Dimitar Dimitrov, executive director of the Bulgarian Chamber of Road Hauliers, told AFP many foreign hauliers registered in Bulgaria for financial reasons, and doubted whether a Bulgarian firm would employ Irish drivers.
Britain’s National Crime Agency said the number of migrants being smuggled into the UK in containers and trucks had risen in the last year.
In May the NCA said there had been “increasing use of higher risk methods of clandestine entry” to Britain by organised immigration crime gangs.
‘Evil’ contempt for life
Jackie Doyle-Price, the MP representing the local Thurrock constituency, called people trafficking a “vile and dangerous business”.
“To put 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil,” she said.
The gruesome discovery drew comparisons to previous cases.
In 2000, the bodies of 58 clandestine Chinese immigrants were discovered in a Dutch truck at the southeastern English port of Dover. Two people survived.
In 2014, some 34 Afghan Sikhs were found inside a shipping container at Tilbury port — next to Grays — suffering from severe dehydration, hypothermia and lack of air. One man was found dead, having passed away during the sea crossing from Belgium.
In August 2015, at the peak of Europe’s migration crisis, the bodies of 71 migrants including a baby girl were found piled up in the back of a poultry refrigerator lorry left in Austria.
Investigations later revealed they had been transported along the Balkan migrant route and left to suffocate in the back of the truck after the driver dumped the vehicle near the Hungarian border.
Britain and the European Union reached a last-ditch Brexit deal on Thursday, just hours before an EU summit that is expected to give it a seal of approval.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still have to take the accord to a sceptical British parliament for its backing on Saturday, and it is far from certain that it will pass.
Johnson, who has pledged to take Britain out of the EU with or without an agreement, tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday.”
EU officials are pleased they avoided an immediate crisis at the European Council summit, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recommended that the other 27 EU leaders endorse the deal.
“Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions,” Juncker tweeted.
The draft agreement was forged just weeks before Britain was due to leave the bloc on October 31, ending more than four decades of close economic and political ties with its nearest neighbours.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: “We have managed to find solutions that fully respect the integrity of the single market.
“We created a new and legally operative solution to avoid a hard border, and protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland,” he said.
“It is a solution that works for the EU, for the UK and for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”
One immediate hurdle is opposition from Johnson’s allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which pre-emptively rejected the compromise.
The agreement would see the British-ruled province remain under EU customs and Value Added Tax (VAT) rules, and the loyalist DUP announced that it can not support it.
It is not clear how many of Johnson’s Conservative MPs will back the deal, and if the British opposition could vote it down or attempt to force a nationwide referendum to approve or reject it.
Before setting off for Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted approvingly that London had been ready to negotiate and put “concrete proposals on the table”.
Under the measures to replace the so-called “Irish backstop” in the previous failed agreement, the plan would see Northern Ireland remain British legal territory but trade under EU regulations.
This is intended to prevent the return of a hard border with EU-member Ireland. But, because it would involve some customs and tax checks with the rest of the UK, it raised the hackles of the DUP.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier was to give a news conference to outline more details of the deal.
But one EU source told AFP the agreement “is politically fragile in London” because of Johnson’s reliance on votes from the DUP and Conservative eurosceptics.
The leaders also hope the summit will rise above the Brexit mire and focus on the EU budget debate, bids by North Macedonia and Albania to start talks to join the bloc, and the crisis in relations with Turkey.
The Brexit issue is first on the agenda, with the EU’s 27 other leaders to hear Johnson speak then retire to mull their response. But the issue could be delayed to Friday if the deal text needs more work.
Belgium became the first team to qualify for the 2020 European Championship finals after thrashing San Marino 9-0 in Brussels on Thursday.
Romelu Lukaku took his record Belgian international tally past 50 goals with a double as Roberto Martinez’s Group I leaders opened up an unassailable 11-point lead over third-placed Cyprus with three games remaining.
The world-number-one ranked side booked their spot at next year’s tournament, which will be played at 12 venues across Europe, after seven straight qualifying wins.
Russia appear set to take the second automatic slot from the group, after a 4-0 win over Scotland moved them eight points ahead of Cyprus.
Belgium will be one of the favourites as they look to lift a first major international title when the Euros get underway on June 12.
Belgium were forced to wait until the 28th minute for the initial breakthrough on Thursday, which arrived when Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans fed Lukaku, who fired home his landmark goal under San Marino goalkeeper Simone Benedettini.
