Officially launched in January 2012, The Trafficking Research Project is celebrating the successful completion of our first year. In retrospect, we’ve been busy – diving head-first into what has ultimately proven to be a productive and interesting initiation into the world of human trafficking research. Our first few months entailed extensive desk-based research on trafficking, alongside an effort to (re) establish connections to local and global expertise to inform our work. Luckily, Singaporean civil society organisations, researchers, and foreign representatives were receptive to meeting with us. This work provided us with an insight into human trafficking (and efforts to combat it) in Singapore as well as allowing us to develop an understanding of the sector and where we could best add value. It also resulted in a happy confluence of our previous experience and our organisational goals: to occupy the space between policy, research and practice.As the issue of human trafficking rose up the political agenda in Singapore, we drafted our first submission to the Singapore Government. Subsequently, we were invited to attend the launch of the National Plan of Action (NPA), and even featured in Channel 5’s news coverage of the event, though thankfully only in the background. We wrote a supplementary submission to the NPA, highlighting those areas we argued could be enhanced and developed further, while also acknowledging the positive step that the NPA represented for the Singapore Government.
In April, together with HOME, we convened the inaugural NGO forum on human trafficking. Drawing together a wide range of organisations working on issues including anti-trafficking, labour exploitation, women’s rights and health, the NGO forum provides an opportunity to enhance relationships between civil society organisations and develop best practice. The forum issued a statement calling on increased collaboration between the Singapore Government and civil society. Alongside the work of the forum, in October TTRP highlighted our concerns regarding the lack of publicly available information concerning the NPA six months after inception; especially considering Government emphasis on partnership and civil society engagement, during the consultation process and contained within the NPA itself.
TTRP started a blog focused on under-explored and ignored aspects of human trafficking to both showcase our work and develop our commitment to collaboration. It serves as our regular contribution to understanding the shape and nature of human trafficking. We began locally: our first post looked at female domestic workers in Singapore and the impact of the trafficking agenda on the framework of protections to which they are entitled. During the following months, we expanded geographically and thematically, exploring a range of trafficking issues from trafficked fisherman to the language used in human trafficking discourse, touching on the role of abolition in the trafficking debate, the dangers of misguided campaigns against human trafficking, forced labour and Article 4 of the ECHR and the use of trafficked labour in the cultivation of cannabis.
We produced 33 new posts and were lucky enough to attract some stellar experts to contribute guest pieces. Georgina Perry’s brilliant examination of the London Olympics, sex work and anti-trafficking initiatives was by far our most popular post (with over 1300 hits on one day alone). John Gee, of TWC2, wrote a two-part post on employment contracts, looking at contract abuse and contract substitution, while Melissa Ditmore and Juhu Thukral focused on accountability and the protection of rights with reference to anti-trafficking raids. We also received posts from Stephen Bell, who provided us with a thoughtful consideration of the potential of ethnographic evaluation, and from Jeni Page, who explored the vulnerability of children and young people in the care system to trafficking and exploitation. Thank you to all of our contributors who gave their time and expertise so generously.
In May, TTRP expanded to the United Kingdom. As we undertook our own migration, we sought to broaden our contribution to the debate on trafficking. Drawing on Caroline’s knowledge of human rights, criminal justice and policing in Northern Ireland, we made submissions to proposed legislative changes to address human trafficking as well as a consultation by the Public Prosecution Service on the prosecution of trafficking cases. We also published a number of posts on Northern Ireland, highlighting the lack of concrete information available on trafficking, the low conviction rate, the obsession with sex trafficking and the need for greater transparency by Government.
Conscious of the influence of the United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, we issued a short response to their 2012 Singapore report; highlighting the need for the TIP process to be subject to critique and evaluation. TTRP raised concerns about the failure of the report to engage with the lack of research on trafficking in Singapore and the impact this has on prevention efforts. In the UK, we looked at a Private Members Bill, the Transparency in UK Company Supply Chains (eradication of slavery); though unlikely to become law, it marked a new Parliamentary approach to the issue.
TTRP also expanded our online presence beyond the blog. In August, we were interviewed by Georgina Vass at Public House Singapore; while October included, in recognition of EU/UK Human Trafficking Day, our guest appearance on the Migrationist blog with a post looking at the role of gender in anti-human trafficking policy. Most recently, a selection of TTRP posts have been translated into German for Menschenhanelheute (Human Trafficking Today).
So what about the year ahead? The TraffickingResearch Project is currently unfunded. We are considering formally registering as a charity in the UK and applying for funding, devoting our efforts to this organisation full-time and investing more resources in research contributions. These are our future prospects. In 2013, we are also keen to further develop international dialogue on issues concerning human trafficking and exploitation. We are keen to engage new contributors, so please email us thetraffickingresearchproject [at] gmail.com if you would like to write a post. We are particularly interested in expanding our geographical reach and the range of expertise on this blog.