In a series of 3 articles Le Thi Hong Luong, Blue Dragon’s Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, discusses the causes of the recent tragedy in Essex, UK, and proposes some solutions.
Human trafficking in Vietnam
According to the Vietnamese National Committee for Combatting and Preventing Human Trafficking, each year Vietnam rescues and identifies about 1,000 victims. More than 98% of them are trafficked abroad and up to 90% are trafficked to China for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation.
For historical reasons, in recent years the smuggling of people to more distant countries, especially the UK, has been from just five provinces: Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh. But trafficking of Vietnamese people occurs in all 63 provinces, according to authorities.
In 14 years of rescuing and supporting over 1,300 Vietnamese victims (our first rescue was in 2005), Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation has worked with victims from 61 provinces across the country.
While the smugglers are organized and operate underground rings, the traffickers of women and children to China are quite different. Blue Dragon’s lawyers have provided legal representation for survivors over the past six years and the profile of traffickers is typically people who are poor, unemployed and poorly educated.
More than 50% of traffickers come from the same district as their victims. They sell people to China after receiving a request from someone in China who they only know by name. This suggests that many Vietnamese traffickers are unprofessional and opportunistic. Their job is to take people to the border area, receive a small sum of money and hand victims over to groups of professionals across the border.
Victims of human trafficking in Vietnam can be anyone. They may be students; women who need jobs to raise their families and children; or poor children in mountainous remote areas who drop out of school to find work to help their families. They may even be babies or unborn children.
Human traffickers in Vietnam also can be anyone: a family friend, a kind neighbour, a boyfriend or even a mother who sells her child out of desperation. They appear otherwise as ordinary people.
“Nam,” a 21-year-old Vietnamese man was working in China and made friends with a Chinese man. The Chinese man asked Nam to find Vietnamese girls to sell.
After working a long day, Nam went back to his rented room and used fake accounts with a profile of a Chinese Hmong man or a Border Guard to send friend requests to girls on Facebook. He asked his Vietnamese friends to do the same.
They began chatting and flirting with girls. After a time, Nam expressed his affection for them and invited them to visit his family in Lao Cai, a border province with China.
Six women aged 15 to 24 became his victims when they travelled by themselves to meet their boyfriends in person. Four were sold into brothels or forced marriages in China while the other two were rescued by Vietnamese authorities.
Blue Dragon rescued another of Nam’s victims in 2018 after her family had heard nothing from her during her six months in China.
There are no accurate official figures of Vietnamese victims of trafficking, but according to the Global Slavery Index 2018, it is estimated that 421,000 Vietnamese people are living in modern slavery, meaning that for every 2,000 citizens, nine are victims of human trafficking.
The final part of this analysis will be posted on Tuesday November 5