Tireless efforts to fight human trafficking
Human trafficking is a tragic crime and a headache for in many countries including Vietnam. It violates human rights and does serious harm to victims’ physical and emotional health and to the security and order of many countries. Over the past several years, Vietnam has fine-tuned its legal system, strengthened communications to raise public awareness, and strengthened international cooperation in anti-trafficking.
Nguyen Thi Thao from the northern province of Vinh Phuc was a victim of human trafficking. Thanks to the help of Chinese authorities, she has returned to her homeland after 20 years.
When she first stepped foot back in Vietnam on September 23, she had lost all memory of who she was, and had no idea where her hometown was. She cowered all the time, hugging her a two-year-old baby and refusing to talk to anyone, Vietnamnews reported.
Thao is just one of 50 female patients being treated at the general hospital in northern mountainous Lang Son Province, a hot spot for human trafficking, after they were transferred from Chinese authorities to Vietnam in February this year. Most of them were trafficked to China and forced to work as prostitutes or to give birth to a baby. Many became victims of domestic violence.
They all show signs of mental illness due to the mental trauma they have suffered, which makes them agitated and panicky. Many are pregnant or raising babies.
As most of them do not remember their origins, doctors at the hospital are not only taking care of their health but also trying to help them find their families.
“In order to find clues about where the patients are from, I carefully record every small detail they share with me. Thanks to that, since February 2020, we have found many of their homes and repatriated many patients,” Luu Hai Chau, a nurse at the hospital, told Vanguard newspaper.
Thanks to the help of doctors and nurses, Thao's memory returned. From snippets of memories about her hometown and relatives combined with a fair amount of guesswork, Chau searched for information online and contacted an official from Tam Hong Commune’s office in Yen Lac District, Vinh Phuc Province.
“Then I caught up with a girl living in Phu Luu Village, Tam Hong Commune. She confirmed with me the picture I sent via messages was her older sister who had been missing for more than 20 years.”
Thao’s family recalled that she left her home in 1998, met a man and had a baby with him. When her son was one, she was kidnapped by the man and trafficked to China, where she was sold as a wife to another Chinese man.
After she gave birth to a new baby, the husband sold her to another family, Thao said.
Now she has six children after being sold many times.
Chinese authorities helped her return to Vietnam after they found out she was living illegally in China and was a victim of human trafficking.
Chau said some of the women who reunited with their families could not remember them.
A doctor at the general hospital in Lang Son Province talks to Nguyen Thi Thao and her son while they are receiving treated after being repatriated from China. Photo: tienphong.vn
Another case is 27-year-old Pham Thi Thu from the northern city of Hai Phong, who was smuggled across the border to China by a person she met on Facebook. In May this year, she was repatriated whilst three months pregnant and suffering from mental illness.
On May 16, her parents visited the hospital to collect her, but she could not remember anyone.
Chau said in order to reduce the number of human trafficking cases, local authorities must spread the word so people knew the tricks traffickers used.
For the doctors and nurses at the general hospital in Lang Son Province, helping victims reunite with their families gives their jobs more meaning.
On the afternoon of October 6, Thao’s sisters collected her from the hospital to take her home to Vinh Phuc. After 20 years apart, they were speechless with happiness, Chau said.
“Our medical team was also happy, and some of us even cried.”
* Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.