Vietnamese Trafficking Expert Explains Why Essex Lorry Victims Paid To Come To UK

26 October 2019, 13:24

Many of the 39 migrants found dead in a lorry in Essex were believed to be Vietnamese - a trafficking expert explain how and why the victims

Mimi Vu, who is based in Saigon, is a leading expert on trafficking of Vietnamese young people to Europe and the UK.

She spoke to Matt Frei about how some of the Vietnamese victims might have ended up in this devastating situation.

Matt Frei asked how common it is for young Vietnamese people to try and get to Europe or to the UK.

Vu said it is extremely common, it has been going on for decades and most of the Vietnamese who take this route "only come from a handful of provinces in Vietnam, usually it's central to northern Vietnam".

She explained that is started with the first wave to Eastern Europe during the 1980s and 1990s, when Vietnamese went to Europe to work and send money back to their families.

She explained: "In Europe, for a very long time, the UK was looked on as the most prosperous. So once the Iron Curtain fell and the East East Soviet bloc fell and then Eastern Europe opened up, a lot of the people who had jobs there lost their jobs so they had to look to other ways to make money.

"You also had coinciding with that the rise of cannabis cultivation by Vietnamese, what was then and now the start of Vietnamese organised crime groups, who then exported that that business model across Europe."

Matt put it to her that some of the people who arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry had no say in the matter and could be considered to have been trafficked. Some, however, go voluntarily.

Vu said: "The thing about calling it trafficking or not trafficking is it's much more nuanced than that.

"The journey between Vietnam and Europe in the UK is a very long one in time and distance and the the status of the Vietnamese migrant changes along the way.

"So often what happens is they do go willingly because they seek out opportunities to go abroad."

She explained that there are actually 'packages' that include transport, training to do nails and a job placement in a Vietnamese nail salon in the UK.

It can cost between $10,000-$50,000.

She continued: "And what's happening now also is that the smugglers are telling some families 'don't pay anything up front, don't worry, we'll guarantee that your child will get to the UK and then we'll let you know how much it is'.

"The parents think this is a great deal because they don't have to pay anything upfront."

Vietnamese Trafficking Expert Explains Why Essex Lorry Victims Paid To Get To UK
Vietnamese Trafficking Expert Explains Why Essex Lorry Victims Paid To Get To UK. Picture: PA

They then spoke about Pham Thi Tra My's goodbye text to her parents, in which she wrote that she was dying because she couldn't breath.

Vu explained: "She's apologising to her parents because she's failed the family. Family is is the is the cornerstone of Vietnamese culture.

"Parents sacrifice everything for their children, children sacrifice everything for their families and the only people in the situation who benefit are the traffickers and the smugglers."

She added: "Her feeling is that her parents have sacrificed everything to borrow money, remortgage of their house, that she could have an opportunity to go work, have a better life and then support the family. So she's not only failed herself, but she's also failed her family."