The number of Vietnamese cannabis factories in the UK has grown by 150% in the last two years. Illustration: Matt Murphy for the Observer
Hien was 10 when he arrived in Britain. He did not know where he was or where he had been. He knew only that he was here to work. Since he emerged from the back of a lorry after crossing from Calais seven years ago, his experience has been one of exploitation and misery. He has been a domestic slave, been trafficked into cannabis factories, been abused and beaten and was eventually prosecuted and sent to prison. It has been a life of terror, isolation and pain.
Hien's story is not unique. He is one of an estimated 3,000 Vietnamese children in forced labour in the UK, used for financial gain by criminal gangs running cannabis factories, nail bars, garment factories, brothels and private homes. Charged up to £25,000 for their passage to the UK, these children collectively owe their traffickers almost £75m.
Please note that OBV has changed to this address:
505 Harbour Gate Cir
Alpharetta, GA 30022
"In time the mulberry reclaims the sunk sea-bourn,
And what the gliding eye may first find fair weighs mournful on the heart "
(Original version belongs to Nguyen Du with 'Kim Van Kieu'
The translation was by Vladislav Zhukov)
Nguyen Du, Vietnamese great poet, felt sorry and sypathized for Thuy Kieu's life. In today era, modern "Thuy Kieu" women tend to lose their humanity for material means.
I arrived at 9am. Many girls were in a room isolated by iron bars. "Here she comes, you go ask her", one of them said. I looked behind the bars, some were on the left, some were on the right, some above and some were below...Crowded and all are Vietnamese, so am I, I felt so ashamed! Suddenly I stopped, didn't want to go further but I did not allow myself to do so. So I took a deep breath, set beside my pride and shamefulness in front of the native warden.
(CNN) When Kieu was 12, her mother asked her to take a job. But not just any job. Kieu was first examined by a doctor, who issued her a "certificate of virginity." She was then delivered to a hotel, where a man raped her for two days.
In 2013, the Freedom Project went to Cambodia with Oscar-winning actress and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador against Human Trafficking, Mira Sorvino. The result was "Every Day in Cambodia: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary," which looked at child sex trafficking in the country.
In Svay Pak, a notorious child sex trafficking hub in Phnom Penh, Sorvino met Kieu, who was then around 14 years old. She had been rescued from sex trafficking by Agape International Missions (AIM), a non-profit for trafficked and at risk children and teenagers.
As I was completing my year-end tasks and runnning some errands on the days leading up to the Lunar New Year (Tết), the OBV HOTLINE rang. I picked up the phone and answered, "Hello, this is OBV."
On the other end, there was a bit of silence before they replied, "Is this Fr. Martino Thông's phone number?"
By the time you read this news, our OBV family has operated in Malaysia. I would like to share a little background behind the work that led to our presence in Malaysia.
From Singapore... Almost every time the "undercover team" went "to work" in Singapore, we would stop over in Malaysia. It's like "a rest stop" or "a waiting post" to avoid being monitored by the opposition group. Fearing the team members would "feel inconveniently idle," I always supported and encouraged their "tourist outing" trips there. Consequently, OBV knows quite well the sex trafficking situation in Malaysia. However, we didn't have any plan to operate there because we didn't have the resources and money!
A phone call that changed everything... Around October, 2014, Fr. HC Nguyen called me: "Bá Thông – Need your help rescuing the children sold as sex slaves in Malaysia." He introduced me to a Vietnamese ("person") living in Malaysia, who was visiting family in Orange County, California.
Nepalese schoolgirl Susmita Kami, centre, 16, at school in Simikot, the headquarters of Humla district, on November 6, 2014. Three years ago, the teenager escaped from a forced marriage and begged her parents not to send her back as she wanted a better life. Prakash Methema/AFP Photo
February 4, 2015
SIMIKOT, NEPAL // On a freezing night three years ago, 13-year-old Susmita Kami sneaked out of her husband's house and did not stop running until she reached her parent's doorstep in Nepal's remote northwest.
Her escape from a forced marriage –– a tradition many teenage girls from the Himalayan nation's Dalit community are expected to uphold –– was soon under threat.
But Susmita's parents resisted demands from her in-laws to send her back, deciding to stand by their pleading daughter who desperately wanted a better life.
Ash Wednesday – Also the last day of the year for the Vietnamese Calendar! Tomorrow "we" (Vietnamese) begin our new year! I am taking a little times out of this very busy day to thanks:
1. The Almighty God – who has wonderfully created me and blessed and continued to protect me!
2. My parents who always support of my calling to serve others – that also means no one will take care of them in their old age!
3. The benefactors of OBV family – I do not know what to do without you!
"Sex Trafficking in the USA" Episode 1 focuses on survivors trafficked into a life of prostitution in the U.S., as well as effective programs that combat commercial sexual exploitation and restore lives. Nicholas Kristof joins Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, and Malin Akerman in Nashville, Boston, and Chicago to illuminate the widespread existence of crimes happening in our own backyard.
To speak true, the OBV family didn't expect to receive special praise like that. However, two employees from Suka Society in Malaysia still paid a visit to the family to express admiration for them. The visits also shows gratitude and acknowledgement to the two guests, who are preparing to join the OBV family in their meaningful work in Malaysia.
Even though Miss Cecil and Miss Sara stayed with our family for only one day, our children still had a chance to practice their English a little bit. Moreover, in such a limited time, Cecil and Sara still gave our family some positive feedback for our future enhancement:
Training: Sexually transmitted disease
Date: Jan 28, 2015
Presenter: Phuong Nguyen, MD, FACOG
Summary: Beside providing information about sexually transmitted disease so that OBV staff can have more knowledge to take care of the OBV children – victims of sex exploitation, Dr. Nguyen also addressed menstrual cycle, vaginal discharge and infections. A very helpful, "hot" topic that benefit female staff too.
Date: Feb 4, 2015
Presenter: Tiffany Pham, MSW, LCSW
Summary: A session held to explore and discuss clinical challenges in completing intake and assessment with victims and their family.
It's Saturday, and the Embassy is closed; however, because of some incidents happended by misunderstanding after our previous trip to Malaysia, the chief security officer of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia had arranged time to meet with Fr. Martino Ba-Thong Nguyen (OBV Founder), Dr. John Duy-An Nguyen (OBV President), and OBV Malaysia repreesentative at 9:00am January 30th, 2105. We are grateful for the opportunity to present OBV mission and works in different countries in Southeast Asia, and the possibility to work with the US authority in different countries on human trafficking. We also learned how to be properly protected by the US Government while working in foreign countries, how to efficiently work with international agencies as well as different governements through proper channels.
Although Ukrainian trafficking victims were told they would gain legal entry in the U.S., they were routinely smuggled through Mexico using temporary tourist visas like this one.
The young Ukrainian men and women—many of them out of work and with few prospects—were promised good-paying jobs in the United States. But instead of living the American dream, they were thrust into a nightmare of violence, threats, and forced servitude.
For years, five brothers who ran a human trafficking organization victimized dozens of unwitting Ukrainians, underscoring the reality that modern-day slavery exists in the United States and around the world—and requires a strong response by governments and law enforcement.