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Vietnam

The Situation
Vietnam is a source and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and conditions of forced labor.

Source
Vietnamese men, women, and girls are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, Laos, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, China, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Russia, and elsewhere in the Middle East.  In both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, debt bondage, confiscation of identity and travel documents, and threats of deportation are commonly utilized to intimidate victims.1

Vietnam is a source country for men and women who migrate abroad for work opportunities primarily in the construction, fishing, agriculture, mining, logging, and manufacturing sectors.  In 2010, more than 85,000 workers travelled abroad to work, and the total number of Vietnamese working overseas in 40 countries and territories is estimated to be around 500,000. Many of these migrants are processed through state-affiliated and private labor export companies which reportedly coerce migrants to sign contracts in languages they cannot read, and charge fees in excess of those allowed by law, sometimes as much as $10,000. This has forced Vietnamese migrants to incur some of the highest debts among Asian expatriate workers, making them highly vulnerable to debt bondage and forced labor.2 

Vietnamese women and children, found to be subjected to forced prostitution are often misled by fraudulent labor opportunities and then sold to brothels on the borders of Cambodia, China, and Laos, with some eventually sent to third countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and in Europe. Some Vietnamese women are recruited through fraudulent marriages where upon moving to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and increasingly to South Korea, are subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor (including as domestic servants), forced prostitution, or both.3

Transit
Vietnam is a transit country for Chinese children to Cambodia.4

Destination
Vietnam is a destination country for children who are trafficked from Cambodia for sexual and labor exploitation.5 Child sex tourism remains an issue in Vietnam with perpetrators reportedly coming from Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, and the United States.6

Internal Trafficking
There are reports of labor and sex trafficking of Vietnamese, particularly women and girls, from poor, rural provinces to urban areas, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and newly developed urban zones, such as Binh Duong. While some individuals migrate willingly, they may be subsequently sold into forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.7 

Trafficking of children within the country remains a problem for both commercial sexual exploitation and forced street hawking and begging in major urban centers; though some sources report the problem is less severe than in years past. Some Vietnamese children are victims of forced and bonded labor in urban family-run house factories and gold mines.8 

There continues to be evidence of forced labor in drug treatment centers in which drug offenders are required to perform low-skilled labor and are punished through beatings and other physical abuse when they do not meet work quotas. The government self-reported that more than 33,000 drug users were living in these forced detoxification labor camps in 2010. The overwhelming majority of these individuals were administratively sentenced to two years without judicial review.9

Causes
The UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking lists several socio-economic vulnerability factors that contribute to human trafficking in Vietnam, including: poverty and indebtedness, lack of awareness/education, family breakdown and problems, and external influences such as friends, consumer values, and peer pressure.  

Vietnamese women and girls are generally considered more vulnerable to trafficking than men due to unequal gender relations; an increasing demand for virgins and children in prostitution, due to the threat of HIV/AIDS; and an increase in demand for, and supply of, Vietnamese wives due to both demographic and economic demand and supply factors (such as China’s “female deficit” and the lure of promised bride prices).10

The Vietnamese Government
The Vietnamese government recently passed new anti-trafficking legislation and a five-year national action plan on trafficking. Nevertheless, while a number of structural reforms have been carried out, there remains a lack of tangible progress in the prosecution of trafficking offenders and protection of trafficking victims. 

As such, the Vietnamese Government was placed in Tier 2 Watch List, for the second consecutive year, in the 2011 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so. 

Vietnam’s penal code criminalizes labor and child trafficking. Penalties for labor trafficking range from two to seven years in prison; penalties for trafficking of children range from three years to life in prison.11 

Prosecution
While the government’s new Anti-Trafficking Statute provides further definitions on trafficking in persons, as well as victim care and trafficking prevention, it does not assign criminal penalties to the additional trafficking offenses prohibited by the new law.12  

The government reported that it prosecuted 14 cases of labor trafficking in 2010, but authorities did not provide information to substantiate the reports. Vietnam’s National Supreme Court also reported that authorities prosecuted 153 cases of sex trafficking and convicted 274 individuals for sex trafficking offenses in 2010 (note, these number may include other crimes such as human smuggling and child abduction for adoption). Most individuals convicted were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to 15 years’ imprisonment. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of internal trafficking in Vietnam; nor did it report any criminal prosecutions or convictions of officials for trafficking-related complicity. 13

Vietnamese workers do not have adequate legal recourse to file complaints in court against labor recruitment companies in cases where they may have been the victim of trafficking. Although workers have the legal right to sue companies, the cost of pursuing legal action in civil cases remains prohibitively expensive, and there has been no indication of victims receiving legal redress in Vietnamese courts.14

Protection
The Vietnamese government sustained some efforts to protect victims of transnational sex trafficking and outlined additional victim protection plans in its new anti-trafficking law, but it has not made sufficient efforts to identify or protect victims of labor trafficking or internal trafficking.

