Vietnamese to the UK: Leave by any means, stay at any cost

Migrants risk their lives to cross the English Channel

The tragedy of 27 people who drowned off the coast of Calais due to a shipwreck trying to cross the sea into the UK on November 24, including women, pregnant women, and children, once again, shook the world’s conscience about human trafficking, illegal immigration and the tragedy of people willing to risk their own lives to leave their homeland in search of a better life in another country.

For many years, European countries have had to deal with illegal immigration, in which the UK is a destination for many migrants. Using small boats, rubber boats to cross the narrow English Channel (in French, La Manche), between England and France, is one of the ways people smugglers use to bring illegal immigrants into the UK.

As for the Vietnamese, this tragedy is reminiscent of the tragedy two years ago, in which 39 Vietnamese compatriots died in a refrigerated container at an industrial park in Grays, Essex, London, on October 23, 2019, also on a journey to seek illegal immigration to the UK.

Many Vietnamese are still “ready to bet their lives” to come to the UK

In addition to the path of “labor export,” later, Vietnamese workers have flocked to each other to find a way to work “underground.” People smuggling bands, including Vietnamese participants or leaders, are increasingly operating in sophistication and scale, with lines extending from Russia or China to European countries.

Since five or seven years ago, England and the world have known tragic stories of “straw people” (smugglers), people who had to go through long arduous, dangerous journeys to and wait in the forests of the port city of Calais, France before finding their way into England. The French government tried to sweep and clean this area in October 2016 but until now, there are still camps of Vietnamese and other foreigners trying to illegally immigrate to the UK from there.

After the tragedy of dying in a container, Vietnamese people continue to find a way to illegally immigrate to the UK. The Telegraph newspaper in August 2021 had an article “Vietnamese fueling record rising in Channel crossing” (“Vietnamese migrants contribute to pushing the rate of people crossing the Channel to a record high“). After the 39 deaths, familiar routes were more tightly controlled, Vietnamese gangs with an extensive network of human trafficking across Europe are said to have switched from trucks to car journeys to avoid inspection, or to let illegal immigrants go in inflatable boats.

According to data from the British Migration Council, in the top 10 countries with the number of people arriving in the UK by small boat from January 2020 to May 2021, Vietnam ranks fifth – after Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria.

Why do many Vietnamese want to come to the UK?

I don’t know what the reasons of other ethnic groups are when they insist on coming to the UK, even if it is provided by France and other EU countries with a safe place to apply for asylum. But for Vietnamese people, choosing English apart from the linguistic factor – English, although difficult, is still somewhat familiar and relatively easy to learn for Vietnamese people than French, German, Eastern European languages, Nordic languages…, It’s because it’s easier to find work underground (for the people).

Compared with Nordic countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden… the population is small – only about 5-8 million, the labor market is small, it is difficult for immigrants to find a job, partly because they have to overcome the language barrier, the rest of the small private businesses and services have not developed, while in the UK population is about 66-67 million, the small business market is rampant like mushrooms (not to mention the black market), so immigrants find it much easier to find work.

It is also important to see that countries where the Vietnamese community is large and does a lot of business, such as the UK, Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, etc., attract more domestic people to come because they can work for the Vietnamese, no need to learn the language. It is not uncommon for people to live in the UK for many years, even 30 years, but still cannot use English at a simple level.

Why are so many Vietnamese doing nails and doing nail business in the UK and many other countries? For a person who is not good at foreign languages, making nails is a non-arduous profession that is easy to learn, easy to do, does not need to use many languages, learns by practice, no need for theory. Meanwhile, if you learn the profession of barber and curling, the time lasts 1-2 years, studying and taking both theory and practice exams. Learn makeup, massage, or skincare, everything has a theory part, a certificate exam, or a new degree can be done. Not many Vietnamese business owners open hair or beauty salons, because many of them are also not good at English and can’t “control” native workers, so it’s best to just open a nail salon and hire Vietnamese.

The local press once had articles about the “dark side” of the Vietnamese nail market in the UK, that Vietnamese workers are paid very low wages, several dozen pounds a week, living in cramped quarters, working 6 days/week, sometimes 10 hours a day, like a slave.

Those scenes, if any, are probably rare, I can confirm that Vietnamese people doing nails in the UK make a very good living.

A Vietnamese nail technician depending on skills and experience will be paid from £1,800-£2,800, even £3,000/month, before tax. This salary must be said to be too high, compared to many people with university degrees, working as civil servants, only about £1,800-2000/month before tax.

