A relative looks at an image of Anna Bui Thi Nhung, a Vietnamese woman suspected to be among dead victims found in a truck in Britain | Photo: Reuters/Kham
A relative looks at an image of Anna Bui Thi Nhung, a Vietnamese woman suspected to be among dead victims found in a truck in Britain | Photo: Reuters/Kham

Many of the 39 people who were found dead in a truck in England are likely Vietnamese. Human trafficking from Vietnam to Western Europe is a million euro business – and extremely dangerous for those who embark on the journey.

Police initially thought the 39 people who were found dead in a truck in Grays, UK, were Chinese. But it is now believed that many, if not all, are actually from Vietnam.

The family of a 26-year-old Vietnamese woman told the BBC that they suspected she was among the dead. That’s because she sent them a text, saying “I can’t breathe.” The family said they had paid €35.000 for the woman to be smuggled into Britain. Several other Vietnamese families have also gone public, revealing that they fear that their loved ones are among the dead. 

The British authorities are reportedly working together with Vietnamese officials to identify the dead bodies.  

The Grays tragedy has shone a new spotlight on the problem of human smuggling from Vietnam to Europe. Human trafficking networks are smuggling approximately 18,000 Vietnamese people to Europe every year, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Here's are some of the facts about undocumented migrants who leave Vietnam for Europe. 

Where they come from

Most illegal migrants from Vietnam come from just a few provinces in the large, Southeast Asian country: Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh. That’s what a report called “Precarious Journeys” by Anti-Slavery International, ECPAT UK and Pacific Links Foundation found, according to the news agency AFP.  

Why they leave

Undocumented Vietnamese migrants often come from rural and poor regions of the country, where they have few economic opportunities. Smugglers often promise them that they will earn extremely high salaries in Europe – though this rarely ends up happening. Many migrants, migration expert Nadia Sebtaoui told AFP, “have a lack of awareness about the reality of working in Europe.”

Many also leave because they’ve heard of others who have found success abroad:  There are many Vietnamese migrants who are sending money home to their families, and who are posting photos about their new, exciting life on social media. That motivates many – especially young people – to make the choice to leave.

How they are trafficked to Europe

The journey from Vietnam to Europe is long – the distance, as the crow flies, between the Vietnamese capital Hanoi and the British capital London is almost 10.000 kilometers.  There are vast human trafficking networks that stretch from tiny Vietnamese villages through China, Russia and Eastern Europe and on into the EU. 

How one is trafficked along that route depends on how much money one is willing and able to pay. People smugglers offer different levels of service at vastly different prices, the news agency Reuters reports, based on interviews with anti-trafficking experts, migrants and their families.

There’s the “VIP route”: Flying from Vietnam to Europe via a third country, using a fake/recycled passport.

And the “Grass route”: Entering China, then Russia by car, then crossing into neighboring countries in the West by foot.

The journeys Vietnamese migrants take are often broken up into stages, according to reporting by the news agency Reuters. At the end of each stage, the person or their family have to pay cash in order to be smuggled to the next destination.

The trip can reportedly cost tens of thousands of euros – many migrants have to borrow money from their families and go into debt in order to make the trip.

Where many end up

Many Vietnamese who migrate end up in debt bondage: They owe their smugglers money and are forced to work for them to pay off their debt.

Many are exploited in garment factories, the construction industry, in nail salons or on illegal cannabis farms – some are even forced into sex work.

 “Vietnam is … a source country for adults and children subjected to sexual exploitation and forced labor,” the report “Precarious Journeys” found.

With AFP, Reuters


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