‘Smuggled’ TV show condemned in wake of Essex truck deaths

“Smuggled,” which was pulled from schedules after the incident on October 23 but premiered on Monday night, features contestants attempting to sneak into Britain without their passports.

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The UK’s Home Office called the broadcast “insensitive and irresponsible,” but Channel 4 has defended the program as a “matter of urgent public interest.”

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Last month, 39 people were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in a UK industrial park in Grays, Essex, 20 miles east of London.

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The driver has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and money laundering.

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The two-part series is billed by Channel 4 as “an unprecedented national security experiment.”

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“No one has ever tested our borders on this scale, with such a large variety of methods,” the broadcaster adds of the show. “From boats to lorries, ferries to car boots — all of the contributors attempt routes that have been used by those seeking to enter the country clandestinely or by people traffickers and drug dealers.”

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The episode aired on Monday featured a truck driver attempting to smuggle a passenger into the UK. It also showed a couple hiding a contestant in a motor home and a man attempting to cross the English channel in the kind of dinghy used by people smugglers.

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It opened with a black screen and text reading: “On October 23rd 2019, 39 people were found dead in the back of a lorry on an industrial estate in Essex. This series was filmed before these tragic events took place.”

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But the UK Home Office, which warned against showing the program before it aired, said in a statement on Tuesday: “Organised crime gangs have no respect for human life so it is reckless to provide a platform for the illegal activity that they facilitate. Doing so can encourage them to exploit our border for profit, risking the lives of vulnerable, desperate people as they do so.”

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The department added that as the people featured in the show are British passport holders, they were not committing a crime by attempting to sneak into the country.

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The broadcast was defended by Channel 4 news anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who said the show was “fascinating.”

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“It’s making me think about the 39, and countless others. That’s good,” Guru-Murthy added on Twitter.

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The second episode of “Smuggled” is set to air next Monday. According to the broadcaster, it will feature two friends trying to enter Britain “via the ‘Irish backdoor,'” and an ex-soldier using an “obscure ferry” from the Netherlands, and a third contributor using a kayak to cross the Channel.

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Channel 4 has not responded to a CNN request for comment, but told Britain’s PA news agency: “This documentary series investigates concerns that the UK Border Force is failing to adequately secure the UK from clandestine entrants.

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“Filmed this summer, the programmes question the security of UK borders and give the viewing public a much broader insight into an important issue facing this country — which is part of our remit as a public service broadcaster,” the statement added.

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“More than ever, following this awful tragedy, the shocking findings of the films have become a matter of urgent public interest.”

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