Category: Archive

Eight asylum seekers found dead in cargo trailer

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Eight dead and five surviving asylum seekers who were discovered in Wexford at the weekend may have intended to go to Britain but stowed away in the wrong cargo trailer.

The five survivors, aged 17 to 40, including a woman, are all recovered in Wexford General Hospital.

The dead included three men, a woman and four children (three boys and a girl). One of the dead, a boy, was only 4.

The stowaways were found sealed into the truck trailer when it was opened at Drinagh business park just outside Wexford town on Saturday. It is believed they had been there for seven days.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said it was an “appalling tragedy” and no effort would be spared in bringing those responsible to justice.

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Gardai say they now believe 11 of the group are Turkish and two others are from Alabania and Algeria.

There were two families from Turkey. The surviving woman has lost a husband and two children and a surviving man has lost a wife and two children.

Garda believe a criminal gang was responsible for sealing the asylum seekers into what became a metal coffin for most of them. Through Interpol, police have asked for help from a number of European police forces.

“We believe they boarded the container in Belgium but had thought it was going to Britain,” a spokesman said.

The journey to Britain would have taken a few hours. Instead, the group were entombed in the steel container for five days and had to endure a journey through the English Channel, where the ship encountered gale-force winds.

Dr. Paddy McKiernan of Wexford General said the survivors were in critical condition, suffering from lack of oxygen, hypothermia and dehydration, when they were admitted.

“You just can’t bear to think about what these people must have gone through, locked in that cabin and not able to get out,” he said. “I think they must have gone through the most unbelievable harrowing scenes before they passed out.”

Refugee agencies, politicians and churchmen have criticized European asylum policies that force people to resort to extreme measures to get into the EU.

In April, a Dutch truck driver was found guilty of killing 58 Chinese immigrants who were found dead in a trailer at Dover in England.

The bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey, said Europe is becoming known as Fortress Europe, instead of a family of nations and that the plight of asylum seekers and economic migrants must be considered with “softer, more open and more loving hearts.”

Justice Minister John O’Donoghue said the cases of the survivors would receive “sympathetic and humane consideration” if they applied to remain in Ireland.

“There is also provision, even if they were not to qualify for refugee status, for an order to be made allowing them to stay on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

“I have no intention of saying no room at the inn to these human beings. It was never my intention to say no room at the inn to any human being.”

He said that in the last year Ireland issued work permits to about 40,000 non-EEA immigrants and had also received about 10,000 applications for refugee status from asylum seekers.

Gardai believe the container left Milan in northern Italy on Nov. 30 and then went by rail to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge via the German city of Cologne. It was shipped from Belgium on Dec. 4 and arrived in the Waterford port of Belview two days later.

It was then collected by a driver and cab and brought by road to Wexford.

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