The ‘VIP packages’ enticing Vietnamese to UK

  • ASEAN+
  • Saturday, 02 Nov 2019

A heartbroken mother: Ai (left) lamenting her son Tiep’s (top) fate, feared to be among the England truck dead, as she holds a phone showing a photo of him in Dien Thinh village. — AP

Nghe An: For up to US$50,000 (RM208,720), Vietnamese migrants can get the “VIP package” to Britain – flight, fake passport and even a lawyer – illegal, but billed as safer than cheaper overland routes by people smugglers who provide a menu of options for those trying to reach the UK.

Details of well-oiled smuggling routes spanning Vietnam to Europe have come under renewed scrutiny after 39 people were found dead in a truck in Britain.

Initially identified as Chinese, many are now believed to be Vietnamese after families came forward saying they feared their relatives were in the refrigerated trailer.

The nature of their journey depends on how much money their families can stump up.

Faster, comfortable and supposedly safer, the “VIP package” goes for as much as US$50,000 -- compared to around US$15,000 (RM62,610) for so-called “grass” overland journey, according to several experts.

The VIP deal offers travel documents and flights to Europe, often to France, Germany or Spain, before the final passage into the UK.

“They put you in contact directly with a group in France that helps you at that end, ” Chung Pham, who works with Locate International, a UK-based group that helps to find missing Vietnamese migrants in Britain.

Once in the UK, they are even provided with Vietnamese lawyers and translators in the event they are caught by police.

“It shows you how organised and systematised they are, ” Pham said.

Britain has long been a prime destination for Vietnamese migrants thanks to criminal networks offering work – though often at lower salaries than promised.

The poor central provinces of Vietnam are riddled with people smugglers and brokers with underground contacts stretching across the world.

Families sell land or take on huge loans for the journeys, believing the investment will eventually pay itself back several times over.

The family of Hoang Van Tiep believes he was one of the 39 who died in the truck in Britain.

Smugglers promised them that US$13,000 (RM54,270) would secure his safe passage for the final leg of his journey from France into the country.

“I heard he would go on a VIP route, in a four-seater car. But they lied to us, ” the 18-year-old’s mother Hoang Thi Ai said from their home in Dien Thinh commune in central Nghe An province.

Tiep had lived in France for a year – the family paid US$17,500 (RM73,050) to get him there via Russia. The final instalment was due on arrival in Britain.

But Tiep’s family never heard from him again.

They didn’t pay for the fatal truck journey – the smuggler has since disappeared – but his family still owe the bank US$4,300 (RM17,950).

“If I knew he was going to get on that lorry, I would have never let him go, ” his stricken mother said.

Despite the promises, VIP packages will only get migrants as far as France or Belgium, common entry points into the UK.

Regardless of their journeys from Vietnam, migrants have few choices beyond hiding in containers to cross the English channel. — AFP

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