The letter Phong has written to the authorities in the UK thanking him for saving his life. — Photo courtesy of the Kent County Council
Paul Kennedy & Amir Razavi
HÀ NỘI — A teenage human trafficking victim who was stuffed into a tiny suitcase and smuggled into the UK has thanked the authorities who saved his life.
Phong, 16, was found stowed in the back of a car travelling into the port of Dover in the south of England.
When he was discovered last year by border forces, who spotted his arm sticking out of the suitcase, he was fighting for his life and in need of urgent hospital care.
Now the young boy has managed to turn his life around and has penned a letter to England to thank the country’s authorities for rescuing him.
“Thank you social services and government for your help and care,” Phong wrote. “I never believed I would be loved. There is now a big rainbow in my life instead of darkness.”
|The port in Dover, UK, where Phong was found stuffed inside a suitcase. — Photo Google Maps
Since he was treated in hospital, the youngster has been put into foster care with a local family and enrolled in college to learn English.
He wrote: “When I came to the UK, when I woke up in the hospital I was very scared and panic. I don’t know where I am, what happened to me, I hurt all over my body and couldn’t eat. I could only use my neck and fingers just a little bit.
“First thing I liked is the kind people in hospital. The nurses and doctors smiled at me and gave me biscuits, orange and water.
“They looked after me very well. After six days stayed in the hospital Melissa the social worker came to see me and took me to a new home. I didn’t understand her until she showed me.”
Now the boy is in the care of a family in Kent.
His carer Christine Burge said: “Phong is an incredible young man who has grown so much since he arrived. He passed all of his exams, his confidence has grown and he has friends. He makes me very proud every day.
“He really is the most caring and determined boy I have ever met.”
At Canterbury Crown Court in May, a Romanian man was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to attempting to smuggle a person into the UK.
Phong was found when Andrei Iancu's Skoda Octavia was stopped at the inbound search area for vehicles arriving from France.
Detective Inspector Bill Thornton of Kent Police said the man was very lucky that Phong did not die during the journey, otherwise he would have been facing more serious charges.
“People smuggling is a serious offence and those responsible will often go to great lengths to ensure they are not caught and sent to prison,” said DI Thornton.
"It should go without saying that hiding someone in a suitcase for even a short amount of time is incredibly dangerous.
"On this occasion the boy was also in the boot of a car during a cross-Channel journey, and is extremely fortunate to have survived his ordeal.
"Iancu pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and the length of his prison sentence reflects that.
"He can count himself lucky he does not have the boy's death on his hands because then he would be spending a much longer period behind bars." — VNS
|Andrei Iancu from Romania who was jailed for 18 months after he was caught smuggling Phong into the UK. — Photo courtesy of Kent Police
Phong's letter in full
I’m writing a letter to tell you what a difference you have made to my life. You have saved my life. You have given me a family and a home.
When I came to the UK, when I woke up in the hospital I was very scared and panic. I don’t know where I am, what happen[ed] to me, I hurt all over my body and couldn’t eat. I could only use my neck and fingers just a little bit.
First thing I liked is the kind people in hospital. The nurses and doctors smiled at me and gave me biscuits, orange and water.
They looked after me very well. After 6 days [I] stayed in the hospital Melissa the social worker came to see me and took me to a new home. I didn’t understand her until she showed me.
I had my own bedroom. It’s the first time I’ve had a bedroom. Now I have a mum, brother, sister, grandad, etc. At first I couldn’t speak English very well. We practised every day. Then I was allowed to go to KRAN* to learn more English, that place I met Jo my new social worker.
After three months I stayed in the UK I go to college to learn English and Maths.
I never think I can pass exams but I have passed Entry 2 English and after 11 months [I] stayed in the UK. Thank you to everyone for helping me with English and myself. Now I believe in myself and I am positive instead of negative.
Thank you for finding me, making me better in hospital. Thank you for giving me a family, they love me and me too. Thank you for giving me an education. Thank you social services and government for your help and care. I never believed I would be loved. There is now a big rainbow in my life instead of darkness.
I am looking forward to doing entry 3 in college in September. I’m not sure I can pass but I will do my best. I hope I can make you proud.
My mum helped me with this letter. One more time thank you for changing my life.
* Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN)