Vietnam is a strategic partner for the U.K. inmany fields such as trade, education, and defense. During my term as ambassadorhere, I have been able to report to London on positive economic trends, onsuccessful high-level visits and on promising co-operation activities.
However,there are also some challenges which we face, and issues which worry me. One ofthose issues is human trafficking and illegal migration. Young and vulnerableVietnamese are being trafficked to the U.K. to work in illegal and dangerousactivities, for the benefit of organized crime gangs. Many people in Vietnamare not aware of this issue. I would like to change that by sharing informationwith you about how this human trafficking takes place.
WhenI talk about human trafficking, you may think about Vietnamese being forced togo to China or neighboring countries like Laos and Cambodia. In fact,Vietnamese people are not only trafficked to countries sharing land borders,but also to developed countries in Asia such as Thailand, South Korea, andMalaysia, and even to Europe. In the U.K., we also talk about ‘modern slavery’,because many victims of trafficking are forced to work in terrible conditions,sometimes with physical or sexual abuse. In recent years, hundreds of potentialVietnamese victims of trafficking have been identified in the U.K.
Unlikevictims of trafficking to neighboring countries, who are often tricked or evenkidnapped, Vietnamese arriving illegally in the U.K. have usually leftvoluntarily, believing that they will arrive in the ‘promised land’, to earnmoney to improve the economic situation for themselves and their families. Manyof them are from poor provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh. Thesepeople approach or are approached by relatives or friends whom they heard havesuccessfully taken someone to U.K. They pay huge amounts of money, which theyget from mortgaging houses, gardens, or boats. They borrow from loan sharks topay brokers and smugglers to take them illegally across borders. Thus, rightfrom the beginning of their journey from Vietnam, they put their lives in thehands of criminals.
Criminalgangs profit hugely from selling fake documents and taking people acrossborders illegally. According to our information it costs from US$30,000 toUS$50,000 to go illegally to the U.K. This may be by using fake documents on aflight, or more commonly, is a long and risky road journey across many Europeancountries. Most victims of trafficking think that despite the dangers and thecosts they will find a life changing opportunity in the U.K. to pay backdebts. Sadly this is far from the truth.
I had the opportunity to hear the story of aVietnamese who went to the U.K. illegally. It was a nightmare journey: firstfrom Vietnam to China, and then for a month in the cold travelling acrossRussia, Poland, Germany, France; and finally hiding in a truck crossing theborder from France to U.K. He said he was one of those lucky to survive. Thereare cases of illegal immigrants suffering injuries when being chased. There arecases of death due to extreme cold, lack of oxygen inside lorries. Many nevereven set foot in the ‘promised land.’
Whatawaits those who do arrive in the U.K. illegally after a long and arduousjourney? As illegal immigrants, with the burden of debts and the hopes oftheir loved ones in Vietnam, they do whatever it takes to gets shelter andmoney. Without valid papers, they work illicitly. Criminal gangs, takingadvantage of their vulnerability and fear of being discovered by theauthorities, pay them low wages and force them to work long hours knowing forsure that no one will dare complain. This type of exploitation is what we call‘modern slavery.’
Temporaryjobs such as manicuring, babysitting, or hotel cleaning may sound attractive,but when done illegally they have very low wages. Many illegal immigrants arepressured to work in drug cultivation or prostitution to make money to pay offdebts. Cannabis cultivation is dangerous and exploitative, with the fear ofbeing robbed or beaten by gangs, as well as being arrested and deported. Thehouses used for cannabis farming have their windows locked shut so that nolight or smell can get out. Young Vietnamese are forced to live indoorsfor weeks on end – trapped in these conditions they suffer serious healthrisks, both for respiratory and mental health.
TheU.K. welcomes those who come to the U.K. legally, to visit to study and to workin skilled jobs, in line with our laws. But do not listen to those whotell you that they can get you to the U.K. through the back door and help youto make money working illegally. Don’t gamble with your future. They are notfriends. They are criminals. If you go with them you put yourself and yourfamily at risk. They take advantage of illegal immigrants to force theminto dangerous work, and keep the profits for themselves. Human trafficking iscloser than you think. Be aware of the risks, don’t be a victim!
Source: VN Express