China said Monday it hopes the U.K. can quickly identify the 39 people who were found dead in the back of a sealed truck in what British officials have called one of the country’s deadliest cases of human smuggling.
British police initially believed the victims were Chinese, but later acknowledged that details around the bodies in southeastern England were still evolving. Up to 24 Vietnamese families have since reported missing relatives whom they fear to be among the dead.
China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong said the case shows that illegal immigration is a global issue.
“It needs to be jointly dealt with and properly resolved by all parties concerned so that we can prevent a tragedy like this from repeating in the future,” Chen said at a Monday news conference.
British authorities charged the 25-year-old truck driver with 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people. He is expected in court Monday. Three other people have been arrested in connection to the case.
Police said they have removed all the bodies from the truck and are awaiting autopsies. Identifying the victims is expected to be difficult and officials said very few documents were found with the bodies.
Smugglers normally take the passports of their passengers to obscure their identities, stripping them of their names and giving them new documents when they arrive at their destinations.
Vietnamese authorities have taken hair and other forensic samples from families who have reported missing people to assist the identification efforts.