Forensic police officers attend the scene after a truck was found to contain a large number of dead bodies, in Grays, England, Oct. 23, 2019. A Romanian man who was part of an international human smuggling ring was sentenced July 11, to more than 12 years in prison for the deaths of 39 migrants from Vietnam who suffocated were found lifeless in a truck trailer in England in 2019. Marius Mihai Draghici, 50, pleaded guilty last month to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File

LONDON—A Romanian man who was part of an international human smuggling ring was sentenced July 11 to more than 12 years in prison for the deaths of 39 migrants from Vietnam who suffocated in a truck trailer on their way to England in 2019.

Marius Mihai Draghici was the ringleader`s right-hand man and an “essential cog” in an operation that made huge profits exploiting people desperate to get to the U.K., Justice Neil Garnham said in Central Criminal Court known as the Old Bailey.

Victims, who paid about $16,770 for so-called VIP service, died after trying in vain to punch a hole in the container with a metal pole as the temperature inside exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Their desperation as they struggled to breathe was captured in messages they tried to send loved ones and recordings that showed “a growing recognition they were going to die there,” Justice Garnham said.

There was no escape, and no one could hear their cries, prosecutors said. Their final hours “must have entailed unimaginable suffering and anguish,” Prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones said on July 11.


A young mother wrote a message to loved ones that was never sent: “Maybe going to die in the container. Cannot breathe anymore.”

The 28 men, eight women and three children ranged in age from 15 to 44 and about half hailed from the Nghe An province in north-central Vietnam. The victims included a bricklayer, a restaurant worker, a manicure technician, an aspiring beautician and a college graduate.

A married couple, Tran Hai Loc and Nguyen Thi Van, were found lying side by side Oct. 23, 2019, in the container that had been shipped by ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium to Purfleet, England.

Draghici, 50, pleaded guilty in June to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. He’s the fifth man to be sentenced in the case in the U.K. Four other gang members were imprisoned in 2021 for terms ranging from 13 to 27 years for manslaughter. The stiffest sentence went to ringleader Gheorghe Nica, 46.

Another 18 people were convicted in Belgium, where the Vietnamese ringleader was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Others got one to 10-year terms.

Draghici was “shocked and horrified with what occurred” defense lawyer Gillian Jones said in court. But he, like the others involved in the conspiracy, had “immediately abandoned the plan and melted away in the night,” after another man opened the truck container and discovered the dead bodies, Emlyn Jones said. Draghici and Nica both fled to Romania, where Draghici was later arrested.

Family members of the victims who had gone into debt to fund the travel said they were crushed by the loss.

The parents of Nguyen Huy Hung, 15, who was on his way to live with his parents in the UK and wanted to be a hairdresser, were shocked after learning of the tragedy on social media.

“We did not believe it was the truth until we saw his body with our own eyes,” his father said. “We felt numb and that feeling lasted for many weeks later.” (AP)

Scourge of racism haunts Black women and girls seeking healthcare

Women and girls of African descent face a “systemic and historical pattern” of racial abuse in the health sector in countries across the world, leaving them at increased risk of death during childbirth, the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency said on July 12.

“The scourge of racism continues for Black women and girls in the Americas, many of whom are descendants of the victims of enslavement,” Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), said in a news release.

“Too often, Afro-descendant women and girls are abused and mistreated, their needs are not taken seriously, and their families are shattered by the preventable death of a loved one during childbirth. Justice and equality will only be possible when our healthcare systems see these women and provide them with respectful, compassionate care.”

From abuse to denial of care

According to UNFPA, the mistreatment faced by Afro-descendent women when receiving health care ranges from verbal and physical abuse to denial of quality care and refusal of pain relief.

As a consequence, they face increased complications during pregnancy and delayed interventions, which too often result in death.

These findings are contained in the report Maternal Health of Women and Girls of African Descent in the Americas, developed in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization, the National Birth Equity Collaborative, and UN agencies UNICEF and UN-Women.

The report also noted that Afro-descendants experience disproportionate levels of mistreatment in health settings, some of which is based on unscientific, racist and slave-era beliefs still present in medical training practices.

Disparity ‘most extreme’ in the U.S.

According to the report, the disparity is most extreme in the United States, where Black women and girls are three times more likely to die while giving birth or within six weeks of giving birth compared to non-Afro-descendent and non-Hispanic women.

Maternal deaths also persist regardless of income and education levels, with maternal deaths among African American college graduates still 1.6 times higher than among White women with less than a high school diploma.

In the wider Americas region, where there are an estimated 209 million people of African descent, only 11 out of 35 countries collect maternal health data broken down by race.

Call to address racist ideology

To address the situation and save lives, UNFPA urged governments to collect and analyze robust health data broken down by race and ethnicity.

It also called on medical schools to address racist ideology in training curricula and on hospitals to establish policies to end physical and verbal abuse damaging Afro-descendent women and girls. (UN News)

200+Palestinians killed by Israel since beginning of 2023: Data center

As many as 206 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the beginning of this year, figures gleaned by a Palestinian data center have shown.

The Palestinian Information Center news agency cited the “Mu’ti” data center as offering the data on July 12.

Jenin in the northern part of the occupied West Bank took the brunt of the Israeli brutality, according to figures provided by the center, which showed that Israeli forces had slain as many as 64 Palestinians in the city during the period.

At least 13 of the fatalities were caused in early July, when Israel launched a military campaign against the city, mobilizing upwards of 1,000 troops as means of supposedly damaging the resistance “infrastructure” there.

Offering more information, the data center revealed that 46 of the Palestinians had died during the seven months that have passed since the start of the year in Nablus, which is likewise located in the northern West Bank, while 37 others died in the nearby Israeli-blockaded Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip.

Mu’ti underlined that 11 Palestinian citizens had been killed in the West Bank city of Ramallah and 10 others in al-Khalil (Hebron) in the southern part of the Palestinian territory, while eight had died in the holy occupied city of al-Quds as a result of Israeli aggression.

The report concluded that six Palestinians had been killed in Tulkarem, four in Qalqilya and Bethlehem, and two in Tubas and Salfit—cities that are scattered throughout the West Bank—adding that deadly Israeli violence had also claimed three lives in the 1948-present occupied territories.

The regime has significantly escalated its aggression against Palestinians under its new far-right cabinet that is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (