The government maintained overall efforts to protect victims, but it identified and provided services to fewer of them. The government reported its identification of 121 victims in 2020, of which 112 were female and nine were male; 32 were children. This represented a continual decrease in identified victims in comparison to previous reporting periods (300 identified in 2019; 490 identified in 2018; 670 identified in 2017). The government utilized victim identification criteria as part of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Human Trafficking and its own 2014 procedures for victim identification; however, neither the criteria nor the procedures were reported to be proactively or widely employed, including among individuals in commercial sex, individuals transiting border stations, workers in the fishing industry and seafood processing industry, migrant workers returning from abroad, and child laborers. Moreover, ineffective implementing guidelines on victim identification procedures prevented border guards, law enforcement, and other officials from fully detecting and assisting victims. The victim identification process remained overly cumbersome and complex, requiring sign-off from multiple ministries before victims could be formally identified and assisted. For example, despite conducting more than 31,000 inspections of businesses that facilitated commercial sex—such as karaoke bars and massage parlors—where individuals in commercial sex were at heightened risk of trafficking, authorities did not identify any sex trafficking victims during these inspections.
Of the 121 victims identified, 67 were Vietnamese nationals initially identified at land borders by border guard forces or Chinese authorities. Of these 67 individuals, four were victims of “sexual exploitation,” 60 were victims of “illegal marriage”—which may have subsequently led to sex or labor trafficking, but the government did not report these details—and three were victims of “illegal adoption,” which falls outside of the international definition of trafficking. The government did not report any further details of the 54 other victims it identified. Of these 67 individuals, authorities referred 25 to social protection centers, 20 to the police, 19 to an NGO, and three to the Vietnam Women’s Union Center for Women’s Development. Additionally, of the 121 identified victims, 84 requested and received support services provided by both the government and NGOs, including medical and psychological support, legal aid, stay at social protection centers, and vocational training. The government maintained a formal nationwide victim referral process; however, it did not systematically refer victims to protective services due to inadequacies in the referral process, including some local officials’ unfamiliarity with anti-trafficking protocol and policies, insufficient inter-jurisdictional cooperation, and limited social worker capacity. Despite these challenges, throughout the reporting period, Ha Giang authorities—in cooperation with an NGO—created provincial-level victim referral procedures and improved the capacity of and training for social workers to provide long-term comprehensive care to trafficking victims, including healthcare, psycho-social care, vocational training, housing and financial assistance, and legal aid; through these procedures—for the first time—Ha Giang authorities referred or directly provided 35 trafficking victims with various types of short- and long-term care, including financial assistance.
The government’s 2020 budget for victim assistance was 15.44 billion VND ($669,140), an increase from the 2019 budget of 13.12 billion VND ($568,700). Anti-trafficking funding to localities increased from 4 billion VND ($173,390) in 2019 to 9.8 billion VND ($424,790) in 2020. The government continued to operate 94 social protection or social service centers, some funded by NGOs, to assist vulnerable groups, including trafficking victims, nationwide, but none provided services to male or child victims exclusively. Per a circular that went into effect in January 2020, victims were allowed to stay at support facilities for up to three months with a meal stipend and medical assistance. By law, foreign trafficking victims were entitled to four support services: essential needs and travel expenses, medical support, psychological support, and legal aid. However, NGOs reported the government did not have adequately trained or experienced social workers to provide appropriate support to trafficking victims. 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. Vietnam’s diplomatic missions abroad repatriated nine Vietnamese female victims of sexual exploitation and forced marriage from Burma and China. Vietnamese law guaranteed trafficking victims the right to legal representation; victims were not required to be present at or testify in-person in court. Trafficking victims were entitled to compensation in accordance with the law; the government reported that victims requested compensation in 40 cases during the reporting period. The government did not report offering foreign victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face retribution or hardship.
Due to a lack of systematic implementation of victim-centered screening procedures during these raids, authorities may have penalized some women and children in commercial sex for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Additionally, foreign victims, including children, remained at high risk of deportation without screening or referral to protective services. The government encouraged trafficking victims to assist in judicial proceedings against traffickers; however, NGOs previously reported victims were at times 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 unlawful acts 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.