OUT OF VIETNAM: FIRST-CLASS ‘VEXIT’, OR NO EXIT AT ALL?

MICHELLE DOR WRITES– For as much as $50,000, Vietnamese migrants can get the “VIP package” to Britain– a flight, fake passport and even an attorney. Too good to be true? This deal, although unlawful, is regarded as the cheaper and safer alternative to land routes by smugglers, where migrants are often forced to walk on foot or are crushed into small trucks.

 

These deluxe deals are arranged by Vietnamese smugglers who offer flights to France, Germany or Spain, before the final journey to Britain.

Numerous individuals are tempted by dreams of a better life, leaving behind corruption, hard living conditions and crime. Many cannot afford to safely flee Vietnam, so they resort to dangerous underground routes over land and sea organized by smugglers. This can be especially hard for struggling mothers eager to give their children the best lives possible.

 

The underground route spanning Vietnam to Europe is now under close scrutiny following a truck found with 39 people dead who were allegedly smuggled into London two weeks ago. France 24 said it was initially assumed that those who died were from China. Now they are believed to be Vietnamese migrants, as families came forward to identify those in the trailer.

 

According to James Pearson, many of the deceased are believed to be from the agricultural regions of Nghe An and Ha Tinh. Poor employment opportunities, environmental issues and pressure from the government on Catholics are behind the surge of migrants from these regions.  GDP per capita in the provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh is lower than the national average of $2,540. Last year, people earned an average, respectively, of $1,636 and $2,217.  Vietnamese citizens work hard, long hours, yet receive low pay. A further incentive to go abroad is a toxic spill that poisoned fishing grounds three years ago.

 

The struggle begins long before the journey starts. Vietnamese migrants who work to pay for their trips fear being caught by police or border agents. Often, Vietnamese migrants work as cooks, factory workers or market vendors. Some, including minors, are forced into sex work, according to a report by Anti-Slavery International. In many cases, migrants are tricked by smugglers into believing that if they pay enough money, their journey ahead will be comfortable. Although many ultimately seek asylum, the majority of those smuggled remain illegal immigrants working for a pittance.

 

Once in Britain, they are supplied with Vietnamese legal professionals and translators, as a precaution if caught by police. Well-established felony networks provide jobs, although usually at lower wages than guaranteed. Vietnam’s poor central provinces are filled with smugglers and brokers who have just such worldwide underground contacts. Families even sell land or take on huge loans for the journeys, hoping that the investment will eventually pay for itself.

Human trafficking from Vietnam to the United Kingdom has continued for a long time. Now, London’s National Crime Agency has appointed a liaison officer to the British Embassy in Hanoi so as to help combat the problem. In an opinion piece published last month, Britain’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Gareth Ward, warned of the dangers of promises made by the gangs: “They are not friends. They are criminals.”

 

The Vietnamese government must train local law enforcement to put a stop to these migrants flights arranged by Vietnamese citizens. Those seeking to flee Vietnam must be educated as to the precautions necessary to ensure their safety. We don’t want another 39—or even one— found dead in a truck.

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