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Phuong-Anh Vu

2012 (Narrative date)

There are an estimated 17,000 people living in modern slavery in Jordan (GSI 2018). Jordan is a source, transit and destination country for adults and children subjected to forced labour, domestic servitude and sex trafficking. People are trafficked primarily from South and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Egypt and Syria. Forced labour victims experience withheld or non-payment wages, confiscation of identity documents, restricted freedom of movement, unsafe living conditions, long hours without rest, isolation, and verbal and physical abuse. Jordan relies on foreign migrant workers – many of whom are undocumented – in several sectors, including construction, agriculture, textiles, and domestic work.

Phuong-Anh Vu paid a large sum of money to participate in the labour export program in 2008. She was transferred to Jordan to work in a sewing factory. Upon arrival Phuong-Anh discovered that she was to work long hours for very little pay. When she and others went on strike, her employers restricted her food and water and subjected all strikers to severe beatings. Phuong-Ang was taken to Thailand by the Vietnamese government after contacting a newspaper about her working conditions.

I would like to say thank you for the opportunity to be here and wish your family a happy Lunar New Year.

I grew up in poverty in a province called Lao Cai in Vietnam. My family is Catholic so we have difficulties living there under the Vietnamese Government policy of persecuting Christian people.

The government has the policy of persecuting Christian Hmong people and anyone that believes in Christianity. My family, we have the two of us, my sister and I. And my father died when I was 1 year old. When I turned 16, my sister was kidnapped and she's been missing since then. Heeding the Vietnamese Government's call for citizens' participation in the labor export program in 2008 I was transferred to Jordan and working in a sewing factory for a Taiwanese contractor. I was among 276 women and with the promise to only work 8 hours a day and that we would earn $300a month. That is an enormous amount of money for myself, along with the people that came with me.

Myself, along with all my friends, each of us had to pretty much mortgage our home and borrow money, $2,000, to participate in this program. We were never given any contracts to sign and it wasn't until we got on the plane where they gave us the contract. When we got to Jordan, it turns out that nothing was what was promised to us. When we arrived, immediately they took all of our paperwork, all of our passports, and immediately put us to work. Then starting the next day, we have to work and the shift was 16 hours a day.

I worked for 10 days and I received $10. I was very upset and surprised, so I asked the employer and the employer's response was that I need to talk to the people who brought me here which would be the Vietnamese Government. I went on strike, along with some of my friends, to demand the payment for what was promised. We stopped working for 10 days and the owner gave me an ultimatum, gave us an ultimatum after that. They withheld food, electricity, and water from us. A lot of us-some of them were afraid, so they returned to work, but 176 of us remained on strike. A woman named Vu Thu Ha, she's a representative of the labor export company, she led a group of people who came to our rooms and started torturing us.

All the women there are like me, very small, and tiny and weakened by not having food and so forth. So they were beaten. I was beaten, along with-some of our friends, they hit them, smashed their head on the floor. So it was really brutal.

I witnessed myself that some of my friends were really weak and not able to defend themselves and their hair was pulled like an animal and its very heart breaking. And they continued to beat us and I didn't know what to do, so I took a cell phone and tried to record what was happening, so they started beating me and the bruise is still there on my head and it's still there.

So I was heartbroken to see for myself all the women having to suffer through this. What I didn't understand was that after the owner of the company witnessed us all being beaten and he did not do anything and then afterward they all were shaking hands. So I didn't understand why that was happening. We were isolated and confined in rooms. We tried to get help and scream through the windows. Nobody came. The Jordanian police were there, but they were there to help beat us, rather than helping us.

A lot of my friends were vomiting blood and they were obviously seriously injured. I tried to call for help and no one came to help us. So I didn't know what to do so I have to find food and medicines to help my friends. I had to gather everything that we have and even the tampons for women to sell to get the money to buy noodles for my friends. I'm sorry, but it gets very emotional for me.

And then one day the Vietnamese Government delegation came. I was happy because I thought they would be there to help us. But it turned out they came, it was very disappointing because not only did they not help us, but they also threatened me. The reason they threatened because I was the one that contacted the newspaper in Vietnam. They did an article and the article got to Dr. Thang, that's how he knew about it and Dr. Thang sent us money and that's why they came to threaten me.

I used the money that was given from Dr. Thang to get medicine for my friends, but the government accused me of collaborating with the NGOs for my own benefit. I asked Dr. Thang to help my friends because most of them were very sick from being beaten and Dr. Thang arranged to have some physicians from IOM to come and help them. After the IOM delegation came and left, we were confined and isolated again and we were not allowed to leave. Then we were able to return to Vietnam and I learned that it was thanks to the Congressman and Dr. Thang.

There are two gentlemen named Truong Xuan Thanh and Tran Viet Tu that announced I was returning home and there were threats that I would be imprisoned when I returned home. Dr. Thang helped me escape and when I got to Thailand I was able to escape from the government. The journey of my escape was very long and time is limited, so I won't be able to explain all that right now. While I was in Thailand I was threatened by the Vietnamese Embassy and they said they would cut me into thousands of pieces. And I have that recorded, that conversation. While I was living in Thailand for 3 years, there was a lot of suffering including for my mom and it was very emotional for me while I was staying there.

The most heartbreak for me was my 3-year-old daughter was electrocuted and died and she was not allowed to be buried unless I am home. They wanted me to go home before they can allow her to be buried. I was ready to go home to at least bury my daughter, but I learned that the police, the Vietnamese police were sur-rounding my home.

One of my friends who was beaten has died because of the injury. I don't know what else to say. I just wanted to send my gratitude to Dr. Thang and Congressman Smith and the panel and the U.S. Government for allowing this hearing and hope that it will help my people. I know there’s going to be a lot of uncertainties and threats for me participating in this hearing. However, I chose to do it because I don’t want a second Phuog-Anh like myself. I would like to be able to prevent this from happening to other people.

I wish that everyone on the panel along with everyone here in the room now that you have heard my testimony that you would raise the voice and do something to help the Vietnamese women from suffering from human trafficking.


Narratives given before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs House of Reprsentatives