The first 16 bodies of 39 Vietnamese people found dead in the back of a refrigerated truck after being smuggled into Britain last month have been repatriated to Vietnam, a local official and Vietnamese media said on Wednesday.
“16 bodies, including 5 from Nghe An province, have arrived in Vietnam,” a senior official of the province said on condition of anonymity.
The bodies arrived at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi early on Wednesday, online newspaper VnExpress reported, and would be taken by ambulances to their homes in Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces.
The remaining bodies would be repatriated later, it said.
Vietnamese police said earlier this month the victims came from six provinces: Haiphong, Hai Duong, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Hue.
The families of the victims, all aged between 15 and 44, have been plagued by confusion and anguish over how to get the bodies home.
The families would have to pay for the repatriation of the bodies, costing up to 2,208 pounds ($2,832.86), according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
The statement, dated Nov. 14, said the Vietnamese government would advance the payment, which families could repay later.
The discovery of the bodies in a container on an industrial estate near London has put a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.