In Feburary 2004, 23 Chinese cockle pickers died at Morecambe Bay. The tragedy shocked Britain. The bodies were repatriated, the gangmaster responsible was caught and tried. After three years, the memory of Morecambe Bay has faded. British documentary-maker Nick Broomfield’s movie Ghosts (2006) which was based on the tragedy has received wide praise. However the Morecambe Victims Fund setup by Broomfield and Guardian journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai has only received £20,000, far less than the £500,000 goal.

Meanwhile in Fujian, the families of the Morecambe victims are still moarning their loved ones, while struggling to pay back the debts left behind. Guardian’s Jonathan Watts visited several families of the Morecambe victims and reported their suffering.

Jonathan Watts writes on the Guardian:

In Britain, the Morecambe Bay disaster is history. More than three years after 23 Chinese cockle pickers perished on the Lancashire sands, most people in the United Kingdom believe justice has been done. All but two of the bodies have been found, identified and repatriated. The gangmaster Lin Liangren has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. The authorities were so pleased with the outcome of Operation Lund (as the case was called) that investigators won last year’s top criminal justice award. ITV received a Bafta for its coverage of the seven-month trial, which ended in march last year. It is as though the Chinese tragedy became a triumph, a vindication of Britain’s way of dealing with disaster.

But 5,000 miles away in Fujian province, on the south-eastern coast of China, lives are still being sucked into the sands. The victims’ families - especially their children - are being punished, even though they broke no law themselves.

The Morecambe disaster was recognised as a crime by a British court. Unable to read the warning signs on the beach, the victims were trapped while picking cockles by fast-moving tides on the notoriously treacherous sands. When their gangmaster, Lin, was convicted of criminal negligence the judge at Preston crown court said the accused was motivated by greed to shockingly exploit his countrymen with no heed for their safety.

But because the victims were all illegal migrants, their dependants have received no compensation, meagre charity, and endured such appalling harassment from debt collectors that several have been driven from their homes and at least one woman has killed herself.

Read the full report.