Jobless migrants given lift home after trekking on foot

By Dac Thanh, Hoang Tao   October 6, 2021 | 03:00 pm GMT+7
Provincial authorities have offered around 386 northern migrant workers returning from the south on foot a ride home.

On the morning of Oct. 2, Giang Minh Xa and his wife Song Thi Say, residing in Binh Duong Province, a major industrial hub that neighbors Ho Chi Minh City, started walking back to their hometown, which lies almost 2,000 kilometers (more than 1,200 miles) away in Yen Minh District of Ha Giang, the northernmost province of Vietnam bordering China.

A year ago, the couple migrated to Binh Duong’s Tan Uyen District to work at a wood processing facility.

In June this year, the factory had to stop operations as the pandemic caused the company to lose orders.

Under strict social distancing rules applied across the province, the second hardest-hit locality in the latest Covid-19 outbreak after HCMC, they could not return home.

Spending over three months jobless in Binh Duong, Xa said he and his wife could not continue to feed themselves and their newborn baby.

Last week, as social distancing rules started to ease in Binh Duong, they decided to go home.

But as passenger bus services have yet to be resumed and while they have no motorbikes, the only option left was walking, and they did not hesitate.

Giang Minh Xa and his wife Song Thi Say, who is holding their baby, are on their trip to return home, October 4, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

Giang Minh Xa and his wife Song Thi Say, who is holding their baby, are on their trip to return home, October 4, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

The couple was joined by others, making a group of 11. Together, they left Binh Duong on foot last Saturday morning.

The next morning, they arrived in Binh Phuoc Province that borders Binh Duong where they joined another group of migrants who were also walking back home to the north. In all, there are 386 migrants in the party.

At that point, authorities in Binh Phuoc decided to lend them a helping hand, sending pickup trucks and passenger buses to drive them to the neighboring province of Dak Nong in the Central Highlands.

From Dak Nong, the group continued to receive help from local authorities, transferring them from province to province.

By Monday morning, Xa and Say had made it to Phuoc Son District in central Quang Nam Province.

Another migrant in the group, Giang A Hoa, said he left home in northern Dien Bien Province to work in Binh Duong four months ago.

"I only had VND1 million ($44) left to pay rent."

Without a motorbike, his only option was to walk home, even though he could not tell how many days the trip would take.

Major Tran Xuan Thai, deputy head of the Traffic Police Department in Phuoc Son District of Quang Nam Province, said between Oct. 1 and 5, the checkpoint where he is on duty had received around 5,000 people returning home to the north.

"If they traveled by motorbike, traffic police would pave the way for them to cross the province and in case they walked, authorities would send vehicles over to give them a ride."

Migrants returning home are offered food as they arrive in central Quang Tri Province, October 5, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Tao

Migrants returning home are offered food as they arrive in central Quang Tri Province, October 5, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Tao

By Tuesday afternoon, the migrant caravan had been taken to central Quang Tri Province before Quang Binh authorities sent buses to carry them to Ha Tinh.

Along the way, they have been offered food from different sources.

"My journey back home is still a long way ahead and I hope to continue receiving support. In case there is none, I will keep walking home," said Hoa.

Over the past few days, tens of thousands of workers in HCMC and its neighboring provinces of Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An have been pouring back to their hometowns as localities began to relax coronavirus restrictions starting October.

All four localities are major industrial hubs that employ a large number of workers from across the country. All have been hit hardest in the latest Covid-19 wave that emerged in Vietnam in late April.

Migrant workers are taken to passenger buses in Sen Thuy Commune, Le Thuy District in central Quang BInh Province, October 5, 2021. Video by VnExpress/Hoang Tao

 
 
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