Vietnamese Workers Trafficked Into Poland Wait to be Sent Home

Smuggled in by truck from Russia, many never make it past the border, sources say.

A file photo of a poster in a street in Ho Chi Minh City appealing to people to be vigilant against human trafficking.

Vietnamese nationals brought by smugglers into Poland in search of jobs are at growing risk of being caught at the border, where they are held in detention before being sent home, sources say.

Attracted by promises of work in restaurants, markets, or private homes, some pay as much as U.S.$15,000 to trafficking gangs to be taken into Poland by truck from Russia, going heavily into debt to banks or to relatives and friends in Vietnam, some say.

But many never make it to their final destination, one woman told RFA’s Vietnamese Service, speaking from a Polish detention center.

“My friends in Vietnam told me to come here to work at jobs that I couldn’t find at home,” the 31-year-old single mother said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of being killed by the gang that brought her in.

“But I didn’t know about the risks. If I had known, I would never have left,” she said.

Traveling on Vietnamese passports, prospective workers typically fly to Russia, where they are loaded onto trucks driven by human traffickers speaking Vietnamese and Russian, sources told RFA.

“I came to Poland in a container truck holding nine people,” one 26-year-old man said. “We drove through the woods, and I was arrested at the border just inside Belarus, where I was kept in jail for one month and 16 days.”

“It was terrible over there. Our food was worse than dogs’ food,” he said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

Released after his short stay in Belarus, the man said, he reestablished contact with the smugglers who had taken him there, and he then crossed the border into Poland where he was quickly arrested again.

'We are very worried'

Conditions in detention in Poland are fair, RFA’s sources said, with detainees provided three meals a day and given access to telephones and the internet. As authorities in both countries work to send detainees home by the end of the year, though, Vietnamese migrants held in Poland fear for their future, the sources said.

“I have been here for almost a year hoping to work, and now the Vietnamese police have come here to take us back to Vietnam,” one man said.

“We are very worried. We don’t know what to do.”

In some cases, Vietnamese officials sent to interview those being held have taken a threatening tone, warning them to tell the truth about the trafficking networks responsible for smuggling them in, another man said.

“They warned us to tell the truth, saying that we would be sent back in any case.”

“However, they said that if we don’t tell them what they want to know, we will face more difficulties when we return,” he said.

Reported by Hoa Ai for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.