Wednesday, 23rd October 2019

Statement from Katherine Mulhern, CEO of ECPAT UK, on the tragic deaths of 39 individuals in a lorry in Essex.

‘We are deeply saddened by reports that 39 people including a teenager have died entering the country in a lorry.

'While we don’t yet have any details about those who lost their lives, lack of safe, legal routes make people vulnerable to these kinds of risks.

'Children and young people in these situations face additional risks of trafficking and exploitation en route and in the UK due to their inherent vulnerability as children.’

Investigations are ongoing, and authorities have not yet confirmed whether those in the lorry were victims of trafficking or being smuggled. However, this case is a tragic example of the risks facing individuals who cannot migrate in a safe and legal way.

Smuggling and trafficking are often conflated. Smuggling involves the movement of people across an international border, when a person cannot access a legal route to migrate. The transaction between the person and the smuggler ends on arrival at their destination.

In cases of human trafficking, the movement can take place through clandestine entry across international borders but it can also happen when a person enters a country legally or within a country where a person does not cross an international border at all.

However, there is a grey area between the two due to the inherent vulnerability to exploitation of people who have a precarious immigration status and cannot access safe, legal routes in migration.

It can be particularly confusing in cases when an individual may think they are being smuggled by paying an agent to enable them to travel overseas. However, the agent may deceive and exploit them - this then becomes human trafficking.

Further information and resources

For more information on the vulnerabilities to trafficking of children and adults migrating from Vietnam to the UK through Europe, see our Precarious Journeys report.

Our FAQs on child trafficking contain legal definitions, facts and trends relating to child trafficking.

Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, [email protected], 07402 113 985 / 0207 607 2136