While border guards and police at the district and provincial levels have formal procedures for receiving victims and referring them to care, these authorities receive limited training on identification of trafficking victims and handling of cases.15 

The government’s Vietnamese Women’s Union (VWU), in partnership with NGOs, continues to operate three trafficking shelters in Vietnam’s largest urban areas, which provide counseling and vocational training to female sex trafficking victims. The VWU and border guards also operate smaller shelters that provide temporary assistance to migrants in need of assistance at some of the most heavily used crossing points. The government, however, lacks the resources and technical expertise to adequately support shelters, and as a result, many shelters are rudimentary, underfunded, and lack appropriately trained personnel. Additionally, there are no shelters or services specifically dedicated to assisting male victims of trafficking or victims of labor trafficking.16 

While Vietnam maintains labor attaches in nine countries receiving the largest number of Vietnamese migrant workers, it has been reported that diplomats were unresponsive in some cases to complaints of exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. Furthermore, government regulations do not prohibit labor export companies from withholding workers’ passports and travel documents, a known contributor to trafficking.17 

The government reportedly encourages victims to assist in the prosecution of their traffickers, though Vietnam generally does not provide police-assisted witness protection to victims of crime.  Vietnamese law also does not include provisions to protect trafficking victims from facing criminal charges for actions taken as a direct consequence of being trafficked.  As such, victims are often reluctant to participate in investigations or trials.18 

Prevention
In January 2012, Vietnam’s Prime Minister approved the new five-year National Plan of Action on Human Trafficking. The government also continues to work with international organizations to train law enforcement officials, border guard officials, and social workers on trafficking.19  

In 2010, authorities worked to evacuate over 10,000 Vietnamese workers, some of whom may have been trafficking victims, displaced by the conflict in Libya. Each returnee was provided with safe passage home and $95 towards short-term resettlement expenses, and the government is working to connect returnees with new employment opportunities in Vietnam and abroad. However, the government continues to promote increased labor exports as a way of addressing unemployment and alleviating poverty, including travel to countries where abuses of migrant workers are rife.  Yet the government has not made sufficient efforts in requiring destination governments to provide adequate safeguards against the forced labor of its migrant workers.20 

In July 2010, Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor promulgated an optional code of conduct for labor export companies, and reported that 96 of 171 licensed labor recruiting companies have signed the agreement. The Ministry also reported, that in 2010 the government investigated 34 labor recruitment companies, issuing fines to nine of the companies and suspending two companies’ operations for six months for insufficient pre-departure trainings, charging excessive recruiting fees, failing to properly register work contracts, and sending abroad more workers than were officially reported.  However, no firms were criminally prosecuted.21   

International Cooperation
The Vietnamese government works with international organizations, NGOs and foreign donors on the issue of human trafficking. Vietnam has signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on human trafficking with China, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Nevertheless, the government has yet to reach adequate agreements with all destination governments on safeguards against forced labor. Vietnam is not party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.22

Recommendations
The U.S. Department of State recommends that the Vietnamese government enact the following measures in its 2011 TIP Report:

  • Supplement its new anti-trafficking law with additional measures to ensure that the criminal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes stringent criminal penalties; 
  • Criminally prosecute those involved in forced labor, the recruitment of persons for the purpose of forced labor, or fraudulent labor recruitment, including state-licensed recruitment agencies and unlicensed brokers; 
  • Identify Vietnamese migrant workers who have been subjected to forced labor and ensure that they are provided with victim services and are not threatened or otherwise punished for protesting labor conditions or for leaving their place of employment; 
  • Develop formal procedures to this end, and train relevant officials in the use of such procedures; 
  • Increase efforts to protect Vietnamese workers going abroad;
  • Increase efforts to assist male victims of trafficking and victims of labor trafficking; 
  • Increase the ability of workers to have effective legal redress from labor trafficking; 
  • Report on greater efforts to work closely with destination governments to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including in particular labor trafficking cases; 
  • Improve data collection and data sharing on trafficking prosecutions, particularly labor-related prosecutions; and 
  • Implement and support a visible anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at clients of the sex trade.23

______________________________

1 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
2 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
3 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
4 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Vietnam
5 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Vietnam
6 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
7 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
8 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
9 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; 2010 US Department of State Human Rights Report
10 UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Vietnam
11 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; 2010 US Department of State Human Rights Report
12 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
13 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
14 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
15 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
16 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
17 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
18 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
19 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Vietnam
20 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
21 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
22 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report; UNIAP: The Human Trafficking Situation in Vietnam
23 2011 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report

 

 

 


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