The discovery of the bodies of 39 people inside a lorry container in Grays, Essex, is rightly being treated as murder. Mass murder, in fact, and, according to the home secretary, Priti Patel, police forces from across Europe are coordinating their work. At first, the origin of the lorry was unclear, but the latest from police is that it is thought to have carried its passengers to the UK from Zeebrugge, in Belgium. In any case, they evidently did not survive their ordeal.

There is much that is unknown about the case, despite speculation. It is not determined, for example, whether the dead could be characterised as asylum seekers, or refugees from war, or more purely economic migrants. In a way, such categorisations are becoming increasingly blurred. 

The difference between a family escaping a life in ruins and abject poverty as a result of war or massive economic dislocation is usually a false one. The thing that all such people making desperately dangerous journeys to find a better life in the west, including Britain, have in common is just that – they are all seeking safety and brighter prospects for themselves and their families. Their motives are honourable.

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