Small boat crossing the English Channel

Vietnamese irregular migration to the UK is driven by global economic inequalities. Vietnam’s economy has developed unevenly, and most recent Vietnamese migrants hail from just a few backwater provinces which have been left behind, with high youth unemployment levels.

Meanwhile, the UK faces serious labour shortages since Brexit and subsequent government immigration policies have been inadequate and failed to replace previous EU labour in several sectors. A cash-in-hand job in the UK, even one below minimum wage, can earn more than 10 times what jobs are available to them in Vietnam. The law of supply and demand dictates that people facing poverty and unemployment will inevitably seek opportunities to work abroad in places where there are labour shortages.

Government attempts to restrict or prevent economic migration will only make journeys more dangerous and increase the amount migrants must pay to smugglers to facilitate these journeys. Vietnamese migrants borrow large sums of money from loan sharks back home to finance migration journeys, making them even more desperate to find work. If the UK Government wants to reduce boat crossings, it should focus on providing more accessible and appropriate work visa schemes so that migrants from places like Vietnam can travel safely and contribute to the economy, instead of being forced under the radar.