Chinese pair appear in court in connection with smuggling deaths

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The Independent Online

Two London-based Chinese people were ordered held by police Saturday charged with conspiracy to smuggle in illegal immigrants in connection with the deaths of 58 Chinese migrants who, an inquest heard, made a futile attempt to escape the sealed back compartment of a truck as it ran out of oxygen.

Two London-based Chinese people were ordered held by police Saturday charged with conspiracy to smuggle in illegal immigrants in connection with the deaths of 58 Chinese migrants who, an inquest heard, made a futile attempt to escape the sealed back compartment of a truck as it ran out of oxygen.

The victims - 54 men and four women - suffocated after the airtight vehicle began a five-hour boat crossing from the Netherlands to the British port of Dover. Two male passengers survived.

Chef You Yi, 38, and 29-year-old female interpreter Ying Guo appeared briefly before Dover magistrates Saturday. A second hearing was scheduled for June 30th.

They are the third and fourth charged in a case that has sparked international condemnation of the criminal gangs who profit by smuggling people from Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa into the West amid promises of a better life.

The truck's Dutch driver, Perry Wacker, 32, from Rotterdam, has been charged with 58 counts of manslaughter and was ordered Friday to be held in police custody until June 30th.

In the Netherlands, police brought the 24-year-old owner of the trucking company, identified earlier as Arie van der Spek, to court on Friday on charges of illegal trafficking of aliens.

Customs officials found the two survivors - now recovering in a police safe house - and the victims' bodies late Sunday when they unsealed the back door of the truck a half hour after it disembarked from the ferry.

As international and local efforts intensified to identify the dead, Wah-Piow Tan, a London-based lawyer, asked government officials to grant an amnesty to any Chinese immigrants already in Britain who could help. He said that many are here illegally themselves and fear being deported if they come forward, even though they suspect their friends and relatives are among the victims.

But Immigration minister Barbara Roche told the BBC: "It is not our policy to grant general amnesties."

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