by AFP/ pic by AFP
HANOI – AFP has spoken to several families of Vietnamese nationals missing in Britain, feared to be among the 39 people found dead in a truck in Essex last week.
DNA has been collected from relatives as officials in Vietnam and the UK scramble to officially identify the victims.
Here are the profiles of the disappeared.
Hoang Van Tiep, 18From Dien Chau district, Nghe An province.
After Tiep dropped out of high school in grade nine, he told his family he wanted to work overseas instead of becoming a fisherman in his coastal home province.
He left with his cousin Nguyen Van Hung a year ago for France where he worked as a dishwasher.
On October 21 he wrote to his family asking them to get $13,000 to pay to smugglers for his trip to the UK, the last they heard from him.
He carried nothing but 500 euros ($550) in his wallet and the clothes on his back, and is believed to have got on the truck with his cousin, who is also missing.
Nguyen Van Hung, 33From Dien Chau district, Nghe An province.
With his sights set on the UK, Hung got a falsified passport – known as a “washed” passport in Vietnam – last year and took off without telling his parents.
Travelling via Russia, he snaked his way westwards to France.
He called his parents on October 21 asking them to get money together for his crossing into the UK, telling them he didn’t have any luggage — just the clothes he was wearing.
Pham Thi Tra My, 26From Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province.
In her final chilling message to her mother My said: “I’m sorry Mom. My path to abroad doesn’t succeed. Mom and dad I love you so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe.”
The note was sent just hours before the bodies were discovered in the refrigerated trailer.
My left home on October 3, apparently going into debt to fund her trip abroad.
“Please try to work hard to pay the debt for mummy, my dear,” she wrote to her brother Pham Manh Cuong before the truck was found.
Le Van Ha, 30From Yen Thanh district, Nghe Anh province.
Ha left behind his wife and two children for Europe en route to the UK – his youngest son was born just three months ago after he left home – where he hoped to earn enough money to support his young family.
Ha flunked out of police school, then tried rice farming and interior design before deciding to set off.
The family last heard from him on October 21, two days before the truck was found.
“I’m about to board a car to Britain. I’ll contact the family when I arrive in England, Dad,” he told his father Le Minh Tuan.
Bui Thi Nhung, 19From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province.
An avid Facebooker, Nhung left home two months ago with her sights set on Britain.
Her feed was full of selfies and snaps of bubble tea and noodle soup as she travelled across Europe, until her page went silent two days before the doomed truck was found.
Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20From Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province.
One of eight kids, Luong had been living in France since 2018 where he worked as a waiter.
A few weeks ago called home to say he was heading to the UK to work.
A relative posted a desperate plea after he went missing: “His characteristics: 1.62 meters, weight about 58 kg. He has a tattoo on his left bicep,” said the post on a Facebook page advertising nail salon jobs in Britain.
Bui Phan Thang, 37From Hong Linh district, Ha Tinh province.
This was Thang’s second trip overseas for work, after a stint in Tawain as a labourer a few years ago.
The father of three last called home on October 21, telling his family he was stepping out to buy some groceries.
“My husband is a very nice man. He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink. He has always taken good care of us,” his wife Nguyen Anh Hong told AFP.
Nguyen Huy Hung, 15From Nghi Xuan district, Ha Tinh province.
Believed to be the youngest victim, Hung left his rural village for the UK where his parents both live.
His sister, who lives in South Korea, posted on Facebook that her younger brother was missing and believed to be in the truck.
Nguyen Dinh Tu, 27From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province.
A former army recruit, Tu is believed to have travelled from Germany to Britain where he planned to meet his father-in-law who helped to arrange his trip.
Tu’s Facebook page says he lives in Berlin and features a profile picture of a clean-cut man in a black turtleneck.
Vo Ngoc Nam, 28From Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province.
Nam worked in Romania for a few months before heading to the UK.
His family lost touch with him a few days before the truck was found.