HCMC sees fresh exodus of migrant workers

By Ha An, Dinh Van, Le Tuyet   August 15, 2021 | 03:31 am PT
Thousands setting out for their hometowns on motorbikes with suitcases and other belongings have created gridlocks at the eastern gateway of HCMC and Thu Duc City.

On August 15, a sea of motorbikes stopped at a checkpoint located about 500 meters from the gate of Suoi Tien Park on Hanoi Highway, HCMC.

Dozens of police officers, soldiers and medical staff tried to block the flow of people at the checkpoint. Many people honked their horns and shouted, asking the authorities to let them pass.

Stopping near the barrier, Hoang Van Trung, a native of the central province of Nghe An Province who works in Binh Duong Province, carried with him five bottles of water in plastic bags, a large suitcase, some packages of instant noodles, and a 5-liter petrol bottle.

The 40-year-old man said he has been jobless for nearly three months, and has been in difficulty since his landlord did not reduce the rent.

Hoang Van Trung leaves HCMC on his motorbike.

Hoang Van Trung leaves HCMC for his hometown in central Nghe An Province on his motorbike. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.

"The area near my house has discovered a few Covid-19 cases, and more people have died from the pandemic, so I am very frightened and do not dare to stay," Trung said, adding he has received no support from the local government.

"I have no choice. I know that many parts of the country are in social distancing, but if I stay I have no money to spend, and I'm afraid of getting infected."

Standing not too far from Trung, the family of Hoang Van Hoa from central province of Quang Tri was in the same situation.

Workers at the Linh Trung 2 Processing Zone in Thu Duc city, Hoa and his wife have been jobless for months and decided to leave the city with their three-year-old daughter on their motorbike.

"Back home, I still have family and relatives, but in HCMC, I have lost my job and really didn't know how to live," he said.

To reduce the congregation, traffic police in Thu Duc City coordinated with military forces to guide people to gather in an area of about 500 square meters in front of the new Mien Dong (Eastern Region) Bus Station gate.

With a loudspeaker, they asked people to maintain distances from others and return to their places, saying local authorities will take measures to support them.

At 12:30 p.m, thousands of people still gathered in the area, and the forces were trying hard to maintain security and order. Leaders of the Thu Duc Fatherland Front arrived to discuss solutions.

Nearly 30 kilometers from the new Eastern Bus Station, more than 500 people, having set an appointment on Facebook, gathered on the National Highway 1 in Binh Tan district to travel to central provinces.

Many people carried loads of belongings, planning to go back to their hometown in groups when they heard that HCMC will have another month of social distancing. Hundreds of motorbikes were parked across street, causing traffic jams.

Worker Nguyen Van Sen said that he had been unemployed for many months and his family could no longer stay in the city, so he planned to drive a motorbike to take his wife and children to the central province of Binh Dinh.

"Staying in Ho Chi Minh City with the social distancing campaign, I have lost my job, run out of money, and I couldn't bear it anymore. So I want to go back to my hometown to make my life easier," he said.

Sea of people at a checkpoint near Suoi Tien Park on Hanoi Highway.

A large crowd of people at a checkpoint near Suoi Tien Park on the Hanoi Highway. Photo by VnExpress/Ha An.

Police and Binh Tan District People's Committee then told the group to go to Nam Viet High School, 2 km away, where they could eat, drink and rest. After that, local wards told them to go back to their places, avoiding gatherings.

Le Van Thinh, Secretary of Binh Tan District Party Committee, said that after asking people not to return to their hometowns, the local government will encourage landlords to reduce rents.

In case the landlord does not agree, the local authorities will support the people.

"The locality will ensure enough food and groceries for people to live in the upcoming month of social distancing," Thinh said.

Senior Colonel Nguyen Van Binh, deputy head of the HCM City Traffic Police Department, said that this morning, many traffic police teams coordinated with the police of Thu Duc City and Binh Duong’s Di An Town to tell people to gather on National Highway 1 for returning to their homes.

When several people did not agree, the authorities checked their papers and punished them for going out without a valid reason.

According to Binh, in addition to checkpoints at the HCMC gateways, the unit is also patrolling the roads for detecting people gathering to return to their hometowns.

A similar situation had arisen about three weeks ago, with people living in HCMC and neighboring provinces driving motorbikes to their hometown causing health and safety concerns amid the raging pandemic.

On July 31, the Prime Minister asked localities that are implementing social distancing campaigns under Directive 16 to strictly follow the rules, not letting people move out of their places until the semi lockdown is over, except for those authorized by the local government.

Provinces must stop welcoming people returning to their hometowns on motorbikes, he said. They should also pick up people returning by planes, trains, or cars, he added.

During the ongoing fourth Covid-19 wave, HCMC has announced two financial relief packages to support people in difficulties.

The first, worth VND886 billion ($36.5 million), was disbursed at the end of June, with 311,000 informal workers getting VND1.5 million each.

The second one, worth VND905 billion ($39.4 million), will provide 344,000 informal workers with VND1.5 million, and will be done by August 15.

But the HCMC Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs had only received disbursement reports from districts as of August 14 afternoon.

Accordingly, only 100,000 of 367,000 informal workers have received support. Several districts like Go Vap as well as Thu Duc City have only distributed the money to a small number of workers in need.

Districts 4, 12 and Binh Tan have almost finished the distribution for poor households, while other districts have not reported their status or distributed the money to a few households.

Ho Chi Minh City has become the epicenter of the fourth coronavirus wave which struck the nation in late April. It has recorded 144,770 local cases so far, the highest in the country.

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