‘The Dutch National rapporteur Conny Rijken calls for investigation into Vietnamese human trafficking’ she indicated in an interview with public broadcaster VPRO Argos yesterday.

38 of the 39 Vietnamese people found dead in a refrigerated lorry in Essex, UK in October 2019, have been in the Netherlands at some point. This was revealed last week in the annual report of Myria, the Belgian national rapporteur on human trafficking. 

The report raises many questions about those 38 victims and in particular two of them: the underage boys Hieu and Quyen. They were in the protected shelter in Limburg in The Netherlands for five months. The Belgian taxi that picked them up in Maastricht was followed all the way to Brussels by an observation team from the Dutch police. And yet no one intervened. Twelve days later, the boys were found dead in Essex.

Argos interviewed the Dutch national rapporteur on human trafficking Conny Rijken about the Myria report and the many unanswered questions. 'It is now up to the Netherlands to clarify. There must be an investigation', Conny Rijken says in the radio broadcast Argos of 17 december 2022.

For the Lost in Europe advent calendar we selected and translated some quotes from the interview for you:

“Almost all Essex victims have been in the Netherlands

This is very striking that the link to the Netherlands is so strong. Until now, we only knew that two of the victims had been in a protected shelter in the Netherlands as minors. Now, it turns out that there are many more. The Netherlands should do something about this, at least investigate exactly what that link consists of.

Thanks to EUROPOL and Lost in Europe, we know a lot about Vietnamese human trafficking

There are indications that Vietnamese human smuggling to Europe is widespread and also that it often involves exploitation and human trafficking. We know this from research by EMM (the Expertise Centre for Trafficking and Smuggling of Human Beings), EUROPOL and Lost in Europe.

Human smuggling and human trafficking are often intertwined

People smuggled into Europe are often in a precarious situation. They have taken on debts to pay for the trip and are under pressure to pay them back to family or shady middlemen, for example. They end up in the pincers of such a smuggling network. That can lead to forced labour, exploitation and crime. That is human trafficking. Vietnamese minors have been found working in hemp farms and in prostitution.

Clarification is needed on Quyen and Hieu's final journey

How did it happen that the underage boys Quyen and Hieu ended up in Essex from a protected shelter in the Netherlands?  Why was the Belgian taxi that picked them up in Maastricht followed to Brussels by the Dutch police? Why was there no intervention? What information was given at what point by the Netherlands to the Belgian authorities? These are all questions that need answers. On the Belgian side, an investigation has taken place. It would be good if such an investigation now also took place on the Dutch side.”

Argos and Lost in Europe previously discovered that hundreds of Vietnamese minors have disappeared in Europe. And we also reconstructed 'The last journey of Hieu and Quyen'.

The lead-up to the interview with Conny Rijken at Argos were the publications of our Belgian partners from De Standaard, VRT NWS and Knack published about the report of Myria, the Belgian national rapporteur on human trafficking. 


Read ‘Vietnamese smuggling networks increase prices after deadly tragedy’ by Kristof Clerix at Knack 

Read 'Congratulations, you escaped a death transport' by Roeland Termote at De Standaard
Read ‘Belgium hub for Vietnamese human smuggling: 'Smugglers without scruples' by Doruntina Islamaj at VRT NWS.

Huub Jaspers
Huub Jaspers
Help us create impact by sharing. Share

I want to help with the cross-border journalism project