On Nov. 24, Le Van Hau from Nghe An Province greeted his wife via social media, saying “I’m going now”, his final message before a fateful crossing.
Le Van Hau was among 27 migrants who drowned when their boat sank in the Channel last month while trying to reach Britain.
At noon Saturday, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, Hau’s wife, held their four-year-old daughter tightly in their small home in Van Thanh Commune, Yen Thanh District of Nghe An Province in north central Vietnam, her eyes red, repeatedly calling her husband’s name.
The little girl was bewildered and did not understand why her mother and grandparents were crying.
Hau is the youngest son in a farming family with two brothers. After finishing high school, Hau found work and married Thao five years ago, living in a flat-roof house with her parents and elder brother. Due to their hard life and financial burdens, Hau borrowed more than VND300 million ($13,056) to find legal work in Poland.
On Nov. 18, Hau took a flight to Poland. On the same day, he continued on to France, without explanation. During his days living in a tent in France, he sometimes called his relatives, telling them he was waiting for an opportunity to cross to the U.K. He also shared pictures of meals with foreign migrants.
He messaged his wife again on Nov. 24 via social media, saying “I’m going to the U.K. now.” Thao did not have enough time to say anything before the connection was lost. A day later, international newspapers reported a boat had sunk in the English Channel, killing 27 people.
Over the following days, the family anxiously waited for a call from Hau, but to no avail. More than 20 days later, they contacted the Vietnamese Embassy in France, learning Hau had been among the drowning victims.
“My husband said he would work abroad for a few years to earn money and then return home to improve my family’s living conditions but now I can’t contact him anymore,” said Thao while crying.
Standing at a newly built altar for his son, Le Van Chau, 57, said the family’s biggest wish for now is to receive support from Vietnamese authorities to bring Hau’s ashes home.
“If it takes hundreds of millions of dong to bring my son’s ashes home, our family could not afford it. If we borrow money from the bank, we will not be able to pay the debt later,” said Chau, adding his wife is suffering from cancer.
Local authorities in Yen Thanh District said they had not yet received any information from competent authorities related to a local resident being killed in the English Channel boat sinking.
The accident was the most deadly involving a migrant boat in the Channel and cast a spotlight on the increasing number of desperate people seeking to cross the narrow waterway between France and Britain.
Authorities often have difficulties identifying dead migrants because they do not carry official documents and their family members frequently have to travel from remote areas overseas to identify their remains.
For years, many poverty-hit Vietnamese have traveled to Europe to find better jobs with higher salaries, some losing their lives in the process.
In 2019, U.K. emergency services discovered the bodies of 39 Vietnamese people in a refrigerated container truck at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex County, east of London.
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