regular readers of posts and comments here.

18

J-D 10.27.19 at 6:07 am

Collin Street

So… Tim Worstall is actually a professional public intellectual? he lives on the money peopleepay him for the products of his thinking?

You might find it interesting, as I did, to reflect on the following questions:
Who is it that’s paying him?
What is that they’re paying him for, as they might describe it, and as it might be described by somebody opposed to them?

19

Tim Worstall 10.27.19 at 10:59 am

“First safe country is stupid because people can only be deported to their country of citizenship. If a person presents at the second safe country… there’s no mechanism to get the first safe country to accept them, is there. The choices open to an official are “admit the person” or “send them back to their country of citizenship”, and whether the second is a good idea doesn’t depend on their itinerary.”

Amazingly, that’s actually what the Dublin regulations – which are supposed at least to be the law here inside the EU – say. From the link that Chris B provides:

“One aspect of the system is referred to as the Dublin system or the Dublin Regulation. This piece of EU law provides broadly that where an asylum seeker has been fingerprinted in an EU Member State but then moves on to another EU Member State, the asylum seeker can be sent back to the first country to have the asylum claim processed there.”

20

Bernard Yomtov 10.27.19 at 8:23 pm

It seems to me that Trader Joe missed the word “also” in this sentence:

But the rhetorical attempt to appeal to our sense that lives should not be bought and sold masks the fact that states also criminalise people who assist migrants and refugees out of solidarity and concern:….

Anyway, excellent piece, Chris.

21

Chetan Murthy 10.28.19 at 1:30 am

As a USAian, I get why asylum-seekers transit Mexico and other countries, to get to the US. But I’m curious why someone would transit the EU (and esp. the western continental EU countries) to get to the UK ….. I wouldn’t have thought that the Benelux countries, or Germany, or France, were much worse-off than the UK? Is it the presence of large immigrant communities already ? Or something else?

Just curious.

22

Tabasco 10.28.19 at 5:57 am

@Chetan Murphy

You ask a good question. They might be Brexiters who want to be governed by Boris Johnson.

23

derrida derider 10.28.19 at 6:48 am

Is it the presence of large immigrant communities already ? Or something else?

My guess (I don’t live in the EU) is the former. Perhaps less because that makes the final destination more attractive to the smugglees as it makes it more attractive to the smugglers, who have reception networks set up there.

24

Chris Bertram 10.28.19 at 7:35 am

@ Chetan @derrida derider “my guess”

Perhaps people have relatives in the UK or speak English already. Lots of reasons. But instead of guessing, a good plan would be to read the excellent Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Saviour by Tuesday Reitano and Peter Tinti

25

Chetan Murthy 10.29.19 at 6:37 am

Chris, thanks for the pointer to the book: I’ll get it and read it. I’m not quite clear on how it’ll help, but I guess we’ll see …. the reason I’m not sure it’ll help clarify, is that we’re not talking about smugglers bringing people from outside the EU, to inside the EU. Or even from poorer parts of the EU, to richer parts. We’re talking about smugglers bringing people from one rich part of the EU, to another rich part.

And if it were about immigrant communities (esp. in the case of Vietnam) I’d think that they’d be heading for France, not the UK.

But maybe the book will clarify …..

Comments on this entry are closed.