A year in review: The TTRP blog turns 2

The Trafficking Research Project has gone from strength to strength in our second year.  We have expanded our geographic scope to include the United States, gained high profile contributors and seen our blog “hits” increase substantially.  TTRP also launched our new logo, with credit and thanks to Alex Kim.  We continued to strategically define our organisational purpose and value, made a number of submissions to consultations and inquiries, were active participants in Singapore’s civil society forum on trafficking and monitored the development of legislation in a number of jurisdictions.

TTRP kicked off the year by responding to a call for submissions from the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.  Treading well-worn ground, the inquiry sought to “assess the operation of the current legal settlement on prostitution in England and Wales”, our submission focused on highlighting the dangers of criminalising sex workers and the problems with the much lauded Swedish model.  We also critiqued the consultation process for the UK’s draft Modern Slavery Bill.  In Singapore, we highlighted our concerns about the State’s response to the riots in Little India, and commented on to the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report’s assessment of the Singapore’s approach to trafficking. (more…)

Singapore’s National Plan of (In)Action: two years on.

March 21st marks the two-year anniversary of the Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce’s launch of an Action Plan to combat human trafficking. Mirroring 2012, 2013 produced little substance in the way of anti-trafficking initiatives. As Singapore’s landscape shifts, it becomes clear that the anti-trafficking Taskforce is operating in a silo, failing to engage with broader underlying labor concerns affecting exploited individuals. TTRP has previously commented on the lack of action by the Taskforce in both our response to the US TIP Report and our six-month review of the NPA. Continued silence by Government on human trafficking enables an easy review of 2013: a lack of transparency and substantial collaboration with NGOs has resulted in a failure to account for progress achieved across all stated objectives of the plan. (more…)

After trafficking. The (re)integration needs and experiences of trafficked children.

Regular contributor Rebecca Surtees from the NEXUS Institute is back this week. This post focuses on one of the findings identified in “After Trafficking. Experiences and challenges in the (re)integration of trafficked persons in the GMS”, a regional study of (re)integration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). The research study was commissioned by the six COMMIT governments as part of the 2nd and 3rd COMMIT Sub-regional Plan of Action (2008-2010 and 2011-2013). The study, conducted by NEXUS Institute, analysed the effectiveness of (re)integration processes and structures from the point of view of trafficked persons and the service providers that support them, uncovering whether and to what extent services currently offered to trafficking victims and their families are meeting their (re)integration needs, including any unmet assistance needs. The study was coordinated by the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) and was overseen by a Regional Working Group comprised of Save the Children UK, World Vision International, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), NEXUS Institute and UNIAP. 

This study was based on in-depth interviews with 252 trafficked persons from all six countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) about their experiences of (re)integration, including successes and challenges, as well as future plans and aspirations. The study included persons who had been identified and assisted, as well as those who were not identified and/or did not receive assistance. Understanding the diverse and complex post-trafficking trajectories sheds light on a wide range of issues and dynamics at play in the (re)integration processes in the GMS. It also highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of existing (re)integration mechanisms and processes. (more…)

Visually affected. Campaigning the post-Oscar sexy.

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. (more…)

Some implications of using the term ‘modern slavery’

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? (more…)

Trapped at sea. Using the legal and regulatory framework to combat trafficking at sea.

Once again, we welcome Rebecca Surtees from the NEXUS InstituteThis 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.   (more…)

Migrant space and claiming rights in Istanbul: a barrier to fighting human trafficking?

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. (more…)

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