For the fishermen on Vietnam’s coastline, the sea is perilous and alluring in equal measure. It’s a dangerous living, earning just a few dollars a day in the few months the fishing season lasts. The alternative lies beyond the horizon of this one-party Communist state. Smuggle yourself into Europe 6,000 miles away.
And Cao Hung is dreaming of just that. He has a nephew in France and a cousin in England. And the deaths of 39 people in the back of a refrigerated lorry last week don’t seem to have deterred him.
“My cousin has been in England for 3 months”, he tells me. “He grows cannabis there. I know it’s risky if you go in a container. It is a long way and it is cold and of course there can be consequences. If I had the chance I would still go. I can earn a lot of money there.”
Several of the dead in Essex are thought to be Christians and, back home in Vietnam, Father Anthony Dang Huu Nam has led prayers for them. “I know almost every family of the 39 victims,” he says.
People in this small fishing community say at least twenty of their relatives have travelled to the UK in search of work. In fact, it’s official Communist Party policy in this region to encourage the export of human labour to reduce poverty and increase employment.
But nobody seems to have any idea what life in the UK would be like if and when they got there.
Nguyen The, a local fisherman, tells me “the only thing I think about England is that it’s a chance to make money. Maybe there are many more opportunities and life is easier. If I stay here, I can’t make anything.”
Even Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary founder of the socialist republic, once emigrated from this his home province to work in the kitchens of a west London hotel.
The dream of a better life abroad has not died with him. Instead it has claimed 39 lives in the back of a lorry on a British industrial estate a world away from here.