The trafficking of vulnerable young people from Vietnam to the UK is on the rise, with the majority trafficked into cannabis production, nail bars and forced prostitution.
Many of those who are trafficked are very young, sometimes children, and are extremely vulnerable to exploitation at the hands of their traffickers who offer false promises of attractive sounding jobs in Britain.
Anti-Slavery International was one of the first organisations to raise this issue, and already in 2013 our research suggested that official figures represented only the tip of the iceberg. Since then, Vietnam has been identified as one of the top three countries of origin for victims of trafficking in the UK.
While Vietnam continues to develop economically and implement welfare programmes meant to lift people out of poverty, not everyone has benefited from these changes. Much of the population continue to live on very low incomes.
Driven by a belief that overseas jobs are the most lucrative, coupled with the desire to escape poverty, many Vietnamese job-seekers take risks with labour brokers, who are in fact traffickers.
“I was locked alone up in the house, forced to water cannabis plants. My captor only returned every few days with bits of food and water. When I complained, he hit me and threatened that if I left the house, the police would arrest me and beat me.” Hai, 15-year-old.
Reducing vulnerability of Vietnamese people to trafficking
We have teamed up with our partners Pacific Links Foundation and ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking UK) to work to counter this crime and its root causes.
An important part of tackling slavery is prevention. Anti-Slavery’s partners, Pacific Links Foundation, are running a campaign across Vietnam highlighting the risks of of accepting job offers in Britain which may be traps of exploitation.
Pacific Links Foundation are also providing vocational training and job placements to young Vietnamese people, offering an alternative to looking for jobs abroad. They are also training Vietnamese police officers to recognise the signs of trafficking and ways to help the victims.
Anti-Slavery’s partners, ECPAT UK, are working with vulnerable children and young adults who are already in the UK after having been exploited and supporting them to overcome their traumas and rebuild their lives.
By identifying the methods by which victims are trafficked we are better equipped to identify policy changes in Vietnam, the UK and transit countries, that would better protect young victims and ultimately end the practice.
Our research includes identifying transit routes, trafficking methods and vulnerabilities that put people at risk of being targeted. We identified France, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic as countries that are commonly used by traffickers as transit routes, as well as points at which the victims get exploited on their way to the UK.
Together with our partners we are working to protect vulnerable Vietnamese people from falling victim to criminals who prey on those who are susceptible and use every opportunity to ruthlessly exploit them.