Upon arriving in Tien Phong commune in Yen Dung district, Bac Giang, which has the village previously known as the “Russian village,” the first things that came to our eyes were unfinished houses.
The more we moved deeply into the village, the more unfinished houses we saw. They were located close together along the village road.
More than half of these unfinished houses belonged the families of workers in Russia. To have money for their children, spouses … to go to Russia, they had to borrow money, even their houses which were under construction were left unfinished.
Thanh Cong and Quyet Tien are the two villages in Tien Phong commune that have the greatest numbers of people going to Russia. Mr. Than Van Thu, chief of Thanh Cong village, said that at that moment, the village had was nearly 20 people working in Russia.
Live as slaves
Since February 2013, the family of Mr. Than Van Tu, 29 years old, in Thanh Cong Village, Tien Phong Commune did not know anything about him. The house of this family did not have any valuable assets, except for an old television.
Mrs. Than Thi Nga, 66 years old, Tu’s mother, just cried when talked about him: “Before he went to Russia, they promised to pay him VND17 million ($800) per month but when he arrived in Russia, they did not pay him as what they promised. He had to work 12 hours a day. He just sent home $500. Now we lost contact with him.”
Recently, tens of people returned from Russia empty-handed. Mr. Than Van Hau, 25 years old, just came back home on August 11. Hau burst into tears when he recalled the six years in Russia.
After the first month arriving in Russia, he was totally disillusioned by the brutal reality, which was beyond imagination.
He worked as a building worker but he was not paid in the first month. The 2nd month he was paid $800. Three months later he worked extremely hard but he was not paid. He had to work up to 14 hours a day. Hau also did not know exactly where he was in Russia.
Each year he worked during five summer months. In the winter, when the temperature fell to – 26 degrees Celsius, he could only huddled in the room and tried to save every coin.
Hau said: “I suffered a lot and I was familiar with it. I was just scared of having no food and no money to send home to my parents to pay debts.”
Working without pay for a long time, Hau unilaterally breached the contract to seek jobs himself illegally. He worked hard and saved every penny to send home a total of VND200 million ($10,000) in six years. On 17/07/2013, Hau was arrested by the police and immigration agency and deported.
After less than one year in Russia, Mr. T.D.D, 30 years old, in Thanh Cong village just came back home last month. Recalling shabby living conditions in Russia, he said: “We did not have water to bathe. We only wished to have heavy rain to bathe.”
He saw many Vietnamese workers in other places having to drink water from the fields, lived in tents and slept on the ground. No passport, no work permit, he was expelled. Just returning home, he went to Lang Son province to work as a builder to earn money in order to pay the big debt of VND100 million for his contract to Russia.
Going to Russia is very easy
According to our surveys, the procedures for “labor export” to Russia offered by labor brokerage rings in Yen Dung are very easy. A worker just needs to give brokers VND50-60 million ($2,500-3,000) to fly to the “Promised Land” to work.
According to the promise of brokers, the jobs are simple, working for eight hours a day to earn pay of around $1,000 per month. The workers only need to seek money, other things will be fulfilled by the brokers.
Sometimes, brokers organized meetings to inform local people of recruitment programs without limit of laborers to send to Russia. With the guise of “employment,” which is actually illegal labor brokers, each time brokers took dozens of poor farmers to Russia.
According to denunciations from the victims’ families, there are two big brokers in Yen Dung District, who sent hundreds of people to Russia in the form of tourism. A man named Th now lives in Russia and sometimes returned home to recruit workers to Russia to work as construction workers. Similarly, a man named Tr, in Quyet Tien village, Tien Phong commune, also used high wages to lure people to go to Russia.
If workers break the labor contracts, the brokers will ask their families in Vietnam to pay compensation. Mr. T.D.D and three others who went to Russia together were asked by the broker to pay nearly VND60 million of compensation after they returned home.
“What is most distressing is relatives and villagers cheated each other. I do not know where my son is now but they have sent an acknowledgement of debt to me,” said Than Thi Nga, Tu’s mother.
The authorities do not know anything
Mr. Than Van Thinh, chairman of Tien Phong commune, said: “In the years 2006 – 2007, local people in masses went to Russia but most of these cases left home spontaneously, so the commune does not know the specific numbers.”
Since 2008, the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs of Bac Giang Province joined other forces to detect and handle fours cases of illegally taking workers to Russia.
Mr. Tran Van Ha, an official of the department, said these cases were detected through people’s denouncement.