Worldwide, 27 million people have stories of human trafficking just like the ones you are about to read. Women, men and children are recruited, compelled into labor or commercial sex, held against their will, scared to leave, and unaware of their rights. They live and work in our very own communities. They produce the goods and services that we use every day. In our homes, workplaces and stores, they are invisible right in front of us… until you learn to spot and stop human trafficking.
The Global Freedom Center is working to ensure that the people most likely to identify or prevent human trafficking have the knowledge and strategies they need to make a difference. We are shrinking the gap between the 27 million enslaved and less than 1% identified. But we need your help.
Donate today so that we can train more people and shrink that gap. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Watch our video about the 5/20 Campaign. Get training for your company or organization. And tell others what you’ve learned here. Thanks so much for your interest and your support.
An employment agency arranged a job for Topan on a South Korean fishing vessel off the coast of New Zealand. He and his fellow workers were often forced to work up to 30 straight hours and the ship operators berated them if they paused even for a moment. Topan worked eight months like this, enduring physical and sexual abuse by the ship operators. Tempted to escape when they neared shore, Topan resisted because he would owe a crushing US$3,500 if he broke his contract and the employment agency would seek retribution against his family. Finally, he and other workers escaped and notified New Zealand authorities. Today Topan is back home in Jakarta, but the employment agency has blacklisted him and is withholding his pay.
*Unscrupulous and unlicensed labor recruitment companies can contribute to the debts and misrepresentation leading to human trafficking.
In and out of foster homes in Southern California, USA, 13 year old Denise craved the love and support of a parent figure. She found that in an older boyfriend she met in her neighborhood. He slowly convinced her that she could earn a lot of money in prostitution and acted as her pimp. She was arrested multiple times and served time in jail. Law enforcement did not identify her as a human trafficking victim so she did not receive social services and, instead, entered the juvenile justice system as an offender. She has never had her prostitution convictions expunged. Those convictions have made it nearly impossible for her to find work. She admits that most in her financial situation would have returned to prostitution by now.
*Unidentified sex trafficking victims are routinely arrested and prosecuted for crimes related to commercial sex, resulting in convictions that prevent them from securing meaningful alternatives to trafficking and exploitation.
Seventeen year old Chanary was recruited from her village in Cambodia for a job in Malaysia where she was promised a job paying US$250 per month. Upon her arrival at an electronics factory, managers told her about various deductions that lowered her pay to US$100 per month. They also claimed that she owed them US$1000 and she could pay it off through work, despite being able to save little from her paycheck. Her recruitment agency held her passport. Under pressure to pay this debt, feeling far away with home with no other choice, and not having her passport, Chanary worked 12-hour shifts often seven days a week. She escaped but without a passport, the Malaysian police returned her to the factory.
*Identification and prevention eludes even brands at the forefront of this issue because they may not always have the expertise to identify and prevent slavery within multiple supply chain tiers. This is considerably more challenging for the electronics industry because of its massive supply chain.
Dozens of meters down a narrow, dark mineshaft just larger than the width of his body, Koffi searched for gold. Others working in pits pounded and rubbed dirt with mercury to find gold. He and dozens of other children as young as age six working in the mines received no schooling and no pay, even though their parents in Togo had been told they would be cared for. They had no idea they would be sold by recruiters, forced to work long hours under hazardous conditions, and routinely sexually abused by managers at the mine.
*Gold from artisanal and small-scale mining operations in Africa is traded, sold and manufactured into jewelry. Minerals used to produce cosmetics and electronics have been extracted with forced labor.
João travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to look for work, hoping to earn a decent wage. He spent months in a remote area chopping down trees for no pay under the watchful eyes of armed guards. Escape was risky—the guards were only the first obstacle, as the Amazon itself was full of danger—but João knew that he had to try. He managed to slip past his supervisors, find his way to a road, flag down a passing truck, and reach a nearby city. Initially reluctant, João shared his story with the NGO workers who then helped him to bring others out of the woodcutting operation, and then helped the men to collect their pay from the landowner. Many of the men now work in similar jobs, but they earn fair wages in safe working conditions.
