British police have begun removing some of the bodies of the 39 people
found dead in a refrigerated truck in eastern England for postmortem examinations.
Eleven bodies were taken by private ambulance under police escort to a mortuary on Thursday evening, British media reported.
Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in London issued a statement on Friday saying it not yet been able to confirm the nationality of the victims.
“The police said that they are verifying the identities of the deceased, whose nationality still cannot be confirmed,” the statement said.
A team led by the minister-counsellor in charge of consular affairs had been sent to Essex to liaise with the police on the case, it said.
The tragedy was discovered on Wednesday when British police found the 39 bodies inside a shipping container on the back of a truck at an industrial estate in Essex.
The container is thought to have travelled from Bulgaria via Belgium, while the truck that carried it from the British port to the industrial estate is believed to have started its journey in Northern Ireland.
Police said on Thursday that all 39 victims – 38 adults and one teenager – were Chinese, and described it as the worst human smuggling incident in Britain for nearly two decades.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday described it as an “unimaginable tragedy”.
Meanwhile, Global Times, a Chinese tabloid newspaper under the control of the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, said the British should be held responsible for the deaths.
“Although these Chinese nationals appeared to have entered Britain in an improper way, it has yet been confirmed to what extent that they should be held responsible for this tragedy,” it said in a commentary.
“However, such a serious humanitarian tragedy happened under the watch of British and European people, and it is clear that the UK and the relevant European countries have not fulfilled their responsibility in protecting these people.
“China has put a lot of effort into protecting overseas Chinese, and we hope the UK and European countries can uphold their promises on [protecting] human rights,” it said, adding that European countries should do more to highlight the dangers of human smuggling.