(CNN) – The CNN Freedom Project is shining a light on human trafficking, and hoping to end modern-day slavery.
We’re learning of girls in Vietnam, who are tricked into crossing the border with China – and then forced into marriage.
Crossing the border separating China and Vietnam can be as easy. As soon as we reach the river, we see people paddling between the two countries.
A survivor of human trafficking tells us how quickly it happened.
(Victim) “It was just me with six chinese men. They called a lady to come and buy me.”
(Alex Field, CNN) “You were tricked into crossing the border into China?”
(Victim) “They not only tricked me but so many others. I don’t know how many people.”
In the mountains of northern Vietnam, a group of women tells us first they were sold simple lies, then brought to China to be sold as brides.
(Victim) “She said that her friend asked us to come visit his house.”
(Victim) “They locked me up for the first few days.”
(Victim) “When I woke up I didn’t know that I was in China.”
To get women into China, traffickers have found that they don’t actually have to smuggle them through these official border crossings. It’s easier for them to try and pass undetected, either by car by bike by foot or even by boat, and a lot of the women tell us that they had no idea when they were crossing the border from Vietnam into China.
(Alex Field, CNN) “What’s the going rate for a bride in China?”
(Diep Vuong, President, Pacific Links Foundations) “So for the end buyer, we’ve been told the prices are three thousand dollars.”
(Alex Field, CNN) “Three thousand dollars to buy a bride?
(Diep Vuong, President, Pacific Links Foundations) “Three thousand dollars.”
Diep Vuong started the Pacific Links Foundation to fight human trafficking. She tells us this marketplace is a prime hunting ground for the handlers and traffickers who form a pipeline to china.
Girls in Vietnam’s ethnic minority groups are common targets. Diep says that’s because they share cultural similarities with Chinese men on the other side of this border, who struggle to find Chinese wives. “The one child policy, which has favored sons – over time this has exacerbated this in such a way that they need more and more women. And this is easiest. These people.”
We’re not identifying the women we spoke to, to protect them from retaliation. They don’t know how much money they were sold for. But they say they were forced into labor, threatened with work in brothels, and that their husbands got money back guarantees.
One victim says, “They said if I didn’t agree to get married, they would beat me and kill me. I had to go. ”
Today, she lives in a shelter with women who fought to find a way out. Even at the cost of leaving children behind.
(Alex Fields, CNN) “If you saw your daughter what would you say?”
(Victim) “I would apologize. For leaving her there. I hope she’ll have a better life there. “
Her baby was five months old when she made a daring escape. After two years in China, she says she and another bride finally found an opportunity to take a taxi to a police station.
(Victim) “I was scared…scared that my husband’s family would find me, bring me back, beat me. That fear has stayed with me.”
(Alex Field, CNN) “What were you most of afraid of in the time you were being kept there?”
(Victim) “That they would sell me to a brothel and I could never come home.”
Those who did come home want to spread the word.
Vuong says, “For us the most important thing is to do this, to make sure people don’t cross the border.”
The survivors now return to the same places that traffickers target, to try and warn more unsuspecting girls.
Copyright 2016 CNN