I’m ashamed to have joked about Vietnamese migrants – Kenny MacAskill

Hoang Thi Ai holds a picture of her son Hoang Van Tiep, feared among the 39 migrants who died in a lorry in Essex (Picture: Hau Dinh/AP)
Hoang Thi Ai holds a picture of her son Hoang Van Tiep, feared among the 39 migrants who died in a lorry in Essex (Picture: Hau Dinh/AP)
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A few years back I chaired Scotland‘s first-ever Human Trafficking Summit. It brought together law enforcement bodies along with other charities and agencies, as well as cooperating closely with counterparts in Northern Ireland. It was at an early juncture but the scale of the odious trade was already evident.

Networking and meeting others both then and thereafter, I picked up a few tales about Vietnamese migrants that I’ve recounted since.

Of a group detained in a Scottish prison demanding and pleading to be allowed to share a cell despite rules on single or double occupancy and very limited space. And how a wise and humane prison governor authorised it.

Of police in Northern Ireland raiding a cannabis farm located in a house outside Belfast and asking the Vietnamese migrants detained, if they knew where they were. All insisted that they were in London.

I visited Vietnam in 2016 and adored the country. Stunning scenery and a friendly and outgoing people. It was truly remarkable given the horrors of war that occurred in that land. Not just the American War, as they referred to it, but battles against Japan and then France.

Given all that, to find everyone so lacking in bitterness was truly humbling.

Watching the news about the 39 migrants killed in a lorry, for simply seeking a better life, made me feel ashamed of having joked about those tales. They were poor frightened people, just like their compatriots who died.

What have we allowed to happen?

READ MORE: Vietnamese teenager feared among 39 dead migrants in Essex text ‘I’m really sorry mum and dad’

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