British police brought a truck carrying 39 bodies found in Essex County out of the scene on October 23. Photo: Reuters.

Vietnamese traders who come to the UK call the low standard service pack "CO2", to distinguish it from the "VIP" package.

"CO2" is the only stuffy ride, lack of air in the container or truck. If following the "VIP package", migrants can stay in the hotel or sit in the cabin with the driver, while with CO2, migrants will have to endure long hours in cargo containers, so it is also called " barrel ".

Migrants often have to wait for months in immigrant camps in northern France, before sneaking into trucks. "Snake heads," or gangs of human trafficking, often beat up male victims, sexually assault women, according to aid groups, lawyers and migrants themselves.

Going "CO2 package" also means you have to wrap yourself in blankets to heat or endure for hours in reefer cargo containers, to avoid being detected by authorities. It was this journey that caused the deaths of 39 people, believed to be Vietnamese citizens, in a reefer container in Essex County, southeast England last week.

But what the "core boxes" have to endure on that horrifying container is not the end of their journey to England. If they survive, they may be treated badly at a nail salon or a marijuana plantation.

British police brought a truck carrying 39 bodies found in Essex County out of the scene on October 23. Image: Reuters.

It is estimated that each year, about 18,000 Vietnamese pay human traffickers to Europe for prices ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 USD.

The Brexit process, which means leaving the European Union (EU), caused Britain to reduce its workforce from Eastern Europe. Vietnamese migrants rely on a country that lacks cheap labor to pay five times the amount they earn back home.

Most of the "tycoons" bring the Vietnamese to France, the Netherlands and then transfer to the Kurdish and Albanian gangs, most recently Irish or Northern Ireland to do the rest.

Many Vietnamese migrants come from Nghe An and Ha Tinh, two poor provinces in central Vietnam. When witnessing the "working" neighbors in the UK suddenly "changed their lives", renovating their homes with more expensive materials, buying better cars, the desire for a similar future for their families resurfaced. get up.

But when they arrived in the UK, they were completely "disillusioned", living in a precarious situation, unable to seek help in the strict immigration system. Not to mention, they face the grip of a human trafficking system and their "employers" who exploit their labor.

"I always advise them to stay home," Father Simon Nguyen Duc Thang at a Catholic church in east London, where many parishioners are migrants, said this week. "In the countryside, although you are poor, you can live. And here, you have money, but you can lose your life," he said.

Of the estimated 20,000 to 35,000 Vietnamese living undocumented in the UK, not all experience horrors. However, experts say, many people come here willing to work hard, hoping to get high income.

"My research shows that not all migrants are exploited and trafficked," said Tamsin Barber, lecturer at Oxford Brookers University. "But the immigrants who come here are willing to take high risks, work illegally and have the ability to earn large amounts of money by trading marijuana."

The number of Vietnamese immigrants trafficked to the UK has been constantly increasing, with last year five times higher than in 2012.

According to Father Dang Huu Nam at a church in Yen Thanh district, Nghe An, where many victims of the 39 deaths in containers in the UK, the trip to the UK of Vietnamese people often starts with running family, friends to have enough money to go to China. In China, they can make fake travel documents, before facing a long and arduous journey.

On the journey from China to Russia and Western Europe, one of the most terrible roads Vietnamese immigrants have to go is walking through the forests of Belarus to the Polish border.

In a 2017 survey conducted by France on Vietnamese immigrants, a young man by the name of 24-year-old English said that he and five other men, under the guidance of traffickers, were repeatedly arrested. in Belarus. When released on the Russian border, they successfully crossed the border and boarded a truck in Poland. "We were freezing," he said. "We had nothing in our stomach for two days, only drinking water from melting snow."

Many took people across the border by arranging for the victims to go to airport check-in counters about 10 minutes before the plane closed. With this short period of time, airport staff often do not have enough time to check papers.

Trips to the UK can take several months, but they can take several years. Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, allegedly the victim in the case of 39 people on a container truck, initially wanted to go to France to look for work, helping the family of seven brothers. But when he arrived in Russia, Luong's tourist visa was overdue and was detained for six months. After that, Luong went to Ukraine and France to be waiters, before deciding to go to England to work for a nail salon.

Interrupted journeys to the UK are commonplace because they are detained or run out of money. Some people have to find jobs on the way in garment factories in Russia or restaurants across Europe. Some women even have to sell sex, according to the researchers.

Vietnamese working in a nail salon in Tottenham, London in 2017. Photo: New York Times.

Vietnamese working in a nail salon in Tottenham, London in 2017. Photo: New York Times.

Traffickers often lie or conceal information about locations with immigrants, to control them completely. In 2017, when Ukrainian officials arrested 16 Vietnamese in Odessa, the victims thought they were in France.

If they do not listen to the traffickers, the victims can get very severe consequences. "In order to avoid being discovered by the police, they have to listen to them," Father Simon said. "Otherwise, they could be beaten, women would be sexually abused."

With the cases to the UK, they often "disillusioned", according to lawyer Sulaiha Ali. Vietnamese who have been promised to work legally at a restaurant or construction site will be forced to grow marijuana illegally in abandoned houses. They were locked up in their homes for days, with 15 people forced into a room, facing the risk of fire due to electrical fires or health problems caused by toxic chemicals.

In nail salons, many Vietnamese can be controlled by their owners in all aspects of their lives, although some studies show that some are employed by their "godfather", cook or provide accommodation. Trafficking gangs often "grab" their victims by threatening them to be arrested, deported, or jailed, because they have no legal papers.

Father Simon, who left Vietnam for England in 1984, said he recently received calls from Vietnamese families, seeking information, whether their children could be victims in the 39-man case. die in container.

"Fathers, mothers, called me in tears," Simon said. "I can't hear you clearly. You have to borrow a lot of money on this journey in the hope that boys and girls can make money to pay off debt. But now it's hopeless, it's nothing."

"Nothing is fine, but it is in the case of being arrested or imprisoned. That means being alive. Now, they are gone. Losing hope, losing their lives. Nothing," the priest said. Simon said.

Mai Lam (Follow NYTimes)

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