Photos: How rural Vietnamese make treacherous journeys to Europe

For Vietnamese seeking to embark on the treacherous journey to a new life in Europe, a key question can be: "Grass" or "VIP"? People-smugglers offer different levels of service at vastly different prices, anti-trafficking experts, migrants and their family members told Reuters. Many trafficked Vietnamese end up working in illegal cannabis farms in Britain but "grass" in this case is a slang word used in Vietnam to describe something as dirt cheap.

Updated On Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST 12 Photos
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Nguyen Dinh Gia shows a barbell which was used by his son, a suspected victim of 39 deaths in a truck container in UK near London last week, at home in Ha Tinh province, Vietnam. “If he took the ‘VIP’ route, there’s a 1% chance he was captured. It’s the safest and most expensive route,” said Gia, who fears his son Nguyen Dinh Luong was among the 39 migrants. Most are believed to have been Vietnamese. (Kham / REUTERS)

Nguyen Dinh Gia shows a barbell which was used by his son, a suspected victim of 39 deaths in a truck container in UK near London last week, at home in Ha Tinh province, Vietnam. “If he took the ‘VIP’ route, there’s a 1% chance he was captured. It’s the safest and most expensive route,” said Gia, who fears his son Nguyen Dinh Luong was among the 39 migrants. Most are believed to have been Vietnamese. (Kham / REUTERS)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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British Police forensics officers work on the lorry, found to be containing 39 dead bodies, east of London, on October 23, 2019. “If he took the grass route, I’m 100 percent sure he died,” Gia said. “The vehicle in this incident ... that’s the grass route.” That option, which involves travelling from the Southeast Asian country overland to Europe, means arduous months of secretive movement by car and even walking. (Ben Stansall / AFP)

British Police forensics officers work on the lorry, found to be containing 39 dead bodies, east of London, on October 23, 2019. “If he took the grass route, I’m 100 percent sure he died,” Gia said. “The vehicle in this incident ... that’s the grass route.” That option, which involves travelling from the Southeast Asian country overland to Europe, means arduous months of secretive movement by car and even walking. (Ben Stansall / AFP)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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A billboard for a labour export company outside a steel mill in Ha Tinh province. “They’ll often go from Vietnam into China, and then cross into Russia,” said Mimi Vu, an independent anti-trafficking advocate in Ho Chi Minh City. “This is usually done by automobile, and then they’ll go from Russia into one of the neighbouring countries like Ukraine or Latvia on foot, crossing forests and mountains only at night.” (Kham / REUTERS)

A billboard for a labour export company outside a steel mill in Ha Tinh province. “They’ll often go from Vietnam into China, and then cross into Russia,” said Mimi Vu, an independent anti-trafficking advocate in Ho Chi Minh City. “This is usually done by automobile, and then they’ll go from Russia into one of the neighbouring countries like Ukraine or Latvia on foot, crossing forests and mountains only at night.” (Kham / REUTERS)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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Nguyen Dinh Gia is embraced by a friend. Taking the “VIP” route typically involves using fake or recycled passports to fly from Vietnam to Europe via a third country in a process that takes days instead of months, but comes at a much higher cost. “He said, if I take the ‘grass’ route, it costs 3,000 pounds to go from France to Britain. But if he takes the ‘VIP’ route, it’ll cost 11,000 pounds,” Gia said of his 20-year-old son. (Kham / REUTERS)

Nguyen Dinh Gia is embraced by a friend. Taking the “VIP” route typically involves using fake or recycled passports to fly from Vietnam to Europe via a third country in a process that takes days instead of months, but comes at a much higher cost. “He said, if I take the ‘grass’ route, it costs 3,000 pounds to go from France to Britain. But if he takes the ‘VIP’ route, it’ll cost 11,000 pounds,” Gia said of his 20-year-old son. (Kham / REUTERS)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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Residents light candles for the 39 people, in front of Hanoi Cathedral. Several migrants, families and experts gave the 11,000 pounds figure as the going rate to be smuggled from Germany or France to Britain. “Luong told me he chose the ‘VIP’ route, so I don’t understand how he ended up on this path,” Gia added. That could be because there was no “VIP” route for Luong’s sea crossing from mainland Europe into Britain. (REUTERS)

Residents light candles for the 39 people, in front of Hanoi Cathedral. Several migrants, families and experts gave the 11,000 pounds figure as the going rate to be smuggled from Germany or France to Britain. “Luong told me he chose the ‘VIP’ route, so I don’t understand how he ended up on this path,” Gia added. That could be because there was no “VIP” route for Luong’s sea crossing from mainland Europe into Britain. (REUTERS)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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Hoang Thi Ai, 48, mother of Hoang Van Tiep, one of the suspected victims, talks with a relative on the phone about the situation of her son, at her house, in Dien Chau district, Nghe An province. However they migrants arrive in Europe, stowing away on a container truck is the only way to take that final step across the Channel, migrants and anti-trafficking experts said. (Athit Perawongmetha / REUTERS)

