New Threats in Vietnam’s Human Trafficking Landscape

June 13, 2024

Disturbing trends have emerged within the human trafficking landscape since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Blue Dragon has documented them in a major report.

The findings of the report are based on the testimonies of more than 1,100 people who fell victim to human trafficking between 2018 and 2022. Through a detailed analysis, Blue Dragon highlights the evolving nature of human trafficking in Vietnam and sheds light on how to end it.

In recent years, the types of exploitation have been increasing and more communities are at risk of human trafficking than ever before. Scam compounds have emerged as a major new form of exploitation, and the countries to which people are being trafficked have diversified. 

 

The Changing Nature of Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia

Impact #1: Increase in Forced Scamming

Until Covid, forced “marriage” was the main form of human trafficking in Vietnam, disproportionately impacting women and girls from ethnic minority groups. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this.

Blue Dragon’s report highlights an increase in forced labour with a specific focus on scamming operations run by organised crime syndicates, typically conducted within large-scale, isolated compounds. These illegal compounds, scattered across Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and beyond, use violence, torture and starvation to force people into scamming others online.

In addition to this emerging form of trafficking, forced “marriage”, sexual exploitation and other forms of forced labour remain an issue for Vietnamese people.

Impact #2: Shifting Demographics

Another concerning development is the rising number of male victims who are being forced into labour. Along with shifts in gender, Blue Dragon has observed changes in the ethnicity of victims, with more people from the majority ethnicity Kinh being lured into exploitation. 

People from ethnic minority communities remain disproportionately vulnerable to sexual exploitation including forced “marriages” and remain targets of labour exploitation. However, the diversification of victim profiles underscores the evolving tactics of traffickers as they constantly seek new vulnerabilities to exploit.

Impact #3: No Geographical Limits

The report further emphasises the adaptability of traffickers and the ever-evolving nature of trafficking. In Cambodia, which was at the epicentre of the forced scamming crisis when it first emerged as a form of exploitation, Blue Dragon witnessed a decrease in rescues throughout 2023. This decline could be linked to traffickers shifting their focus to countries with more impunity such as Myanmar and Laos. 

This further stresses the transnational nature of the crime and the urgent need for international collaboration to dismantle trafficking networks.

Reason for Hope

Despite the rise in forced scamming, Blue Dragon’s operations prove that there is cause for hope. 

Among the new trends in human trafficking Blue Dragon observed was the exploitation of street children. On the streets of Hanoi, Blue Dragon reaches out to vulnerable children living on the streets every day. In 2022, 60% of the children Blue Dragon helped on the streets had experience of trafficking. Since we created new approaches to finding and assisting street children, the incidence of trafficking has fallen to 37%. 

Preventing Trafficking Before it Occurs

Blue Dragon’s focus on preventative measures, helping communities to stop human trafficking before it begins, is proving effective. Blue Dragon has advocated for and assisted in the development of new laws that have helped strengthened protection and support for victims of this crime. 

Blue Dragon is tackling human trafficking at its source in the community, by educating vulnerable communities and providing job opportunities. Education empowers individuals to recognise and resist trafficking attempts, while stable employment reduces the allure of traffickers’ false promises. 

Furthermore, Blue Dragon’s support services including medical care, trauma counselling and reintegration programs help survivors to escape the cycle of exploitation and rebuild their lives.

Blue Dragon’s report is a call to action, exposing the changing environment of human trafficking in Vietnam. 

For a deeper understanding, please access the full report here. 

 

People gather at a community training workshop designed to keep them safe from human trafficking

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