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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…)

The bias in counter-trafficking data and need for improved data collection: reflections on trafficking onto fishing boats

This week we welcome guest contributor Paul Buckley, who weighs in on human trafficking data collection. Mr. Buckley is the Regional Technical Specialist for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP). UNIAP was established in 2000 with a central focus on human trafficking and a mandate to facilitate a stronger and more coordinated response to human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Two critical problems remain in efforts to combat human trafficking: the weak evidence base on the scale of the phenomena, and systems to monitor the dynamics and flows of trafficking patterns. Much of the research currently available on prevalence and patterns can be misleading when presented without the context or caveats that often accompany detailed presentation of the data. Further, data is often taken from methodologies that are not intended to infer estimates. For example, media reports have often reported that 79% of trafficking is for sexual exploitation, based on the ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons’ by UNODC; rarely adding the report’s caveat that the data is of victims identified by state authorities and of convicted traffickers. With the majority of victims and traffickers not identified, the picture often presented is likely to be biased. Clarity on the problems of human trafficking, and therefore the remedies, can only come from improved data collection on the dynamics of the phenomena, and the profiles of the victims and the perpetrators. There are some strong efforts to address these issues, such as research by the Nexus Institute, the ILO’s Special Action Programme on Forced Labour, and the IOM’s Counter-Trafficking Division. However, the resources channelled to such efforts remain limited in the face of the knowledge gap they are trying to address. (more…)

Hidden out on the big blue sea: trafficked fisherman

Trafficked fisherman – it sounds an unlikely situation doesn’t it?  Fishing conjures up images of retired men perched on riverbanks armed with their lunch in a little box and a flask of tea, or small scale rural fishermen, bobbing along in wooden boats on a tropical ocean.  However, the global demand for cheap fish has to be satiated somehow and one method of keeping costs low is the use of exploited and trafficked labour.  Global demand for affordable seafood is not the only reason for the prevalence of trafficked fisherman.  For instance, according to a key report by the International Organisation for Migration, in Thailand, the impact of Typhoon Gay in 1989 led to the abandonment of the sector by Thai fisherman and the destruction of a large number of boats, which resulted in a labour shortage now filled by fishermen from Cambodia and Myanmar.  Whatever its origins, the trafficking of men, and sometimes boys, for the purpose of labour exploitation at sea is a growing reality in Southeast Asia. (more…)