*Trafficked persons may be reluctant to disclose their experiences for fear of law enforcement, the traffickers’ retaliation, and general distrust of others. Most trafficked persons don’t seek help because they have no idea that protections are available.
Ritha was interested in finding work in Europe and a fellow Nigerian woman helped arrange for her travel and immigration papers for a job in Germany. Before Ritha left, she underwent a traditional Juju ritual where she promised to repay the woman €60,000 (US$82,000) or else she would lose her soul and her life. When she arrived in Frankfurt, she was taken to a prostitution house where she had to have sex with 18 men a day and hand over all of the money to pay off her debt. After being arrested, she was introduced to an NGO who shared that traffickers used voodoo was a tactic to compel people in prostitution. This helped her gain the courage to break her Juju oath and she now helps other Nigerian women deceived in the same way.
*Voodoo rituals are a powerful and purposeful method of coercion used by traffickers to compel people into prostitution or to work.
Kusum, a 55-year-old Sri Lankan woman, was hired as a domestic worker for a family in the United States. Her employer lied to her, telling her she had to work for six months before the U.S. would grant her a work visa. Her employers forced Kusum to sleep on the laundry room floor causing severe back problems. Her employer kept her from seeing a doctor or contacting her family. They instructed her to tell neighbors who asked that she was a relative. They threatened have her deported if she did not obey them. She escaped with the help of one of her employer’s friends who noticed there was something wrong and learned she wanted to leave. After leaving, Kusum was able to access multiple protections as a trafficking victim.
*Trafficked domestic workers can be found in nearly every neighborhood, unaware of their rights. A neighbor or friend may be the only way a victim learns about available protections.
The Domotor family began recruiting fellow Hungarians to Canada, promising construction jobs paying thousands of dollars per month. Tamas spent months looking for a job until a friend connected him with the Domotors who paid his travel to Canada. Upon arrival, they confiscated Tamas’ passport, made him pay a US$2700 recruitment fee, and made him sleep on a basement floor with six other men in a house rigged with alarms. The hard construction day started before 6 am and ended at 11 pm or later with just one meal per day. Eventually, a contractor helped Tamas escape. Fearful of the Domotors’ threats, Tamas reunited with his family in Canada, where they received services and protection from an NGO and law enforcement. Thanks to Tamas’ cooperation, the Domotors were convicted.
*Physical control over the workplace, transportation and housing are indicators of human trafficking. If workers are not able to determine their own housing and transportation, they may be unable to leave that employment or service.
Komal’s parents felt they had no choice but to take their 13 year old daughter out of school and put her in bonded labor in order to repay the loan for her sister’s dowry. Komal worked 11 hours a day, sitting cross-legged on the floor in a dark room without ventilation, folding and gluing matchboxes. She often went hungry, endured verbal abuse and threats from her employer, and suffered from the noxious fumes. She became so depressed by what she saw as a neverending bleak future, she attempted to take her own life. After three years of bonded labor, an NGO settled her family’s debt, and Komal was able to leave and continue her education.
*Worldwide, there are an estimated 215 million child laborers. A portion of this 215 million – approximately 4.5 million – comprises forced child labor.
Amelia, 17, and Mara, 22, left their impoverished village in Colombia to work as waitresses in Argentina, where they had been offered good pay. Instead, their recruiters took them to Chile, where a man informed them that they would be serving men at a brothel, not customers at a restaurant. Amelia, Mara, and the 15 other Colombian women were not allowed to leave the brothel or make phone calls; there was nowhere to go for help. The group decided Amelia and Mara should escape and then seek help for the others. They immediately called their families and the authorities in Colombia, which lead to Chilean authorities arresting the lead woman of the trafficking ring.
*Sex trafficking occurs within street prostitution, brothels, homes, hotels, escort services, massage parlors and other establishments posing as legitimate businesses.
