Socialist Worker

A long way from Vietnam

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2772

Farmers are forced to leave Vietnam due to poverty

Farmers are forced to leave Vietnam due to poverty (Pic: Wikicommons/ Dennis Jarvis)


In A Long Way From Vietnam, BBC journalist Nga Pham looks at why Vietnamese migration is the second highest in Britain.

Some 39 Vietnamese people suffocated in a lorry found in Essex in 2019 trying to make it over the Channel. Yet people from the poorest areas of Vietnam still make the journey, and in their own words they explain why.

After suffering for so long in poverty, many would rather risk their lives than face a bleak and hopeless future.

Some are willing to pay smuggling networks. Others are victims tricked into making the journey, exploited along the way and forced into slavery when they arrive.

Many end up with huge debts to smugglers that can’t ever be paid off, or spend years trying. Journeys across the Channel alone can cost £20,000.

‘I could’ve been one of the 39 who died’—refugees speak out over lorry deaths
‘I could’ve been one of the 39 who died’—refugees speak out over lorry deaths
  Read More

The podcast also talks to families of the 39 migrants who died in the lorry. They are from the poorest provinces reliant on rice farming and fishing that has been jeopardised by natural disasters and polluted seas.

Even family members of those dead would themselves risk the journey to escape poverty and crippling debts in Vietnam.

One man arrived in 2019 with his wife, after travelling across China, Russia, Poland and France for a year.

He sent for his 15 year old son to join him—but he tragically died in the lorry disaster.

Once found by authorities in Britain, working in nail bars or trafficked to work at cannabis farms, migrants are deported or imprisoned—even the victims of modern slavery.

Pham talks to immigration minister Chris Philp. He claims that the government is improving the situation through its new Nationality and Borders bill.

But Andrew Wallace from refugee charity Unseen slams the bill—calling for looser borders as a way to stop trafficking and smuggling.

“The reason people take risks is because there are no safe routes for asylum seekers and refugee applications,” he explained.

Available at bit.ly/Vietnam0921 for two weeks

Inside the life of one of the 11 September hijackers

Copilot, directed by Anna Zohra Berrached, is a complicated film about the imagined wife of one of the 11 September plane hijackers.

It begins as a love story following the two main characters as they fall for each other and then marry in secret.

Because the event that this film is centred on really happened, the audience might be led to believe the story or characters are based on the truth.

The character of Saeed, played by Roger Azar, is based on real-life 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah. Jarrah’s girlfriend, Aysel Sengun, becomes Asli, played by Canan Kir.

But much of this film’s story is completely fictionalised.

The dramatisation of real people helps the audience to understand them better.

The film does not shy away from looking at why people are drawn to extraordinary acts.

Twenty years of the West’s bloody war on terror
Twenty years of the West’s bloody war on terror
  Read More

Saaed, who like Jarrah was from Lebanon, is bitterly angry about endless war and western imperialism in the Middle East.

And the film constantly reminds you of the continuing destruction in the region.

When Asli travels to Lebanon she is confronted with the sight of tanks and soldiers.

But, at times, the way in which these characters were written can get in the way of how much you actually believe what’s going on.

It doesn’t seem believable that Asli would be so blinded by love for Saeed that she wouldn’t ask questions—especially after he disappears for months on end.

One of the closing scenes of the film is a conversation between Asli and her family after they hear the news about 9/11.

Asli’s mother comments that her sister Ebru has already had her headscarf ripped off in an Islamophobic attack.

The film ends on a reminder that after 9/11 everything changed, especially for Muslims.

Sophie Squire

Copilot, in cinemas. For showings go to bit.ly/copilot0921

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