Chain reactions between journalists and police from London to Dracé (Rhône) saved them. Six migrant women locked in a refrigerated truck were rescued on Wednesday after journalists from the BBC and Le Monde alerted authorities.
The semi-trailer, which was carrying bananas and driving south, was intercepted around 13:30 p.m. on the A6 motorway, and forced to stop on an area in Dracé, about fifty kilometers north of Lyon, said the gendarmes. The victims treated are four Vietnamese and two Iraqi, confirmed the prosecutor's office of Villefranche-sur-Saône.
A call from a passenger of the truck
The group of migrants was located thanks to information passed to the French authorities by a BBC journalist who was investigating Vietnam's illegal immigration networks. Khue B. Luu had previously worked on the case of 39 Vietnamese migrants who died of asphyxiation in a refrigerated truck in Essex County (UK) in 2019.
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This is how one of the people she had met at that time knew her and contacted her, panicked, Wednesday noon. "Are you in Europe? Please, it's urgent," he is told on the other side of the phone. Quickly, the journalist says she gathered some information: six people are hidden in this truck, of which they know neither the license plate, nor the location, nor the direction.
"All I knew at that time, from what the caller had told me, was that the vehicle was in France, but appeared to have turned around and was no longer heading to its original destination - the border with England," says Khue B. Luu. Other calls came from a female passenger in the vehicle, in which the woman reported that the air conditioning was restarted in the truck and that the cold was beginning to become painful for the six women. She said she got into the truck around 0:30 a.m.
BBC and Le Monde journalists alert authorities
Khue B. Luu then contacted his colleagues at the BBC, while Eric Albert, Le Monde's correspondent in London, notified the Paris bureau after obtaining similar information. "The girl was able to share with me her GPS position live, from where I saw that the truck was on the E15 motorway, near Dracé," about fifty kilometers from Lyon, details the journalist in her account.
In constant contact with this passenger, she followed the progress of the vehicle. In the course of the discussion, she learned that three people had decided not to accompany the six women in the vehicle. "I don't know why they made this decision, but they took a picture of the license plate of the truck." It "showed Irish license plates."
These elements were transmitted to the authorities and, alerted, the motorway platoon of Villefranche-sur-Saône was dispatched to intercept the truck around 13:30 p.m., says Le Progrès. The driver of the truck was placed in custody as part of a procedure opened for "assistance to illegal residence" by the prosecutor's office of Villefranche-sur-Saône, according to the latter.