Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

A Long Trip to Paradise: A Darker Side of the Vietnamese Migration to the Czech Republic *

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

A Long Trip to Paradise: A Darker Side of the Vietnamese Migration to the Czech Republic *

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Vietnamese migration abroad became a global phenomenon in the last sixty years. Currently, there are about 4 million people of Vietnamese descent living, working and/or studying in nearly 103 countries and territories around the world. They are concentrated mainly in 21 countries in North America, North-West Europe, Eastern Europe (including Russia), South-East Asia, North-East Asia and Australia (Review of Vietnamese Migration Abroad, 2012: 29). The creation of the Vietnamese diasporas in these regions is connected to various factors supporting Vietnamese migration abroad in different historical periods and to the different modi operandi of the migrants' transfers that also changed over time.

As a result of these processes, overseas Vietnamese can be generally divided into four distinct categories. The first category consists of people who have been living outside of Vietnam prior to 1975 (mainly in Cambodia, China, Laos, France, and Canada - especially Québec). They are one of the best-integrated non-western immigrant groups in Western countries. To the second category belong the Viet Kieu, who escaped Vietnam after 1975 as refugees, and their descendants. They usually reside in industrialized countries in North America, Western Europe and Australia. The third category consists of Vietnamese who worked and/or studied in the former Communist countries and who opted to stay in their host countries and established a base for new Vietnamese immigrants arriving in them after the democratic changes at the end of the 80s (Nozina, 2010: 229-230). This category is found mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, and will be discussed especially in connection with the Czech Republic's experience with them in the following text. Finally, a fourth category of Vietnamese migrants appeared after 1990 with introduction of Vietnamese labor force to the job markets in East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

In the Czech Republic, a diaspora of 70 - 80 000 legal and illegal Vietnamese residents exists (CSO, 2014; OGCR, 2013; PCR-OCDU, 2013). It is the third biggest Vietnamese diaspora in the European Union after those in France (300 000) and Germany (137 000) (Martínková & Pechová, 2010: 15; Nozina & Kraus, 2012: 132). These numbers are the results of the Vietnamese migration to Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic, which began in the Communist times, when study programs for foreigners and massive exports of the Vietnamese labor force to the then Czechoslovak Socialist Republic were organized. These exports were strongly supervised and regulated by the governments of both Vietnam and Czechoslovakia (Kocourek, 2001; Broucek, 2002: 12-13; Nozina, 2003: 190-191, Nozina & Kraus, 2012: 78-79; Vasiljev, 1989).

After the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989, a lot of the Vietnamese students and workers living in the country opted not to return home. They established a base for new waves of Vietnamese economic migrants, and the number of the members of the Vietnamese diaspora in the Czech Republic then gradually grew to its current size. The diaspora dramatically increased especially after 2006, when the Czech labor market was opened to the massive and weakly controlled imports of Vietnamese workers organized by labor agencies.

The organization of the migration process includes recruiting of migrants, making use of advertisements that would attract potential migrants, and organizing their transfers on legal, illegal and semi-legal bases. The modi operandi of the transfers were modified several times since the end of the 1980s because of modifications of migration politics on both sides: there were changes of the economic, legal and administrative environment in Vietnam, and new restrictive and control regimes (immigration laws, changes in asylum politics, police investigations, etc.) were introduced in the Czech Republic as well. Many of these modifications were connected to the Czech Republic's joining of the Schengen Area in January 2008 (Nozina, 2010: 238). …

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