Ho Chi Minh City has become a haven for immigrants, some of whom are willing to work for a daily meal.
Zimbabwean Lawrence came to Vietnam two years ago with a tourist visa and worked as an English teacher at a few foreign language centers in Ho Chi Minh City.
He found it was easy to make a living here, and decided to stay for an ââ‚¬Å“unlimitedââ‚¬ time.
But many of his friends have not been so lucky, and there are many foreigners from developing countries who have migrated to Vietnam illegally or under tourist visas and overstayed despite dim prospects of jobs, because their options are very limited.
Lawrence said many of these foreigners work only enough to ââ‚¬Å“make a rice day.ââ‚¬
ââ‚¬Å“Ben is willing to do any work you want as long as you pay him with a meal,ââ‚¬ he told Thanh Nien, describing a friendââ‚¬â„¢s plight.
Despite the hardship and lack of work, most of the foreigners do not harbor thoughts of leaving Vietnam and returning to their own countries, because things are more difficult over there.
They say it is still possible here to get some kind of work without a labor visa or professional qualifications, because local authorities are tolerant and not too strict.
However, the lax surveillance has also led to several incidents of public nuisance and even crimes committed by foreigners.
A group of foreigners often gathers at a cafÃƒ© on Dan Toc Street in Tan Phu District almost everyday, and sit there chatting for hours.
ââ‚¬Å“Thereââ‚¬â„¢s nothing to do. We will work anytime we are hired,ââ‚¬ a man in the group said.
Some in the group ordered coffee while the others had just tra da (ice tea), a beverage that is often served free in cafÃƒ©s and eateries in Vietnam.
In a com binh dan eatery (cheap restaurants that serve rice with a selection of cooked meat and vegetables) on Tan Phuââ‚¬â„¢s Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, a Nigerian known only as K. said he was lucky to get married to a Vietnamese girl in a family that owns such an establishment.
K. said many of his friends used to buy inexpensive clothes here to sell back home in their countries, but had to shut down their business after suffering losses.
The owner of a sidewalk stall selling used clothing on Au Co Street said she often hired two foreigners to carry clothes from her house to the site and later back home for VND15,000 (US$0.82) per person per turn.
ââ‚¬Å“They often go hungry on rainy days when I canââ‚¬â„¢t sell clothes,ââ‚¬ she said. ââ‚¬Å“They have to ask for rice from their friends or buy rice on credit from familiar eateries.ââ‚¬
Several foreigners also earn money as hired football players for amateur clubs who often play on small fields around the city on weekends. They are paid between VND50,000 ($2.7) and VND200,000 ($11) per match.
ââ‚¬Å“The neighborhood used to be a peaceful place before many foreigners hired houses to stay here,ââ‚¬ said Tran Dinh Thuoc, secretary of the Party Unit of Neighborhood No. 8 in Tan Phu Districtââ‚¬â„¢s Tan Quy Ward.
Nguyen Van Tan, a neighborhood resident, said he once found a foreigner had sneaked into his house through the terrace in May. However, he opened the door and let the man leave after the latter threatened him with a stone.
In another case, a passer-by on Dan Toc Street was robbed off her necklace by a foreigner who fled to an alley where many foreigners stay. Police failed to investigate the case further because the victim couldnââ‚¬â„¢t recognize the culprit.
City police have also reported several crimes committed by foreigners who used to have stable jobs in Vietnam.
The Ho Chi Minh City Peopleââ‚¬â„¢s Court recently sentenced Hussain Ajmal to one year in prison on charges of appropriating property. The Pakistani, who had entered Vietnam under a business visa to find a job, was found blackmailing a local girl for $500 by threatening to disseminate nude images that he had recorded with his webcam during an online chat.
In another case, 51-year-old Kim Chang Hak of South Korea was recently expelled from Vietnam and banned from entering the country after he was found illegally brokering marriages between local girls and South Korean men.
Reported by Thanh Nien staff