Survivors of human trafficking in Vietnam are now facing an uncertain future after losing the jobs that were helping them to rebuild their lives.
Lockdown measures in the country, which were enforced to tackle COVID-19, have led to the closure of businesses, particularly in the tourism, hospitality, and beauty industries.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a charity in Hanoi that supports trafficking victims, says the economic crisis caused by the pandemic is harming people who were already in a vulnerable situation.
Over eighty percent of the young women who Blue Dragon had helped find employment have now lost their jobs.
“They were largely independent. Now, they’re dependent again on our assistance,” says Caitlin Wyndham, Blue Dragon’s Resources and Partnerships leader.
“In the short term, we’re providing food and support to pay rent. In the long term, we will work with these young women to help them get another job or undertake vocational training. But this will be an additional challenge for our staff and financial resources.”
Helping survivors of human trafficking improve their income and career prospects by facilitating access to education and training is a key component of the support provided by Blue Dragon.
“Poverty is the reason these women were vulnerable to trafficking in the first place, so it's essential that we assist survivors to get a job. This also reduces the risk of re-trafficking,” says Ms Wyndham.
She hopes the young women will get their jobs back as restaurants and hotels start to operate again and tourists return to the country but says many small businesses may not survive the crisis.
Dinh Thi Minh Chau, Senior Psychologist at Blue Dragon, says the pandemic has led to an increased demand for the organization’s services.
“Many survivors need more counselling and support now they have lost their source of income and are concerned about their futures. Others can’t attend school or training.”
Blue Dragon also fears that the women they support may put themselves in risky situations to find new jobs. Social workers contact the survivors every day to offer them encouragement and advise them against taking risks.
“We know that human traffickers prey on desperate people and most survivors come from very poor, disadvantaged families,” says Dinh Thi Minh Chau.
Now that the economy and borders are slowly reopening, Blue Dragon is seeing some indication of an increase in the activity of human traffickers.
“There is a lot of pressure on families, who've lost income because of the restrictions to movement and trade, to leave home to find work. They will be extremely vulnerable to the tricks of traffickers,” says Caitlin Wyndham.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is supported by the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking. The UNODC-managed Trust Fund is an integral part of the global initiative to address trafficking in persons and provides humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking through non-governmental organizations.