At a human trafficking event at the National University of Singapore in September 2012 journalist Benjamin Skinner spoke about the conditions of quarry workers in India to “put a human face on statistics”. He proceeded to tell the audience, “the vast majority [of slaves] are born into debt bondage” and predicted, “in the US, every half hour one person becomes a slave” (I can find no evidence for either statistic). As I sift through post-Award season media reverie commending the success of 12 Years a Slave and the Director’s subsequent recruitment as Patron of Anti-Slavery International and Ambassador of Polaris Project, I am reminded of a similarly unquestioned use of conflating narratives.
The intent of this post is not to vilify campaigners, or anyone involved in the film. It is intended to highlight another missed opportunity to engage in critical discourse with the public about the complications of human trafficking. There are clear lessons to be learned through international and intercultural dialogue, but that dialogue should be inclusive of conversations about weaknesses and differences, not only success. It should also be contingent on cultural and geographic context, mindful of impacts, especially in countries with emerging policy change. In discussions facilitated by this movie, we hope to see the production of evaluations completed by organizations that highlight the outcomes of such campaigns on public understandings of human trafficking. Continue reading
This week we welcome a guest post by Mike Dottridge. The author was the director of Anti-Slavery International between 1996 and 2002. For the past decade he has worked independently as a consultant on human rights and child rights issues. In 2002 Mike was one of the experts invited by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to help prepare a set of Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking(issued by the High Commissioner in May 2002). He is the author of numerous publications on issues linked to exploitation and trafficking, including a UNICEF reference guide on child trafficking.
It was in August 2013, when UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she intended to present a Bill on ‘modern slavery’, that Britain once again began invoking the memory of William Wilberforce and the 200-year old campaign against slavery in its efforts to combat human trafficking. Caroline Parkes has already pointed out weaknesses in the provisions of the draft Bill published last December.
So what are the reasons for and against using the term ‘modern slavery’ to describe the patterns of exploitation occurring in the UK today that many British MPs and other people think should be illegal? Continue reading
Once again, we welcome Rebecca Surtees from the NEXUS Institute. This post is adapted from “Trapped at sea. Using the Legal and Regulatory Framework to Prevent and Combat the Trafficking of Seafarers and Fishers”, published in 2013 in the Groningen Journal of International Law. Vol. 1, No. 2: Human Trafficking. The article was prepared in the context of the NEXUS/IOM project entitled: Taking stock and moving forward. Considering methods, ethics and approaches in trafficking research and data collection, funded by U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP). The original article is also available at www.NEXUSInstitute.net and www.WarnathGroup.com.
Recognition of the diversity of trafficking for forced labour in recent years has included increased attention to exploitation within the seafaring and commercial fishing industries. It is clear, based upon our research, not only that human trafficking takes place, but that such cases are aided by sector-specific aspects that heighten levels of risk and vulnerability for seafarers and fishers that may lend themselves to abuses, such as isolation at sea, lax regulation, oversight and enforcement, and limited contact with authorities on land and at sea. Continue reading
It is our pleasure to have Stephanie Nawyn contribute as this week’s guest. Dr. Nawyn is an assistant professor of Sociology at Michigan State University. Her areas of expertise are migration and gender, and she focuses specifically on mechanisms of exclusion of migrants and their consequences. During the 2013-14 academic year she is a Fulbright Scholar at the Women’s Research Center at Istanbul University.
I came to Istanbul in September 2013 to learn more about human trafficking and the conditions of immigrants’ lives in the city. In my conversations with immigrants and immigrant advocates in Istanbul, one thing has become undeniably apparent; Istanbul seriously lacks space for immigrants. I am not referring to a lack of physical space, although that is part of the problem. I am referring more generally to a space to BE, as in both a physical and socio-cultural space to exist and flourish and live dignified lives.
I see this as a particular problem for immigrants who are trafficked into and within Turkey. People doing empirical research on human trafficking increasingly find that many of the common narratives about the kinds of force traffickers use are false. Individuals are rarely kidnapped off the streets, held in chains and forced into labor. More often, they are enticed by promises of improving their economic circumstances, are mislead by how much improvement they might experience, and their mobility is hindered by debt peonage and other types of labor exploitation. Immigrants may even wish to continue working in situations of extreme exploitation because their other options are worse. In other words, the metaphor of “modern-day slavery” can be very misleading. More often, trafficking is a situation of extreme labor exploitation. And in order for trafficked people to be free of extreme labor exploitation, they need to have rights as laborers that are enforceable. Continue reading
TTRP’s inaugural 2014 guest post is written by Stephanie Hepburn. Ms. Hepburn is a journalist and author of HUMAN TRAFFICKING AROUND THE WORLD: HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.
The New York Times reported in November that with no end in sight to the Syrian conflict and large parts of the nation destroyed, the United Nations, governments and international humanitarian organizations are calling Syria the most challenging refugee crisis in a generation. If accurate, the implications are grave for the human trafficking of this displaced population of 2.4 million and growing.
Over the past seven years I have researched the impact of unrest and displacement on people’s vulnerability to human trafficking. Refugees, having been displaced from their home country, are vulnerable to human trafficking because they face continued uncertainty, financial strain, and lack of legal and/or social inclusion. The lack of inclusion means they have little access to education, health care and housing. It also means they face significant barriers in accessing jobs in the formal labor market — they may be legally prohibited from working in the host nation or are unable to participate as a byproduct of social exclusion. This means that refugees often can only find work in the informal economy. By its very nature the informal sector is unregulated, making it an ideal space for unscrupulous employers to exploit and traffic workers. Continue reading
The corridors of Westminster have been echoing with the sound of self-congratulation as the Home Secretary, Theresa May, launched her draft White Paper, which includes the Modern Day Slavery Bill, in Parliament on 16th December. Politicians of all hues rushed to condemn the horrors of human trafficking in the UK today. TTRP will be looking at the Bill in more detail as it progresses through Parliament, but a few aspects stand out. Continue reading
The Trafficking Research Project (TTRP) expresses concern about the government’s response to the riot that occurred in Little India, Singapore, on 8 December 2013. Notably, such social unrest is the first of its kind in four decades. As such, TTRP advocates that the time is ripe for a national reconsideration of both the immediate cause of the violence as well as the deep-seated inequality that shapes the treatment of migrant workers in Singapore.
The government’s response to the riot includes a targeted police presence in places migrants congregate (including dormitories) and a temporary ban on alcohol in Little India. A focus on criminal justice coupled with limited community outreach has likely frustrated both law enforcement attempts at information gathering as well as affected migrant workers, who have been encouraged to stay inside dormitories on their day off. Despite a call against xenophobic comments, official statements, such as those made by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, perpetuate an “us” versus “them” rhetoric. Moreover, statements claiming a lack of evidence linking the riot to labor conditions may not take into account any systemic distrust in government authorities by migrant workers. Continue reading