Hoang Thi Ai, 48, mother of Hoang Van Tiep, one of the suspected victims, talks with a relative on the phone about the situation of her son, at her house, in Dien Chau district, Nghe An province. However they migrants arrive in Europe, stowing away on a container truck is the only way to take that final step across the Channel, migrants and anti-trafficking experts said. (Athit Perawongmetha / REUTERS)

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Le Minh Tuan, father of 30-year old Le Van Ha, feared to be among the 39 people, cries while holding Ha’s son outside their house in Nghe An province. “Parents pay for the ‘VIP’ service because they think it’ll be safer but what they don’t realise is that their son or daughter will end up in the same container truck as someone who paid for the cheap journey,” said Vu. (Nhac Nguyen / AFP)

Le Minh Tuan, father of 30-year old Le Van Ha, feared to be among the 39 people, cries while holding Ha’s son outside their house in Nghe An province. “Parents pay for the ‘VIP’ service because they think it’ll be safer but what they don’t realise is that their son or daughter will end up in the same container truck as someone who paid for the cheap journey,” said Vu. (Nhac Nguyen / AFP)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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Catholics attend a mass prayer the victims at My Khanh parish in Nghe An province. Luong’s father said he had tried to persuade his son, whose “grass” route had taken him across Asia to Russia in October 2017, then Ukraine, where he lived with other migrants in a warehouse for six months, not to press on. “He said in Britain it’s more fun and that there’s a community there,” Nguyen Dinh Gia said. (Kham / REUTERS)

Catholics attend a mass prayer the victims at My Khanh parish in Nghe An province. Luong’s father said he had tried to persuade his son, whose “grass” route had taken him across Asia to Russia in October 2017, then Ukraine, where he lived with other migrants in a warehouse for six months, not to press on. “He said in Britain it’s more fun and that there’s a community there,” Nguyen Dinh Gia said. (Kham / REUTERS)

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A relative shows a picture in Berlin of Anna Bui Thi Nhung (R), suspected to be among dead victims. In April 2018, Luong also arrived in Germany, the premier staging ground for Vietnamese migrants in Europe. The heart of Germany’s Vietnamese community is the Dong Xuan Center in east Berlin, a vast wholesale market which an investigation this year by the city’s public TV station found was also a hub for people smuggling. (Kham / REUTERS)

A relative shows a picture in Berlin of Anna Bui Thi Nhung (R), suspected to be among dead victims. In April 2018, Luong also arrived in Germany, the premier staging ground for Vietnamese migrants in Europe. The heart of Germany’s Vietnamese community is the Dong Xuan Center in east Berlin, a vast wholesale market which an investigation this year by the city’s public TV station found was also a hub for people smuggling. (Kham / REUTERS)

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Covering an area the size of several soccer fields, the Center is packed with Vietnamese nail studios, hairdressers, food halls, textile sellers and cafes. At lunchtime on Sunday it was bustling with locals, Asians and eastern Europeans shopping or sharing a meal. The administrative office by the Center’s entrance was closed and nobody picked up the phone at the number advertised on the door. (REUTERS)

Covering an area the size of several soccer fields, the Center is packed with Vietnamese nail studios, hairdressers, food halls, textile sellers and cafes. At lunchtime on Sunday it was bustling with locals, Asians and eastern Europeans shopping or sharing a meal. The administrative office by the Center’s entrance was closed and nobody picked up the phone at the number advertised on the door. (REUTERS)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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Anna Tran Thi Giao, grandmother of Joseph Nguyen Dinh Luong at her home. Journeys made by Vietnamese migrants are often broken up into stages, at the end of which traffickers request cash from families before they can proceed further. When Luong travelled to Germany, his father was asked to pay $18,000 in cash for the trip so far. (Kham / REUTERS)

Anna Tran Thi Giao, grandmother of Joseph Nguyen Dinh Luong at her home. Journeys made by Vietnamese migrants are often broken up into stages, at the end of which traffickers request cash from families before they can proceed further. When Luong travelled to Germany, his father was asked to pay $18,000 in cash for the trip so far. (Kham / REUTERS)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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Having paid his way to mainland Europe and, despite his father’s wishes, Luong embarked on his final journey to Britain. Late on Thursday night, Gia received a call from a contact overseas with direct knowledge of the fatal container accident. “I hope you understand. The vehicle was in an accident,” Luong’s father recalled the contact saying. “Everyone died.” (Kham / REUTERS)

Having paid his way to mainland Europe and, despite his father’s wishes, Luong embarked on his final journey to Britain. Late on Thursday night, Gia received a call from a contact overseas with direct knowledge of the fatal container accident. “I hope you understand. The vehicle was in an accident,” Luong’s father recalled the contact saying. “Everyone died.” (Kham / REUTERS)

Updated on Oct 29, 2019 03:29 PM IST
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