A Vietnamese catholic priest who made four attempts to come to Britain has told Sky News he saw people shot dead by security services on one of his failed attempts.
On his third try, Father Yen Duc Vu, who now lives in Birmingham, was already in his boat on a river ready to head to the sea when security services, who had uncovered the plan and were determined to stop people leaving, opened fire.
Some people were shot and killed on one of several boats taking people out of Vietnam, he said, while others drowned after jumping into the water to escape.
The experience still affects him years later.
Father Vu said he feels “sad” about theDeaths of 39 peoplewhose bodies were found in the back of a truck in Essex on Wednesday.
“When you see they had such a hard journey and it ends in loneliness … in dying alone.”
He said they would have known in “every moment” that “death was coming, it would’ve been very sad”.
None of the identities of the victims have been confirmed, but it is thought some were from Vietnam and may have been traveling in a convoy of three vehicles.
Three people, Anna Bui Thi Nhung, Nguyen Dinh Tu and Tra My, all from the country, are believed to be among those in the lorry.
The clergyman, who describes himself as a chaplain to the Vietnamese community in the Midlands, came to the UK as one of the “boat people” who fled Vietnam in the 1980 s as the then-impoverished country recovered from the ravages of the civil war.
Asked why people continue to risk what he describes as a “hazardous” journey, he said for his own part he was looking for freedom and “the price of freedom costs you dearly”.
“Some [of his contemporaries] said they sacrificed themselves for the next generation,” he added.
His own life was at risk on his journey, he said, as his boat was small and unsuitable for the sea but “I accepted that if I died, it was a price I would pay”.
He was seeking, he said, “what we [in Vietnam] didn’t have – democracy and freedom”.
“From what people [already in the UK] told me, they enjoyed freedom and democracy and they are respected and shown dignity,” he added.
“Everybody wants a better future. “