Illegal foreign workers being kicked out of Vietnam

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Government gets serious about inspecting companies suspected of employing foreigners illegally

A view of the Maria Clinic in Hanoi, which employed unregistered Chinese medical practitioners who have been blamed by the media for the death of a 35-year-old woman last month. The Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs has ordered provinces and cities nationwide to report on foreign workers.

The Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs has ordered city and province authorities to check whether or not any local companies are employing foreign workers illegally, and punish them if they are.

Since the decision last week, local authorities are now obliged to report the exact number of foreign workers employed in each locality.

The cities and provinces will also have to report on their localities' demands for foreign workers and draft new foreign worker management regulations to be submitted to the ministry by the end of September.

The ministry also ordered that undocumented workers, their employees, and the authorities that let them get away with it, all be punished.

Hundreds of Chinese working in Vietnam without the proper paperwork have already been deported as ministries try to quell furor over reports of malpractice by Chinese doctors and claims that Chinese fishermen are working too close to a strategic military base.

Recent headlines have the Vietnamese public worked up that too many jobs that should be given to unemployed locals are going to foreign Chinese.

Since July 17, Vietnamese police have deported 204 Chinese workers from a wood processing company in Binh Phuoc Province and seven fish traders and farmers in Khanh Hoa Province have also been expelled. Local police are also investigating several Chinese nationals accused of working illegally as doctors and nurses at three medical clinics in Ho Chi Minh City.

Whose jobs?

Trinh Hoa Binh, deputy chairman of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, told his colleagues at a meeting on July 11 that foreign workers were illegally occupying thousands of jobs that should be available to locals.

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He said that statistics from the labor ministry's employment department showed that more than 31,000 foreign workers were working in Vietnam without a work permit, while nearly 147,000 Vietnamese workers had lost their jobs in the first quarter of this year.

Since 2009, the number of foreign workers in HCMC has been rising steadily, according to recent reports from the municipal labor department.

Since 2011, the agency has issued fines against 35 companies for illegally employing foreign workers.

Foreign manual laborers can only work in Vietnam for three months maximum, but they are not required to obtain a work permit. For all other jobs, foreigners employed in Vietnam must obtain work permits from the Vietnamese government, unless they work here for less than 3 months. No work permit is required for members or owners of limited companies or joint stock company board members.

So far this year, the HCMC labor department has issued work permits for nearly 2,500 foreigners and has rejected some 380 applications.

Alleged Chinese malpractice death

After 35-year-old Nguyen Thu Phong died mysteriously at the Chinese-owned Maria Clinic on July 14, Hanoi police issued a decision prohibiting four Chinese medical practitioners allegedly involved in the death from leaving Vietnam.

Zhou Ji Anjao, Deng Qin Zhi and Zhang Ling Gong three Chinese who treated Phong and Dong Chang Rui, chief of the clinic's gynecology-family planning ward, are currently on the lam.

Investigators have yet to release the cause of death of the female bank employee, who came to the clinic for a general health checkup after she felt tired on her way home from work. She was pronounced dead at the clinic several hours later.

The Hanoi Health Department told a press conference on July 24 that the four Chinese nationals had in fact successfully fled Vietnam on July 15, the morning following the woman's death, despite the order prohibiting them from doing so.

The agency's director Nguyen Khac Hien confirmed that his agency had never granted licenses to the four Chinese medical practitioners who were allegedly involved in Phong's death.

In June, several clinics employing Chinese doctors in HCMC were fined for various violations, including the employment of unlicensed doctors, the issuance of expired medicines, and waste management violations.

"˜Sensitive' area

Over the past two months, local media reports have claimed that Chinese fish farmers and traders were operating illegally in Khanh Hoa Province's Cam Ranh Bay, not far from the Cam Ranh Military Port.

A subsequent inspection led to administrative fines and the deportation of seven Chinese people working as fish farmers and traders.

Earlier, local media reported that hundreds of Chinese farmers were working illegally and owned hundreds of floating fish farms only a couple of hundred meters from the military base.

Tran Dinh Nha, deputy chairman of the National Assembly's National Defense and Security Committee, said it was difficult to understand why many Chinese people were working near such a "sensitive" area.

He said there should be an investigation to see if the Chinese farmers and traders were operating in Vietnam purely for economic purposes.

"We should also investigate foreigners working as fishery farmers in all Vietnamese waters and on Vietnamese islands," he said.

Management problem

An influx of Chinese working illegally in Vietnam has been reported since last year and a recent Sai Gon Tiep Thi (Saigon Marketing) editorial strictly criticized relevant authorities for failing to control and manage immigration into Vietnam.

In August 2011, Ca Mau authorities found more than 1,000 undocumented Chinese workers employed by Ngu Hoan Company to build a local factory in the southernmost province.

"The situation has gotten no better despite wide coverage in the media," said the editorial.

"On April 20, Ba Ria-Vung Tau authorities found 15 unregistered Chinese workers at a local textile company. And the most recently on July 1, Thanh Hoa's Nghi Son Economic Zone found 229 illegal Chinese workers at the Cong Thanh Cement Factory project"¦ the Labor Code stipulates strict regulations against local workers and not foreign workers. In reality, many Chinese people have immigrated into Vietnam to work under tourism visas."

The editorial said fines against companies employing unlicensed foreign workers, between VND20 million VND30 million (US$960-1440) per case, were not high enough to deter violations.

An official in charge of issuing work permits for foreign workers at industrial parks in HCMC said many Chinese laborers apply with fake documents.

"Some applicants are just 20 years old but produce documents saying that they have five-years working experience in China. We have to issue a work permits for them because it's the law," he said.

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