Vietnam - Hanoi - Blue Dragon Foundation
Vietnam has a population of over 90 million and is the 13th most densely populated country in the world. According to UNICEF, the poverty rate in urban areas is 18.3 per cent but increases to 44.9 percent in rural areas. While Vietnam has been quite successful in reducing poverty and increasing economic growth, many communities have been left behind and are struggling to take advantage of new economic and social opportunities. Thus, issues such as drug use, domestic violence, street children and trafficking are increasing in these marginalized communities.
Each year, many thousands of people migrate to the cities of Vietnam in the hope of a better future. They are usually unskilled and without relatives in the city to provide them with support. Sadly, they are often unable to adapt to the city lifestyle and many end up in desperate situations. The children who accompany their families are usually neglected and in great danger of ending up on the streets where they are at risk of exploitation.
The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs estimates that there are 23,000 street children throughout Vietnam (1500 in Hanoi). They survive in many different ways, often working as many as 14 hours a day, seven days a week, begging, scavenging on rubbish sites or selling chewing gum or lottery tickets on the city streets. They live and work within, or in close proximity to, communities dominated by drugs and crime. Many children are at severe risk of falling victim to sexual and/or economic exploitation.
Due to their lack of financial resources and the daily pressures they face, these children either never attend school or drop out at an early age. (1)
Vietnam is a source and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and situations of forced labour. Men and women migrate abroad for work through predominantly state-affiliated and private labour export companies in the construction, fishing, agriculture, mining, logging, and manufacturing sectors. However, there are also Vietnamese women and children who are misled by fraudulent labour opportunities and instead are sold to brothels on the borders of Cambodia, Lao PDR, and into China. Some victims are also transported to third destination countries, including Thailand and Malaysia. Trafficking of women and girls for forced marriages to Chinese men is also increasing.
Actual official statistics on Trafficking In Persons (TIP) in Vietnam are limited and vary widely. The Government of Vietnam reported in 2013 that since 2005 over 3,862 human trafficking cases had been uncovered. According to a report by the Vietnamese Government’s Anti-Crime Steering Committee, the number of Vietnamese victims of human trafficking from 2011-2015 increased by 11% over the previous five years. However, official figures do not accurately reflect the scale of the problem. Blue Dragon has found that in poor, northern border provinces, every commune visited has had people trafficked either for labour or sexual exploitation, or both. Some communes have had dozens of children taken away with no adult knowing where they have gone. Poverty and lack of education make children and young people in these provinces particularly vulnerable to traffickers. Local officials are desperate for support in training, investigations and assistance with prosecutions.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is an Australian charity rescuing children in crisis in Vietnam. From small beginnings, with two friends giving English lessons to shoeshine boys, Blue Dragon has grown to an organisation of dedicated staff supporting over 1,500 children. Blue Dragon children are street kids, children with disabilities, children from rural families living in extreme poverty and victims of human trafficking and slavery. Blue Dragon aims to rescue children from danger and slavery, reunite them with their families where possible and provide all the services needed for recovery and growth.
Blue Dragon offers a range of services tailored to the individual needs of each child, offering a comprehensive range of innovative services led by a team of social workers, psychologists, teachers and lawyers.
Blue Dragon began anti-trafficking activities in Vietnam in 2005 and has directly supported the rescue and reintegration of over 540 children trafficked for child labour and young women trafficked to the sex trade. Its work in this area is recognised as international best practice. Blue Dragon also provides training in trafficking identification, investigation, prevention and prosecution to thousands of police, border guards, teachers and community leaders.
Rescue is only the beginning. Blue Dragon provides educational and psychological support to trafficking survivors and, for those unable to return home, assistance is provided with accommodation and living allowances. The staff of Blue Dragon are committed to do whatever it takes to change the lives of these children. Blue Dragon has been engaged in cross-border rescues from China since 2007. During that time, Blue Dragon has developed close working relationships with members of Vietnam's anti-trafficking police, Chinese police and border guards, helping them improve their skills to independently identify, rescue and reintegrate trafficking victims.
Some numbers to illustrate the achievements of Blue Dragon:
Sent over 4,000 kids back to school & training
Provided shelter to 315 girls & boys
Served 418,551 meals
Built 86 homes for families
Distributed 40,054 litres of milk
Handed out 61,204 kilos of rice
Reunited 325 runaways with their families
Taken 1,366 kids for health checks
Put 8 teens through drug rehab
Obtained legal papers for 7,966 people
Rescued 544 trafficked children
Placed 223 teens in jobs
Played 2,103 games of soccer!
What is Lenity’s Australia’s involvement?
Lenity Australia is providing funding for relief, education and advocacy programs to support and cover rehabilitation services for girls and young women (aged 14 to 25) who have been trafficked from Vietnam into China. The funding specifically targets:
• the rescue and repatriation of 6 victims from China;
• provision of counselling and supportive therapy for at least 20 survivors; and
• school costs, tuition and vocational training fees for a minimum of 20 survivors.
Lenity Australia is committed to the work of Blue Dragon, particularly given the recent spike in trafficking, and the need to rescue more girls. Blue Dragon has an established reputation in the field for its work.
 Blue Dragon’s Chief Lawyer, Mr. Ta Ngoc Van, heads Blue Dragon’s anti-trafficking work. In June 2014, he received the Trafficking in Persons Hero Award, presented by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Blue Dragon has also received the UNICEF “ZEROaward” for Exceptional Commitment to children (2013). Its Founder, Mr. Michael Brosowski, was awarded CNN Hero status in 2011 and became a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012. Ms Thi Minh Dinh Chau (Program X Manager) is one of the few psychologists specialised in working with survivors of sex trafficking in Vietnam. She has presented in Vietnam and internationally, most recently as a keynote speaker at the Trust Women conference on The Global Fight Against Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery in November 2014.