‘Easy money and a better life’: Vietnamese undeterred by UK truck tragedy

HA TINH, VIETNAM (AFP) – The traffickers have gone underground but they’ll come back, villagers and brokers say, with the deaths of 39 migrants in a truck in Britain unlikely to deter the country’s vast pool of rural Vietnamese from making perilous journeys abroad.

The dead are yet to be formally identified, but many are feared to be Vietnamese from the impoverished central provinces where the pull of a better life outweighs the risk of passage west.

Trafficking networks reach deep into these remote communities.

Brokers arrange flights – often into Russia – and plot the route into the UK on trucks, where many villagers end up working on cannabis farms tucked into suburban houses or in nail salons.

For now, the networks have vanished from the remote central Vietnamese towns stained by dread that their loved ones are among the British truck dead.

A Vietnamese woman rides past a cafe at Vinh city in Vietnam’s Nghe An province. PHOTO: AFP

But they “are not going to disappear” said one broker in Hong Linh district in Ha Tinh province, where several of the missing come from. “They might just temporarily stop.”

Towns in this part of the country are largely bereft of young people – many have already left for overseas.

The money they send home has been used to fund house renovations and buy cars and motorbikes in a part of the country where most people are farmers and fishermen.

The ones that remain still harbour dreams of going overseas, enticed by success stories which ricochet across these quiet, cut-off communities. “I want to go abroad when I finish school next year,” said 17-year-old Tran Manh Thang in Hong Linh, whose father is a farmer.

“It’s easy to earn money and I can have a better life.”

He said he will try to go to South Korea first and from there set his sights on Europe, where he hopes to work as a waiter.

“It’s nicer in Europe, from what I see on the internet and hear from neighbours,” he said.

While the UK deaths are a warning, young villagers “still have the exact same options and the same beliefs that they had before”, according to independent trafficking expert Mimi Vu. “They’re still poor, they still lack access to opportunities in Vietnam.”