Chinese experts confident illegal migrants from Vietnam will decline after economic takeoff

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/29 20:58:29 Last Updated: 2019/10/29 22:45:05

Experts say illegal migrants to drop after economic takeoff

Police officers work at the scene where 39 bodies were found in a shipping container at Waterglade Industrial Park in Essex, Britain, on October 23, 2019. (Photo by Ray Tang/Xinhua)

The Vietnamese village Yen Thanh finds itself at the epicenter of global attention after media reported that up to 25 of the 39 victims in the Essex truck container case were reportedly from there. 

"Pain engulfs the whole village," Yaki from Yen Thanh, a small village 300 kilometers south of Vietnam's capital Hanoi, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Yaki said as no official information has been released to confirm the victims' identities, people still have hope that their relatives may not be among the dead. "But they are waiting in pain."

He said if anyone walks down the road of the small village, they will hear weeping and crying here and there. 

Van Thanh, a Yen Thanh resident, told the Global Times that one of his neighbors, 30-year-old Lê Van Hà, was suspected among the dead. "Lê is the only son in his family. His father and wife are devastated. One of his sons, who is less than one month old, will never see his father again," Van said. 

The Essex police told the Global Times on Tuesday that they are still unable to confirm the victims' identities as the identification process is ongoing. 

Immigration 'tradition'

The village Yen Thanh had a population of 275,105 in 2009, and an average monthly salary of $126 in 2018, according to the Vietnam government website. 

But locals told the Global Times that immigrating - legally and illegally - has been a tradition in this village. "They usually have to pay approximately $26,000 to get to western European countries. If they are short, they borrow from relatives, and sell their land," said Ha Thai, a Yen Thanh resident. 

The situation is similar to East China's Fujian Province, where relatively larger groups of people were smuggled to other countries in the 1970s, said Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences.

Then Fujian's economy soared along with China's fast development, and people's living standards greatly improved, so fewer people are emigrating to other countries, Gu said. 

In 2018, the per capita disposable income of Fujian residents was 32,664 yuan ($4,868) a year, local news portal reported. In 1978 it was only 300 yuan, the report said. 

Vietnam is also on the verge of rapid development, Ge Hongliang, a research fellow with the College of ASEAN Studies at Guangxi University for Nationalities, told the Global Times. 

Ge said that in recent years, Vietnam dazzled the international community with a high GDP growth rate and large overseas investment. 

The country's inland northwestern parts lag behind, so many people choose to go to other parts of the country, or abroad, for better work opportunities, Ge noted.

"Vietnam's reform started later than China's, but its effects are already obvious. Give the country some time, I believe illegal immigrants from villages such as Yen Thanh will eventually disappear," Gu said. 

Western media 'double standards'

The foreign media have called the Essex truck tragedy one of Britain's largest cases of human smuggling. However, Chinese experts noted the Western media's approach of reporting this tragedy reflects their bias against developing countries. 

When those media believed that those victims were Chinese nationals, they began to use the incident to criticize "problems" during China's economic development, such as inequality, experts said, noting that they have shifted the pattern to Vietnam. 

No matter which country the victims came from, it is a huge human disaster, said Ge. He noted that the Western media adopted different reporting methods for the European migrant crisis. He said that the Western media's "double-standard" narratives are rooted in their bias against developing countries. 

The economic development gap gave birth to illegal immigrants, and the accusation against developing countries' governments for allowing people in their country to be smuggled to other countries is meaningless, said Gu.

Observers also noted that European countries can crack down on the human trafficking network and deport illegal immigrants, but those countries have experienced repeated tragic deaths of illegal immigrants.

"This is an inescapable responsibility of those European countries," Ge said.

Newspaper headline: Vietnamese village mourns tragic Essex truck deaths


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