Illegal immigrant endured hell riding among veggies

Illegal immigrant endured hell riding among veggies
Nguyen Thi Mai (above) Phuc entered Singapore illegally to look for her missing husband. The couple have a five-year-old daughter.

SINGAPORE - Her husband had entered Singapore for illegal employment but she had not heard from him.

While Nguyen Thi Mai Phuc, 27, had been previously arrested by the police for overstaying and was repatriated, she decided to take the chance.

In late December last year, she hid in a lorry and entered Singapore.

On Sunday, she was sentenced to one year's jail for entering Singapore without the permission of the Controller of Immigration. In an interview at her lawyer's office on Tuesday, Nguyen told The New Paper that it had been several days from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia and Thailand, and then to Malaysia and Singapore. During the Malaysia-Singapore leg, she and the fellow passenger, a Vietnamese man in his 20s, hid amidst many vegetables, she said.

The journey an illegal immigrant takes to get into Singapore is often a dark one. And the only light at the end of the tunnel may well turn out to be a policeman's torch.

But they still come.

To find menial jobs no one here wants, to work in the flesh trade or, in Nguyen Thi Mai Phuc's case, to find her husband.

She said she endured several days of hell hiding among vegetables, in a small cramped space, all the way from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, to Cambodia, then Thailand, before entering Malaysia.

From somewhere in Malaysia, she was transferred into a cargo container for the journey to her final destination - Singapore.

Not only did she risk dehydration and other heat injuries while hiding from immigration officers in enclosed spaces, there was also the danger of being left in the middle of nowhere, alone with no way to contact friends or loved ones, should her smugglers get cold feet.

Her incredibly dangerous and expensive journey did result in finding her husband, but it also got her a jail sentence.

Phuc, 27, was sentenced last Friday to a year in jail for entering Singapore illegally.

Despite the fact that she will be spending the next year in jail, Phuc emerged from court with a smile on her face.

The reason: The court allowed her to visit her husband, who is now serving time after being convicted of immigration and customs offences, for one last time in early September, before she starts serving her sentence.

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