More smuggled migrant deaths to come, Haulage Association warns

Two men were found guilty of manslaughter for their part in the deaths of 39 people. Credit: PA Wire / PA Images

There will be more deaths of migrants who are being smuggled in lorry trailers, the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) has warned.

IRHA president Eugene Drennan said drivers lived in “constant fear” of discovering people being smuggled in their lorries, as there are not enough protections in place to stop the issue.

He was speaking after the convictions in the UK of two men who were found guilty of manslaughter for their part in the deaths of 39 people who suffocated in the back of a trailer as they were shipped from Belgium to the UK in October last year.

The Vietnamese migrants, aged between 15 and 44, were offered false promises of a better life in Britain and were betrayed by criminals who pursued profits of more than £1 million that month alone.

On Monday, Romanian ringleader Gheorghe Nica, 43, from Basildon in Essex and lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 24, from County Down, were found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter.

The jury at the Old Bailey in London, which deliberated for nearly 23 hours, also convicted them of a wider people-smuggling plot with lorry driver Christopher Kennedy, 24, from County Armagh, and Valentin Calota, 38, from Birmingham.

Mr Drennan said: “I would welcome the convictions and I would congratulate any of the police who worked on the case and any other people from other agencies that worked on this case because it cannot be easy to piece together.

“It is every haulier’s and every driver’s – proper legitimate driver’s – worst nightmare finding migrants on board their cargo.”

He added: “We’re only lucky that we don’t have other people killed already. That is still waiting to happen. It’s still being done.”

He called on European leaders to finally take action before there are more deaths.

“Nothing has been put in place to stop the flow [of migrants], to return the people if necessary, to try to put a marker on it, to have a system in place of legal migration,” he said.

Mr Drennan said those involved in illegal smuggling “don’t take notice of what type of trailer they are putting the migrants into”.

“This will lead to further acts of manslaughter,” he warned.