Friday, June 01, 2012


Last Friday morning started with an unexpected phone call: a Chinese policeman rang Van, the Blue Dragon Lawyer, asking for assistance.

The policeman had 2 Vietnamese girls with him, both of whom he had rescued from a brothel. They were just 15 years old. The girls were terrified, and he asked Van to comfort them over the phone and assure them that they were in safe hands now.

That was at 3.30am. By the end of the day, Van had traveled out into the Vietnamese countryside to meet the families of the girls, and brought them in to Hanoi. Both families were from rural villages, and traveling to Hanoi was a big affair for them; they didn't even have the money for a bus ticket.

On Saturday, Van accompanied the families to the Chinese border to meet with the Vietnamese police; and on Sunday the girls were able to re-enter Vietnam, reunite with their distraught families, and head back to Hanoi to meet with the main anti-trafficking police agency.

By the time I met the girls on Tuesday, they were calm and smiling; to look at them, you'd never guess what they had been through in the past 8 months. Both girls were trafficked deep into China by people posing as friends: one as a boyfriend, and another as a job intermediary. Neither girl could have guessed that the people befriending them had the most horrible of intentions. The man who posed as a boyfriend groomed his victim over almost a year.

The Chinese police had been hoping to rescue 7 girls; our early information was that at least 7 had already been located. But sadly, the traffickers had moved too fast. The Chinese are still looking for the other 5 girls who had been taken to the same brothel.

Trafficking is a huge international problem. It's a blight on our humanity. But it's also a very individual, personal issue. Many governments and NGOs are running massive programs to try to counter the growth in human trafficking. This is great, but the individual tragedy - the life sullied forever, the family forever grieving, the shattered dreams of a young woman - must not be forgotten in the construction of these major anti-trafficking projects.

Over lunch with the 2 girls and their families, Van and I got to talking about their hopes and fears. They definitely had more fears than hopes: How would their friends and extended family treat them? Would the traffickers ever come back and find them? Could they ever get a proper job after this? Or go back to study?

So we told them about some of the other young women we've worked with recently who have been through similar experiences of being trafficked into Chinese brothels. One is about to get married. Another is soon to sit her university entrance exam, while yet another is finishing her degree this summer.

The girls were clearly surprised to hear these stories; perhaps they had forgotten that there is hope.

They're back in their villages now; Van traveled with them as a show of support. It's much too early to know how the girls will cope, and what they will do to overcome the awful circumstances that have gripped them; but we'll be staying in touch every day for at least the coming months, and we will see them again very soon.

Of all the things that have been taken from them, the girls still have hope. 

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