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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…)

Running interference: tackling trafficking

Without The Guardian, I might have remained blissfully ignorant of any preparation for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Sidestepping, for a moment, the imminence of the 2014 (Brazil) and 2018 (Russia) World Cup tournaments, I am stereotypically American. I do not follow soccer, or football, hence the mixed metaphoric title of this post; the only context in which I will sanction the word “tackling” in anti-trafficking discourse. I am, however, no stranger to the keen perseverance of media and activist reporting on the links between A Major Sporting Event and human trafficking. (more…)

Ethical principles in the re/integration of trafficked persons. Experiences from the Balkans.

This week we welcome back Rebecca Surtees. Rebecca is Senior Researcher at NEXUS Institute, an international human rights research and policy center in Washington, DC. NEXUS Institute is dedicated to combating human trafficking as well as other human rights abuses. This post is written in conjunction with a newly released report on developing common ethical principles within anti-trafficking re/integration.

In the Balkan region, human trafficking continues to be a pressing issue. One central aspect of anti-trafficking work is re/integration; the process of recovery and economic and social inclusion following a trafficking experience. Re/integration services are often key to trafficked persons’ ability to recover and move on with their lives. And yet few organisations and programmes have developed ethical principles according to which their re/integration work is implemented, monitored and evaluated.  (more…)

Just deserts: victim compensation

Despite ample international, regional and local provisions for compensation, the provision of restitution for trafficked persons remains under-utilized. This undermines justice as well as potentially depriving much-needed financing for anti-trafficking efforts. A State’s focus on criminal prosecution may neglect important aspects of a victim-centered approach and without stringent, enforced penalties, may not even serve as an adequate deterrent. The former might include an emphasis on a victim as a key witness at trial, without taking into account livelihood concerns involved in an individual’s ability to participate (not being to generate an income, for instance). The latter may be expressed through the limited impact of the use of fines as punishment for those convicted for forced labor offences. For example, Paul Broadbent, Chief Executive of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) in the UK, highlighted:

We’d worked out the amount of money they’d made out of exploiting those people was way in excess of that fine […] so it’s actually worthwhile doing it on the off chance you’ll get caught, because when you do get caught and fined it’s absolutely a drop in the ocean compared with the money you’ve made. (more…)

The ROI on CSR

Concerns about workers’ safety in the garment industry have spurred collective protest against several deadly factory fires and the recent building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Subsequent responses from the Bangladeshi government, the international community and retailers highlight the difficulty in seeking accountability for tragedies which ensue from a failure to develop, implement and enforce measures that ensure employee protection.

Faced with warnings of “financial repercussions from consumers, damage to their stock value or sustained public protests if they do not adopt stricter garment manufacturing standards,” some global clothing retailers, such as the United Colors of Benetton, initially denied any role in factory production of their products. Walt Disney left Bangladesh completely after the November fire, discontinuing production of branded merchandise. Other companies directly affected by the most recent building collapse focused instead on compensation and long-term financial aid for victims. The marred reputation of garment production in Bangladesh has complicated corporate public relations even for companies, like H&M, not directly involved in the Rana Plaza collapse, but part of the industry. In response to concerns about the potential economic vacuum resulting from this swift corporate exodus, the Bangladeshi government closed several garment factories for inspection, opened the door for garment worker trade unions and is considering plans to increase the minimum wage in this industry. (more…)