VIETNAM: Tier 2 Watch List
The Government of Vietnam does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included providing trafficking victims the affirmative right to legal representation in judicial proceedings; increasing the amount of time victims could remain in a shelter by one month and the amount of financial support provided to them for certain basic needs; continuing to operate large-scale awareness campaigns in communities vulnerable to trafficking, including workers migrating overseas; and training law enforcement officials. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. For the third consecutive year, the government identified significantly fewer victims than the previous year. Victim identification and assistance procedures remained cumbersome, slow, and ineffective. A lack of interagency coordination and unfamiliarity among some provincial officials with anti-trafficking law and victim protection roles and responsibilities continued to impede anti-trafficking efforts. Labor recruitment firms—most affiliated with state-owned enterprises—and unlicensed brokers reportedly charged workers seeking overseas employment higher fees than the law allows; those workers incurred high debts and were at heightened risk for forced labor, including through debt-based coercion. Despite reports of official complicity, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in trafficking offenses. Therefore Vietnam remained on the Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
A lack of coordination across agencies at provincial levels, persistent budgetary constraints, poor understanding of the relevant legislation among local officials, and confusion about individual provinces’ roles and responsibilities in the context of the national action plan continued to hamper effective law enforcement efforts. The government did not report how the 2018 restructuring of the MPS, in which the MPS Staff Department responsible for anti-trafficking policies and procedures merged with the Criminal Police Department responsible for trafficking operations, improved the flow of information and interagency coordination or law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Police and other officials from at least one province collaborated with an NGO to identify Vietnamese victims in China and launch trafficking investigations, although temporary border closures in January 2020 significantly hampered those efforts. The government reported training, at times in coordination with international organizations, 153 law enforcement officials on Articles 150 and 151; 136 border guards and Women’s Union officials; 128 interagency officials on combating child trafficking; 410 interagency officials on Vietnamese anti-trafficking regulations; and nearly 300 diplomatic and consular officers. Additionally, the Women’s Union and officials from many provinces, districts, and communes organized multiple trainings, including on prevention and victim assistance.
The government maintained labor representatives at diplomatic missions in countries that host large numbers of documented Vietnamese migrant workers such as Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These missions could provide basic provisions, transportation, and health care to Vietnamese citizens subjected to trafficking abroad. The government reported repatriating 51 victims to Vietnam and assisting an additional 331 victims overseas, compared with 386 Vietnamese victims in 2018 and 138 in 2017. Some diplomatic personnel previously reportedly lacked sufficient training to adequately assist victims, and NGOs abroad previously reported some overseas missions were unresponsive to foreign government and NGO attempts to refer Vietnamese victims to them. The government encouraged trafficking victims to assist in judicial proceedings against traffickers and offered victims some protection and compensation. The law protected victims from prosecution for unlawful acts traffickers coerced them to commit, but NGOs previously reported victims were less likely to come forward about their abuses in a judicial setting due to fears they may face arrest or deportation for crossing the border without documentation. Civil society previously reported Vietnamese victims who migrated via irregular means, were involved in criminal activity as a result of their trafficking, or had criticized the Vietnamese government, feared reprisals from authorities. These victims were less likely to seek support and were vulnerable to re-trafficking. International observers previously reported government officials often blamed Vietnamese citizens for their exploitative conditions abroad or suggested victims inflate abuses to avoid immigration violations. The government did not report offering foreign victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face retribution or hardship.
Complicit Vietnamese officials, primarily at commune and village levels, allegedly facilitate trafficking or exploit victims by accepting bribes from traffickers, overlooking trafficking indicators and extorting money in exchange for reuniting victims with their families.