[from AFP, September 30, 2011 4:52PM]
TWENTY three children and young adults rescued from slave labour in a garment factory by Vietnamese authorities with the help of an Australian-run children’s charity have arrived in Hanoi.
Vietnamese government officials and police from the victims’ home region, with help from the charity Blue Dragon, raided the factory in Ho Chi Minh City. The owners have been arrested and are awaiting trial.
The victims, aged from ten to 21, are from the Kho Mu ethnic group, in Dien Bien province in Vietnam’s far northwest. Some of them had been working for up to two years as slave labour in the garment business.
Tired but happy, the children relaxed for an hour at Noi Bai airport before boarding a bus for the 12-hour journey home to their villages.
The group are told AAP they were looking forward to returning to their families.
“I felt so homesick, living in Saigon,” said 12-year-old Trang.
He was taken by car from his small village of 35 households and brought to Saigon, where he worked cutting cloth and was regularly beaten, he said.
He couldn’t estimate how many hours he worked as he can’t read a clock.
Gazing fixedly at his can of Fanta, he said he wanted to get home to his parents and six younger brothers and family farm.
Ta Ngoc Van, a lawyer with Blue Dragon, travelled to the remote villages of Da Lech and Co Nghiu some weeks ago following up a tip from a contact in the Ministry of Public Security about rumours of missing children.
He found some families hadn’t seen their children in two years.
They’d been approached by traffickers who promised their children well-paid and comfortable jobs in Ho Chi Minh City.
After receiving almost no money and no contact, the families were desperate. Investigations by Blue Dragon, experienced in saving children from garment factories, and Vietnamese officials located the children.
Michael Brosowski, the Australian founder of the charity, said local authorities were extremely interested in combating child trafficking.
Legislation in Vietnam, however, needs to catch up.
Vietnam is rated as a Tier 2 Watch List nation in a worldwide report on human trafficking released by the US State Department this year.
Most human trafficking recognised by the government and NGOs related to cross-border trafficking, often for sex work.
Internal trafficking, usually for labour, is harder to define and rarely prosecuted. According to the US report, no one was prosecuted for trafficking persons in Vietnam last year.
“It’s not sexy enough (as an issue) compared to sex trafficking,” said Brosowski.
“But labour trafficking can be hideous as well. These children lose years of their lives,” he said.
According to the State Department report, Vietnam’s legal structure is ill-suited to support the identification and prosecution of trafficking cases.
As internal trafficking can be hard to prove, some cases are prosecuted under labour laws instead.
Authorities have not yet said how they plan to prosecute this case.