Members of the Vietnamese community in the UK gathered in London last night for a vigil in memory of the 39 people found in a lorry in Essex.

The vigil was attended by more than 100 people at the Church of the Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in east London.

Candles spelling out "39" were at the foot of the altar ahead of the service in the Catholic church, which has a large Vietnamese congregation.

Reverend Simon Nguyen said: "Today we gather to remember the people who have departed.

"These people who used to live among us, who dined with us.

"Today they are no longer with us."

Members of the congregation performed readings as part of the vigil and candles were lit.

On Friday, Essex Police announced that it believed all the victims were Vietnamese after previously stating it was thought they were Chinese.

A spokesperson for Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the incident a "serious humanitarian tragedy". 

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Most of the victims are thought to come from central Vietnam, where easy-to-find brokers help to arrange trips to Europe, often via Russia, for migrants hoping to earn money overseas. 

The extreme risks of the journeys were laid bare after eight women and 31 men were found dead in a refrigerated container in Essex, east of London, on 23 October.

Two people were arrested in central Ha Tinh province for human trafficking yesterday.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement that Vietnam "strongly condemns human trafficking and considers it a serious crime".

She called the incident a "serious humanitarian tragedy", urging help to tackle the scourge of trafficking.

"Vietnam calls upon countries in the region and around the world to step up cooperation in combating human trafficking in order to prevent the recurrence of such tragedy," she added.

Officials are now working to identify the victims after DNA samples were collected from families in Ha Tinh and Nghe An provinces in central Vietnam.

"I think my son could be among the 39 dead," Nguyen Dinh Gia told AFP from Ha Tinh province where he has been anxiously waiting for news about his child Nguyen Dinh Luong.

The grim case has shocked Britain and plunged families in remote Vietnamese villages into grief.

It has also cast a light on sophisticated transnational trafficking networks helping to smuggle migrants into Britain.

Additional Reporting: AFP