New Orleans Vietnamese Take Another Blow

Posted on May 24, 2010

The scale of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is nearly impossible to comprehend. Because the spill is an ongoing catastrophe, the scope of the devastation to local communities cannot even begin to be tabulated. A third to half of the commercial fishers in the spill area are Vietnamese. Again, the Vietnamese community in New Orleans is taking a huge proportion of the impact this disaster. While British Petroleum has pledged to compensate fishers who are losing their livelihoods because of the spill, the choices they offer aren’t very appetizing: fishers may file a claim for up to $5,000 for losses related to the spill, or sign up for training to do oil clean-up work. In each case, they sign waivers agreeing to never hold the company liable for future losses or injury. 

The problem is, all of the paperwork — and all of the training — is in English, and most of the fishers cannot read or speak English, let alone understand legal fine print. BP has not provided any Vietnamese-speaking claims personnel to connect with this demographic. Father Vien Nguyen, who rallied his community against a toxic landfill in the months after Katrina, is fighting back against BP’s seemingly cavalier approach to this devastated local economy and the Vietnamese people who keep it alive. Watch A Village Called Versailles featuring Father Vien’s battle against the landfill in 2005, on Independent Lens Tuesday, May 25th on PBS (Check local listings). And watch Father Vien’s update on what’s happening in Versailles since the oil disaster began: 


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