Helping Vietnamese fishermen deal with oil spill concerns - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

National organization helps Vietnamese fishermen deal with oil spill concerns

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS   (WLOX) – With bills piling up and mortgages to pay, many out-of-work fishermen have plenty of fears about their future.

"Their livelihood is their greatness need, but also we have observed anxiety and maybe mental health, emotional health needs that haven't been addressed at all," said Thang Nguyen.

Nguyen is the Executive Director of "Boat People SOS", a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.   His organization hosted a town hall meeting in Biloxi Monday, to address Vietnamese fishermen's concerns about the Gulf oil spill.

"There's a lot of need for clear, accurate, and timely information," said Nguyen.  "There's so much confusion down here. The lawyers have come and a lot of new programs.  The information got distorted in the process."

Interpreters were on hand to help the fishermen understand how they can qualify for low-interest loans, how to file claims and also apply for jobs with BP.

"I have no income.  The waters are closed. I don't have any money," said Huu Nguyen, a shrimper from Pascagoula.  "So I'm here to find out if there's anything BP or the government can do to help me."

Another hot topic was how to deal with attorneys and potential lawsuits against BP.

"A lot of lawyers are coming to town trying to convince everyone that they have to retain lawyers as soon as possible," said Thang Nguyen. "My advice to them is to take time.  Think it through."

The fishermen also pointed out the need for job training and placement, because some wonder if they'll ever return to the water to make a living.  

"We are working with the federal government," said Thang Nguyen. "We're trying to push for long-term comprehensive strategy on how to deal with the impact of the oil spill, which might take five years, 10 years, or longer."

Next Friday, "Boat People SOS" will host a Legal Aid Clinic.  The organization is inviting Vietnamese attorneys from all over the country to come to Biloxi. They will help people with their paperwork and help them understand their legal rights, if they decide to proceed with their lawsuits.

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