Thieu Gia, Thanh Nien News (Ho Chi Minh City), Feb. 26, 2007
Many foreigners of afro-decent arrive come to Vietnam hoping for a better life only to find themselves jobless and resorting to a life of crime.
Thanh Nien recorded a moving scene several years ago, a scene indicative of the black experience in Vietnam. A black man was about to take a seat on a stool at a roadside cafe in Ho Chi Minh City when its owner maliciously swept the chair aside, sending the man tumbling. Crawling up and mumbling inaudibly, he left amid the jeers of passers-by.
The Pham Ngu Lao area in District 1, famous as the foreign backpacker quarter where foreign concessions can be found at cheap prices, is home to many similar sad stories.
N. Hajain, a 22-year-old Angolan-French, came to the city hoping to play professional football. After two years here, he has no job.
“At home, we would be jobless and live off unemployment benefits,” he said. Many unemployed athletes have come to Vietnam, but Hajain says “they cannot make a living playing football because they’re not good enough.”
Nuremi Deji, a 25-year-old Nigerian, arrived in Vietnam over 6 months ago. also hoping to play for a small Vietnamese football club. Still unemployed, he knows he would be just as jobless in his home country.
With all his money gone, no work and an over-expired visa, Nuremi planned to return home when he found himself unable to pay a fine for his overstay.
Eventually, officials from the city’s immigration department dodged the rule out of pity and spared the fine.
“Your country is very beautiful,” Nuremi said. “The Vietnamese are very polite. But life is as harsh here as anywhere else. I am very disillusioned.”
J. Raymon, 32, has been in Vietnam for more than 3 years but has not found a stable job. To live, he hunts customers for hotels in the backpacker quarter for small commissions.
“Not many work like me,” he said. “It’s not much money, but it’s OK as long as my stomach is full.”
Raymon told Thanh Nien that almost everyone in the city’s black community knows about a pretty girl of African origin named M.A. who works as a prostitute.
She set foot in the city faithfully 2 years ago when a compatriot claimed he would hire her for US$2,000 a month as a secretary at his company.
It turned out that she was deceived, and the man who claimed to be a rich businessman eventually stole all her money.
Penniless, jobless and unable to afford a ticket home, she resorted to prostitution.
Raymon also said that many of his friends have become thieves.
Some extort money from black newcomers. Being inexperienced in an alien country, the victims are ready to surrender money to their seasoned compatriots.
He said that some blacks have become extortionists or parasites, living off of generous foreigners or Vietnamese. When their ‘hosts” exhaust themselves, most of the parasites resort to robbery and burglary.
A roadside beverage seller opposite a police station on Pham Ngu Lao Street said a black person is escorted to the station every few days.
D., a taxi motorbike [xe om] driver recalled that he once took a black man through back alleys in district 7 only to find out that he came there looking to sell a necklace that he had just stolen.
The driver also recalled another time when he was cheated out of travel fares by two blacks.
Two black men asked him to take them to District 8 and settled on a fee of VND100,000 (US$6.25). Arriving at the destination, each fled as quickly as he could in opposite directions before paying a single cent.
In 2004, Tuoi Tre newspaper carried an article about the precarious life led by black youths in the backpacker quarter.
Around 30 amateur footballers from Cameroon in central Africa, had been lured to Vietnam to play for $2,000 a month. All turned out to be empty promises.
Just last year, several blacks were involved in cheating gullible Vietnamese out of tens of thousands of dollars when they posed as rich businessmen who had imported billions of US dollars in cash that appeared as black paper notes. They said they had the bills intentionally blackened to shortcut customs and bypass taxes.
They would then ask to borrow money to buy special chemicals to restore the blackened cash, promising to pay a handsome sum when the “billions of dollars” were returned to normal.