If the good side is because Vietnamese people are famous for their nails, Vietnamese nail salons are often crowded, but on the other hand, business people also know how to find ways to avoid taxes, to be profitable. And this is not only the Vietnamese people. The same goes for immigrant communities from other developing countries.

Besides Vietnamese nail salons doing business completely in accordance with the law, a number of nail salons and Vietnamese workers have been “in the sights” of British police and human rights organizations because they know that Vietnamese people who open nail salons often find many ways to evade taxes and employ some unlicensed workers in the UK – practices which are illegal and exploitative under British law.

But for Vietnamese people, even if they have to live in cramped quarters, work long hours, and spend the rest of Sunday only doing laundry, cleaning, and sleeping, that salary is still too great.

That is why many Vietnamese people come to the UK and many developed countries with other thriving communities, despite the cost of not only tens of thousands of pounds, but sometimes even their lives! And there are also many cases of falling into the hands of human traffickers, being sold to cannabis farms or sex trafficking in the UK, the same thing happens with illegal Vietnamese immigrants in a number of other countries from Malaysia to Thailand. Eastern Europe.

Find a way to stay

Looking for ways to leave their home country, many Vietnamese people themselves also find ways to stay in the UK and some other European countries. If you don’t qualify to stay legally, someone will “run” to be able to stay legally. For example, spending money to make fake marriage documents, spending money to “hire” a father with foreign nationality to make a birth certificate for a child born abroad, claiming to be a victim of human trafficking to gain humanitarian asylum, even claiming to be a democracy activist who was hunted by the communist state of Vietnam, so they have applied for political asylum, etc.

In this UK, for example, there are many cases of Vietnamese girls coming to the UK to work, without official documents but still pregnant, giving birth, receiving medical care in good conditions. People may wonder why they are working as hired laborers, their life is precarious, they don’t have any documents, but they still have to give birth to a child to make it miserable, only to find out that many people after giving birth will find a way to register their child with someone who has a family with British citizenship, so that the child born will have British citizenship. Let this person do it first and then tells others to do the same.

Every woman who gives birth has the same scenario, as a single mother, the father of the child only names and declares the child on the birth certificate and the mother has to take care of everything, so the social workers get sympathy. Recently, on September 14, in Germany, Berlin police broke a line “receiving fake fathers” for pregnant Vietnamese women so that they could stay in Germany.

Another similar scenario is claiming to be the victim of a human trafficking ring. But a Vietnamese person who has lived in the UK for a long time told this writer that only about 1% are really victims of human trafficking, and the rest voluntarily give money to work “underground” but apply for humanitarian asylum.

My daughter who works as a part-time translator for Vietnamese in Leeds also said that, in many cases, only one or two appeared to be real victims of trafficking, showing signs of beatings and even health and neurological effects.

The same goes for declaring that they are democracy activists although they had no activities and faced no problems when they were in Vietnam. Those declared that they were hunted and harassed by the Vietnamese state, if he returned, he would be imprisoned, killed, accompanied by fake evidence in one way or another.

There are people who criticize those who seek to immigrate illegally, saying that they are greedy for money, so they go, and they are not necessarily poor, because if they were poor, they would not have tens of thousands of pounds to pay for smugglers. such. But in fact, such criticism is not entirely fair. No one wants to risk leaving, living, and working hard and hard in a foreign country if they can live well in Vietnam. And that money is usually they have to borrow at high-interest rates or pledge red books, sell land … and work hard for many years to pay it off.

Where does tragedy come from?

If the tragedy of 39 Vietnamese people dying in Essex county, England did not happen in October 2019, it would sooner or later happen. The tragedy of the shipwreck of the “boat people” on the English Channel on November 24 was the same.

On the side of the Vietnamese state, one must wonder what is the root cause of the phenomenon of Vietnamese people continuing to leave the country, non-stop, from the day after the reunification of Vietnam until now, nearly half a century later? Leaving by all means, of all different classes, even the rich and successful, those who are working for the state apparatus, the communist party members also find a way for their children and grandchildren to leave and for themselves, a happy, leisurely “landing ground” after retirement.

So there is no reason except the fact that the failure of the Communist Party and the State of Vietnam in building Vietnam into a livable homeland, a peaceful social environment in every sense, a market fair labor with a living income for the people. But those are the minimum requirements, not to mention freedom, democracy, human rights at all.

The flow of people leaving despite all risks is and will not stop, as long as Vietnam has not changed its socio-political institutions so that it can develop into a more livable country.

* The article reflects the style and personal views of former director Song Chi, who now lives in Leeds, Northern England. (Translated)