Vietnamese Church committed to fighting human trafficking
by Thanh Thuy

The new coronavirus pandemic has not stopped a trade marked by abuse, violence and exploitation, largely towards China. 90% of the victims are women or girls, even very young; of these, 80% belong to ethnic minorities. Caritas and parishes build awareness campaigns and offer aid to the victims.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The new coronavirus pandemic that has imposed closures and restrictions across much of the world has failed to stop the flourishing human trafficking in Vietnam, which affects defenceless women and children. A trade favoured by the 4 thousand km of borders with Laos, Cambodia and China that cross 25 provinces and wind through paths, forest areas and trade routes well known and beaten by unscrupulous mercenaries.

In recent years’ young people or women, especially among ethnic minorities in rural and mountainous areas, have been trafficked, in most cases lured across the border with the prospect of "temporary work" that turns into "forced labour" or exploitation. There are also cases of sexual abuse or trafficking aimed at feeding the prostitution market.

According to data released by the Supreme Court of Vietnam, at least 63 provinces are affected by cases of human trafficking. Between 2013 and 2017, over 3 thousand victims crossed the borders, 90% of them in the direction of China. 90% of these are women or girls, even very young, of which 80% come from ethnic minorities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has widened disparities and spread poverty, worsening the situation of this trafficking. The Catholic Church is personally committed to combating the phenomenon of exploitation. There are many dioceses that have promoted activities, awareness campaigns, charity initiatives in favour of the victims and the needy, making use of the collaboration of Caritas experts and volunteers.

The parish of Tân Khai, in the diocese of Phú Cường has promoted a program dedicated to the victims of trafficking with the Christian charity of Bình Long, through the initiative entitled "Prevent sexual abuse and fight the trade in people in the parish". A current and well known phenomenon, for a frontier reality (with Cambodia) and in which 13 different ethnic minorities such as the Stieng, Khmer, Tày, Thái, Nùng live.

Promoting the program are the priests Fr. Matthew Phạm Trần Thanh, vicar of Tân Khai and Fr. Joseph Hoàng Đình Khái. The latter, at the end of a mass celebrated in recent days, spoke of the many ways "of seduction" that traffickers use to lure victims into their shirts.

In particular, poor women, adolescents living in difficult circumstances and looking for some work to earn the money they need to survive. Father Khái regularly provides guidelines and advice to the children and young people of the parish, to understand how and where to look for serious information about job offers and avoid ending up in the network of exploiters. To those who go abroad, he also provides addresses of embassies, organizations and humanitarian bodies to which they can turn in case of help or need, as well as asking for telephone contacts of two people for information or updates in case of problems.

Caritas in Phú Cường diocese also organizes training and awareness courses against the trafficking of human lives. Colleagues from the diocese of Hà Tĩnh confirm: “It is not possible to tell the consequences of the sufferings of the victims. They are forced into sexual slavery or forced labour. They have no salary, they are starved, beaten, abused, or their organs are harvested for the black market. In short, they are not treated as human beings”.

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