The Latest: Tougher checks for ports of Zeebrugge, Purfleet

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs a book of condolence during a visit to Thurrock Council Offices, England, Monday Oct. 28, 2019. British police say they have arrested a fourth person in connection with the deaths of 39 people found in a truck in southeast England in one of Britain’s worst human-smuggling tragedies. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool via AP)

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The Latest on the 39 people found dead Oct. 23 in the back of a truck in England (all times local):

11:40 p.m.

Britain’s home secretary says enforcement efforts will be stepped up in two ports used by traffickers responsible for the deaths of 39 people found in a refrigerated truck container last week.

Priti Patel told Parliament Monday that UK border officials will increase operations in Purfleet, the English port where the container arrived.

She said Belgium has agreed to Britain sending more British immigration officers to Zeebrugge, the Belgian port also used by the traffickers.

Patel said the nationalities of the victims “are not confirmed at this stage” and cautioned that the investigation will be “long and meticulous.”

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7:35 p.m.

Britain’s prime minister has signed a condolence book honoring the 39 people who died in a refrigerated truck container in southeastern England last week.

Boris Johnson wrote in the book Monday at the Thurrock Council office that “the whole nation, and indeed the world, has been shocked by this tragedy.” He says the victims were “innocent people who were hoping for a better life in this country.”

Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel joined emergency service workers to pay their respects to the victims. He plans to place a wreath in remembrance.

The prime minister renewed his pledge to find those responsible for the truck deaths.

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7 p.m.

The driver charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 39 people found in the back of his truck has made his first court appearance in Britain.

Maurice Robinson appeared in Chelmsford Magistrates Court via a video link from prison Monday but was not required to enter a plea.

The 25-year-old will be kept in custody until he appears at a higher court on Nov. 25, where he will be expected to enter a plea.

He is charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, two counts of conspiracy to facilitate human trafficking and other crimes.

His lawyer did not request that Robinson be freed on bail.

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6 p.m.

Britain’s ambassador has met with Vietnamese officials to discuss cooperation in the identification of 39 bodies that were found in a truck in southeastern England.

Ambassador Gareth Ward said he told Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security that Britain still has not confirmed the identities or nationalities of the victims.

British police initially believed the victims were Chinese, but later acknowledged that details about the bodies found last Wednesday were still evolving. Up to two dozen Vietnamese families have since reported missing relatives whom they fear to be among the dead.

Ward said in a statement Monday that the British government is aware of Vietnamese concern and that he discussed how Britain would work closely with Vietnam on the identification process.

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5:20 p.m.

China says it has asked British authorities to provide more information on the identity of 39 people who were found dead in a truck in southeastern England last week.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday that the U.K. has not confirmed the victims’ nationalities. British police initially believed they were Chinese, but later acknowledged that the details were still evolving.

Geng described reports that the victims had Chinese passports as “speculation.”

The spokesman added that the Chinese embassies in Vietnam and the U.K. are in close contact with their counterparts in those countries.

He said he hoped “parties concerned about this incident should make remarks based on facts, instead of making subjective guesswork from first impressions.”

Dozens of Vietnamese families have reported missing relatives whom they fear are among the dead.

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4:45 p.m.

Vietnam says it has received from British authorities the documents of four of the people found dead in the back of a truck in England last week to help determine whether any of them are Vietnamese.

Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Thanh Son was cited by the VNExpress news website as saying Monday that the documents were handed over to ministry of public security. He said the documents will be used to help identify the victims.

It was not immediately clear what type of documents were sent.

British police initially believed the victims were Chinese, but later acknowledged that details around the bodies found last Wednesday in southeastern England were still evolving. Up to 24 Vietnamese families have since reported missing relatives whom they fear to be among the dead.

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2:35 p.m.

China says it hopes the U.K. can quickly identify the 39 people who were found dead in the back of a sealed truck in southeastern England.

Police initially believed the victims were Chinese, but dozens of Vietnamese families have since reported missing relatives whom they suspect to be among the dead.

China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong called on the international community Monday to work together against illegal immigration.

Chen said the case “needs to be jointly dealt with and properly resolved by all parties concerned so that we can prevent a tragedy like this from repeating in the future.”

British authorities charged the 25-year-old truck driver with 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people. He is expected in court Monday.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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