The discovery of 39 bodies in a refrigerated lorry trailer in Grays has been described as a “very dark” day for the town.
Local Councillor James Halden said the discovery on Wednesday was “devastating”.
“Yesterday was a very, very dark day in the history of our borough but not one that will undermine this magnificent community,” he told reporters today.
Mr Halden spoke before he signed a book of condolences for the victims, along with the Thurrock mayor and Essex Police officers.
“Let’s be clear this is an appalling crime,” he said.
“It challenges our understanding of humanity.”
He said the council will remain in contact with police as the investigation continues.
The council will also work with all services to understand what more can be done to prevent such incidents in the future and to support relevant refugee programmes, Mr Halden added.
Thurrock Mayor Terry Piccolo said it was a “tragic” and “terrible” incident.
“This is a tragic incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible incident,” he said.
The book of condolences will be open for members of the public to share their sympathies in Thurrock Council for two weeks.
Chief Inspector Claire Talbot and Superintendent Craig Saunders also signed the book on Thursday, but did not make a comment.
Vicar Charlie Kosla, from St Peter and St Paul’s church in Grays, said it was a “dreadful” incident.
He said people in the community have spoken to him about their shock and sadness following the discovery.
“It’s a shock, it’s a sadness and also some amazing heartfelt comments about the lives of who were lost and their families and friends they’ve left behind,” he told reporters.
“It reflects on people’s desperation but also it is horrifying that people, we presume are making a lot of money out of this.”