21-year-old Indonesian Ketut received a job offer from a visiting representative from Malaysia’s palm oil industry. The representative promised that some men would work in the company offices and those with licenses would take trucking positions. Upon arrival, Ketut like others from his village received an assignment spraying toxic chemical fertilizers. Every day he worked long hours without protection shielding his face, lungs and hands. At night, the plantation managers locked him and the other men in the camp with guards. After working months without pay, Ketut and another worker were able to escape from the plantation fearful for their lives. Today Ketut is back in his native village, but has not been able to find another job.
*A worker in an isolated and remote location, common in the agricultural sector, creates a physical barrier that can prevent a worker’s escape and community members from identifying human trafficking.
Ly, an impoverished Hmong woman from Vietnam, signed up to work overseas through a government program. Her fees amounted to over five years of wages. She was promised eight hour work days and US$300 a month but once at the Taiwanese operated garment factory in Jordan she worked 16 hours a day for a fraction of that pay. The factory managers confiscated her passport and confined her to adjacent living quarters during non-working hours. Ly and her fellow workers did not speak or read Arabic. When she and other workers protested, the traffickers cut off their food and power and beat them. The Vietnamese government later repatriated the workers but they were never paid. Today, Ly is working to spread awareness of the plight of trafficked persons in factories.
*In the apparel industry, forced labor can occur within multiple tiers of the supply chain, including harvesting cotton, dyeing materials, and manufacturing.
Veracruz Mexico native, Eduardo, needed work. When he met a ranch manager who promised Eduardo a six-hour workday, housing, social security and childcare, Eduardo moved his family to the ranch in Baja California Sur in Mexico. He and his family soon discovered that the ranch manager had deceived them; he received only 80 of the 200 pesos the ranch manager had promised but in reality received nothing because he could only purchase overpriced food from the company store with exorbitant prices. The ranch manager also forced Eduardo’s son and the other children to work in the ranch’s packing plant and threatened to kill anyone who tried to leave. After six months, Eduardo managed to escape with his family and sought protection for the remaining workers trapped at the ranch.
*Traffickers use superinflated prices at company stores and for work-related expenses as a means of furthering debt bondage, resulting in a neverending debt intended to compel the person to work.
Jules was 15 years old when he fled his village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to escape recruitment from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He and other boys would stay in the forest, living and waiting until the rebel militias left their villages. After hearing the rebels had left his village, Jules returned home but members of the LRA were waiting for him. Hearing stories of the force and beatings used against other youth who resisted, Jules went with the rebels to Uganda. Along with other children, he was forced to hunt, gather, and cook food for the militia members. Eventually demobilized after the conflict, Jules is now undergoing counseling and education courses.
*Child soldiers are boys and girls recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers and spies or for sexual purposes. In some countries, the use of child soldiers is systematic and pervasive.
At the trial of the Botsvynyuk brothers, evidence revealed that they recruited villagers from their native Ukraine, promising US$700-800 salary per month, free room and board, and free transportation. Upon arrival, the men and women were told they would have to work without pay to cover their recruitment and transportation debt of up to US$50,000 cleaning Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Safeway and other retail stores, along with homes and offices in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New York and New Jersey. Workers testified that they were raped, threatened and beaten. When some workers escaped, their family members in Ukraine were threatened with mutilation, rape, and death if the workers did not return or pay off their debts.
*Law enforcement uncovered this human trafficking case, not the companies, subcontractors, employees or patrons where they worked. Trafficking can be invisible right in front of us. Anyone can be prepared by learning human trafficking indicators, and corporations can identify and prevent human trafficking with improved policies and training.
When Olga was a young girl, her mother’s friend said she had a job for Olga that would pay more than what she was making in Moldova. That “friend” was Olga’s trafficker. The trafficker took Olga to Dubai, UAE on a tourist visa. When Olga arrived in Dubai, her trafficker brought her to an apartment and told her that she was going to be prostituted. When Olga protested, her traffickers beat her and threatened to kill her and bury her in the desert if she did not comply. They threatened her with more beatings if she did not reimburse them for her travel expenses. Her traffickers sent Olga to a nearby hotel where they forced her to engage in prostitution and collect money from customers to hand over to her traffickers.
*Traffickers use multiple methods to transport people across borders for compelled service, including smuggling, fake visas, and legitimate visas.