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Aug 04, 2020 / 15:24

Vietnam PM orders crackdown on illegal immigrants amid fresh coronavirus outbreaks

Since the start of this year, illegal Chinese immigrants have been found in 27 out of 63 cities and provinces in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked authorized agencies to make thorough investigations into and strictly handle all unlawful immigration cases.

 Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Photo: VGP

“It is necessary to launch investigations into all illegal immigrants, those of outlawed stay, and mostly smugglers trafficking in humans into Vietnam,” Phuc said at a meeting on August 2.

The PM made the request after local police repeatedly unveiled the illicit immigration of Chinese nationals. In July, hundreds of Chinese people were caught illegally entering and staying across Vietnam.

Alarming unlawful immigration

An increase in immigrants are found in Vietnam. Photo: Bienphongbacson

Major General To An Xo, chief of the Ministry of Public Security Office, said at a press conference on August 3 that 27 out of 63 cities and provinces in Vietnam have reported the illegal entry of 504 Chinese so far this year.

The police have conducted investigations into five cases involving 20 people, including one Chinese national.

Xo noted that the immigrants are both Chinese and Vietnamese (who went to China for work) who now attempt to return to Vietnam for better shelter amid serious flooding and pandemic uncertainties in China. The Chinese immigrants get in Vietnam for tourism, job seeking, and using Vietnam as transit to a third country.

At a meeting in Hanoi on July 31, Lieut. General Le Duc Thai from the Border Guards Command under the Ministry of National Defense, said that since the beginning of this year, Vietnam’s border guards have arrested roughly 16,000 unlawful immigrants. In July alone, more than 2,400 people were arrested when attempting to cross the border.

 Chinese illegal immigrant Gao Liang Gu. Photo: CADN

On July 25, Vietnamese police arrested Gao Liang Gu, 42, who is believed to run a ring to illicitly bring Chinese people into Vietnam.

On July 27, local police seized Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan, 49, and Nguyen Trinh Van Hung, 48, for allegedly organizing illegal immigration. The pair colluded with a Chinese man named A Ma to traffic Chinese nationals into Vietnam. From April to end-July, they successfully smuggled six batches of immigrants to the country.

In a reportage by Tuoi Tre newspaper, the Chinese immigrants admitted that they connected with Vietnamese people who work in China or via social platforms for entering Vietnam. They paid an amount worth VND500,000 (US$22) to be guided to come across the border through trails or waterways.

Possible link between illegal immigrants and local coronavirus infections

 Resurgence of local coronavirus infections in Vietnam leaves the country in high alert. Photo: Zing

Coronavirus reemerged in the community in Vietnam in the central city of Danang late last month.

The virus resurgence after 99 days without local transmission has fueled speculation about the link between illegal immigrants and community infections.

The speculation became firm after Acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long said the current coronavirus strain in Vietnam is more infectious and from abroad.

Shortly after the detection of the first locally-transmitted case, the Border Guards Command set up 10 working groups, including eight to check the border control mission in all localities bordering China and Cambodia, and two groups to find out irresponsibility for or covering up of illegal immigration.

Concerns remain

Given an increasing number of illegal Chinese immigrants in Vietnam as the country battles against the pandemic, both officials and experts said perpetrators of unlawful immigration must be strictly punished.

 Pham Van Hoa, member of Law Committee under the Vietnam’s National Assembly. Photo: Zing

“Smuggling Chinese people into Vietnam at a time when the pandemic spreads is an irresponsible and unethical act to the nation and a serious violation,” Pham Van Hoa, member of the Law Committee under the Vietnam’s National Assembly (NA), told Zing.

He said it brings about the possibility of local transmission and resurgence of Covid-19 in Vietnam, adding that it’s necessary to strictly punish, even criminalize the offenders, including both oganizers and immigrants.

Nguyen Kim Khoa, former head of the NA’s Defense and Security Committee, warned that those people illegally entering Vietnam with different purposes would cause not only transmission risks but security threats to the country.

Meanwhile, lawyer Le Trung Phat told BBC News that abetting Chinese immigrants is a cruelty in the face of widespread Covid-19.

“The consequence it has left to the society is enormous, prompting the participation of the entire political system, upseting tens of millions of people, affecting the economy, and costing a large amount of the state budget. It is not different from a genocide as it might bring death to many people if they are not treated promptly,” Phat emphasized.

On Facebook, lawyer Nguyen Kieu Hung called for people who made contact with Chinese nationals over the past 15 days or more should isolate themselves and stay away and report to local police on the foreign presence.

Mild punishments

 Lawyer Le Trung Phat, director of Le Trung Phat Law Office. Photo: Justicewithinreach

The resurgence of SARS-COV-2 in the community in Vietnam has triggered indignation among locals who have demanded immigrants and colluders to be charged with maximum penalties.

As per Vietnamese legislation, anyone who commits a crime of organizing illegal immigration in the context of pandemic would spend up to 15 years behind bars in accordance with Article 348 of the 2015 Penal Code, according to lawyer Phat.

The Chinese immigrants, if convicted, would be extradited under agreement between Vietnam and China, the Phap Luat TP.HCM reported.

Lieut. General Le Van Phuc from the Border Guards Command said at a meeting on July 31 that the illegal Chinese immigrants have been under investigations and would be handed over to the local police after 15 days. Some others would bear administrative sanctions, sent to concentrated quarantine centers, and finally handed over to the Chinese side.

Lawyer Le Trung Phat commented: “In this situation, we need to quickly conduct trials to promptly expel these people from Vietnam, to save the budget and to avoid affecting the national interests. Immigration authorities, when detecting violations of entry or possible transmission, need to ban immigration and quickly send them back to the country where they came from.”