News / 13 November 2019

What we've learned from the Essex lorry tragedy

It’s been four weeks to this day since we heard the horrifying news that 39 people were found dead in a refrigerated lorry container in Essex. Since then we’ve been busy talking to UK and global media and policy-makers in response to this issue.

Although we are shocked and saddened by this news and our thoughts are with the bereaved, unfortunately we were not surprised. The lack of safe routes to sanctuary and a ‘hostile environment’ on immigration have long been pushing people to enter the UK in dangerous ways. A disaster like this was waiting to happen.

We still do not know if this was human trafficking or people smuggling. Trafficking means moving someone for the purpose of exploitation. Smuggling involves moving someone across a border illegally but without further intention of exploitation.

Whatever was the case in Essex, it demonstrates that vulnerable people will do desperate things – whether that is falling under the control of the lies, false promises and threats of traffickers, or willingly climbing into the back of a lorry and having the doors sealed shut in the hope of a better life. For so many people living with grinding poverty, insecurity, conflict and persecution, these risks seem worth it, and they will continue to take such risks until safe alternatives are provided.

We must as a matter of urgency develop safe routes to asylum, and create a more humane immigration system. Unseen will continue to use our influence and expertise to push for these things, inspired by the survivors we work with, and you our supporters who care so passionately about this issue.