Closing In On Human Smuggling Ring

Dutch authorities said on Wednesday they were holding seven suspects and had found the Rotterdam warehouse linked to the suffocation deaths of 58 illegal Chinese immigrants last week.

Police in the Netherlands last week arrested two men after the discovery of 58 bodies in the back of a Dutch truck in the English port of Dover on June 19. Two immigrants survived.

The Dutch public prosecutor said it had now arrested eight suspected members of the illegal human trafficking organization that tried to smuggle 60 Chinese into Britain.

One man had been released, they said, and another suspect was still on the run.

"Police have a pretty clear picture of the criminal organization suspected of smuggling Chinese people," the prosecutor said.

Driver Perry Wacker has already been charged with 58 counts of manslaughter and with facilitating the illegal entry into Britain of the two survivors.

In court last Friday, Wacker sat impassively behind a glass screen and spoke only to confirm his name and to say he understood the charges.

He was remanded in custody for seven days by magistrates in Folkestone and is to appear in court again this Friday.

Two Chinese people appeared in court on Saturday charged with conspiring to smuggle the immigrants.

The man, You Yi, a 38-year-old chef, and a woman, 29-year-old Ying Guo, an interpreter, faced magistrates in the English port of Dover and were remanded in custody until June 30.

The two heard the charges against them read out and spoke only to confirm their names.

The charge was that they conspired to facilitate entry into Britain of people whom they knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, were illegal immigrants, police said.

"They were both remanded in custody until June 30, when they will reappear at Folkestone magistrates court," a police spokeswoman said.

Folkestone is near Dover, where customs officials found only two people alive out of 60 illegal immigrants locked in an airtight refrigeration unit on a Dutch truck that came in from Zeebrugge, Belgium in the early hours of Monday.

An inquest last Friday heard how the 60 Chinese stowaways found crammed inside a sealed tomato truck screamed in vain for help after their single air vent was closed.

They were not allowed any luggage, so many of them piled on layers of clothing including several pairs of trousers, multiple jumpers and in some cases even three pairs of underwear.

Their efforts to bring as much with them for their new lives was a contributing factor in their deaths.

As temperatures inside the truck soared on one of the hottest days of the year, they gasped for breath and banged the walls with their shoes to try and attract attention.

"Some of them took off their shoes and started banging them on the container walls. All of this…proved tragically fruitless," coroner's officer Graham Perrin said. He said they would have died after between one and five hours inside the metal ontainer.

"They were now inhaling their own respiratory waste, namely carbon dioxide," he said, adding that death would have occurred between one and five hours after being shut into the airtight metal container.

Two men who survived are under police guard. The 54 men and four women who died have not been identified.

Efforts to identify the dead will continue. London-based Chinese solicitor Wah-Piow Tan has said he has been contacted by people who may be related to the victims and might be able to identify some of the bodies.