The floodgates then opened, as Nacer Chadli slotted into the corner from the edge of the area three minutes later, and visiting defender Cristian Brolli scored a comical own goal 10 minutes before the interval as Benedettini pushed the ball against his knee and into the net.
Lukaku wasted little time in making it 51 Belgium goals with a low, right-footed effort, before Toby Alderweireld’s deflected strike and Tielemans’ drive made it six before half-time.
Substitute Christian Benteke drilled in number seven with 11 minutes remaining, 18-year-old Yari Verschaeren scored his first international goal from the penalty spot, and Atalanta defender Timothy Castagne completed the rout in the 90th minute.
With the continental finals of Africa, South America and North America and the Caribbean reaching a crescendo in the past month, the latest edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking sees a number of significant changes.
Unsurprisingly, the regional kings are some of the primary beneficiaries in the July update.
New South American champions Brazil (2nd, up 1) leapfrogged France (3rd, down 1) in second place and trail leaders Belgium by a narrow margin of 20 points. Other sides in Copa America action improved their Ranking positions substantially, namely quarter-finalists Uruguay (5th, up 3), Colombia (8th, up 5), and Venezuela (26th, up 7) – who reach their best-ever Ranking position after their run to the last eight. Bronze-medallists Argentina (10th, up 1) complete a quartet of South American teams in the top ten.
While the South American sides dominate the upper echelons of the Ranking, there have been significant gains by sides taking part in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations and Concacaf Gold Cup, too.
Concacaf champions Mexico (12th, up 6) and fellow finalist USA (22nd, up 8) made big strides up the table with an honourable mention for surprise semi-finalist Haiti (83rd, up 18).
The next FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking will be published on 19 September 2019.
Belgium slowed to a standstill on Wednesday as a national strike closed airports, shuttered businesses and caused major disruption to railways.
The strike, called by three unions, severely disrupted the country’s public transport, particularly in Brussels, where a meeting of NATO ministers was set to take place.
The national railway company expected half the trains nation-wide would be cancelled because of the movement, but high-speed train traffic to London and Paris should be mostly spared.
The air traffic control agency, Skeyes, announced on Tuesday that it would not allow any flights to or from the country because it could not determine with certainty which employees would come to work.
Belgium has joined world champions France as joint leaders of the FIFA world rankings released Thursday, the first time in the table’s 25-year history that top spot has been shared.
Belgium has notched up a pair of wins, including a victory over Iceland in the inaugural Nations League competition to bring them to level with the French, the team who beat them in the World Cup semi-finals.
The only other change in the top 10 sees Denmark (10th, down one place) slip below Spain (9th, unchanged).
Outside of the top ten, two Nations League wins for Ukraine (29th, up six) over Czech Republic (47th, down three) and Slovakia (26th, unchanged) means that they are the month’s biggest movers, while Germany (12th, up three) have started to edge back towards a single-figure ranking after their World Cup debacle.
World Cup semi-finalists Belgium capitalised on a series of Scotland mistakes with goals from Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and a Michy Batshuayi double to thrash the hosts 4-0 in a friendly at Hampden on Friday.
Roberto Martinez’s men showed their class and no hangover from their exertions in finishing third in Russia to warm-up for their Nations League opener against Iceland on Monday.
However, the visitors were handed a series of gifts by a Scotland side that slumped to a fourth defeat in five games since manager Alex McLeish was appointed for a second spell in charge.
The contrasting fortunes of the two nations were summed up by Belgium playing to a crowd less than that which celebrated their return from Russia in July at a barely half-full Hampden.
Martinez named a strong side with six of those that started the World Cup semi-final defeat to France in the starting line-up.
But it took a gift from Aston Villa’s John McGinn to get the visitors going when the midfielder was caught in possession on the edge of his own box and Mousa Dembele and Thorgan Hazard teed up Lukaku for his 41st international goal.
Hazard smashed home Belgium’s second a minute into the second half, but again McLeish might have been disappointed to see goalkeeper Craig Gordon beaten at his near post.
A truer test of McLeish’s ability to qualify Scotland for a first major tournament in over 20 years will come when Albania are the visitors to Hampden on Monday in the Nations League.
However, vast improvements will need to be made in possession as Valencia striker Batshuayi scored twice in eight minutes before the hour mark after pouncing on slack passes by Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Jack.
Scotland did at least force Thibaut Courtois into a couple of late saves through Ryan Fraser and Steven Naismith, but the Real Madrid goalkeeper ensured there wasn’t even to be a consolation for the home side.