Our role in Human Trafficking

DSC_0307Darby Sinclair, who holds a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution and Peace Education from Columbia University, held a workshop about Human Trafficking. Darby has spent almost half of her life in various parts of Asia and is currently living in Taiwan, where she teaches International Relations and Asian History. Through her workshop, Darby hopes to clarify misconceptions regarding the definition of Human Trafficking, as well as what we can do about it.

Why Human Trafficking?

Darby told to us how it has personally affected her from living in South East Asia through her childhood and parts of adulthood surrounded with this issue and have seen things from far away but was never been able to do anything about it. She further commented:

“I felt hopeless, like I thought there was nothing I could do – that there’s no way I can be involved with any change”

However, as she researched more and more, she found that there was a lot of hope; she jumped at the opportunity to make a difference.

Human trafficking is the second largest worldwide international crime in terms of financial benefits – behind Drugs Smuggling. Darby describes Human Trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring or receipt of people for those purpose of forced labor and servitude” and has around 3 main ‘countries’ involved. These are: the Source country, predominantly South East Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe; Transit country where it serves as a temporary stop for trafficking routes and Destination country where victims are exploited for gains namely in developed countries such as Australia, America and Europe.

Human trafficking commonly happens through means of coercion, abduction, fraud and deception and for the purposes of exploitation, prostitution, forced labor and slavery. In extreme cases, human traffickers also remove organs of their victims to be sold onto the thriving black market.

Not only is Human Trafficking happening around the world, but also domestically. Darby found that domestic trafficking counts for 27% of all trafficking activity worldwide. Surprisingly, these domestic traffickers are not operating in developing areas such as South East Asia, but are on the rise in America, especially in Kansas. The geographical location of Kansas, bordering eight other states, makes it the perfect place for traffickers to operate and exploit young women and teenagers from nearby states and force them into prostitution.

Astoundingly, the single largest event in America is also the biggest event for prostitution – the super bowl. Here, sale of women and young girls flourish to meet the sexual demands of many men from across America who came to watch the game.

“People have a right to hope for a just job”

Darby continued the workshop by sharing a personal anecdote. She found that 90% of immigrants coming to Taiwan seeking for work are promised work by their agents. However, that was not the case. Most of them are not paid what they were promised and not allowed to leave the house of their employers. These are stated in their contracts, and if they break it, they face deportation. For Filipino workers there, breaking the contract would mean not allowed to leave the Philippines to work abroad for 5 years. Therefore, they would rather opt to stay silence to keep their jobs than to be sent back home.

Sadly, most people see trafficking as the victims’ fault for not being able to resist it. Well how can you resist trafficking when the victims themselves are vulnerable due to poverty, unemployment, gender discrimination, political instability or natural disasters? In many countries, the victims are blamed for getting into the situation themselves and perceived as manipulation and not human trafficked.

There are countless Non Governmental Organizations fighting human trafficking, such as STOP THE TRAFFIK  ‘people shouldn’t be brought & sold’ – one of largest organizations fighting against Human Trafficking and is growing rapidly in many countries. These NGOs can assist victims and educate potential victims before it’s too late. A number of NGOs also run shelters, caring for these victims. However, what if the traffickers themselves are running these shelters?

The result is heartbreaking. Apparently, many traffickers around the world set up NGOs to catch their victims running away. They do this by means of creating a hotline for victims and directing them back to their brokers or traffickers.

“Justice is deserved by all, that’s what human rights are”

Unfortunately, this statement doesn’t apply to victims of Human Trafficking. One of the first steps in helping the victims is through case law, which takes precedent over a case and is presented to judges and lawmakers in a court, which hopefully rule out in favor of victims and change the law. However, most lawmakers are unwilling to do this because of the time and difficulty it presents.

On the contrary, Darby also emphasizes the importance of education to combat Human Trafficking. She further elaborates how the first line of defense is the most important position in stopping trafficking. These include police, immigration officers and employers. She further adds that we should educate ourselves on signs of potential trafficking such as poor living conditions and multiple people in cramped space, and report it to officials. If we can all do this, we are potentially saving someone else’s life.

Attendee Alia Al-Ammari explained how attending the workshop have opened her eyes to the world of Human Trafficking which she didn’t know much about and “should definitely, definitely, definitely be talked more on social media and through MUN”. She further stressed that we should open our eyes regarding Human Trafficking:

 “It made me more conscious of how you can even be a possible human trafficker without realizing it”

Above all, the United Nations believes combatting Human Trafficking requires 4 Ps. These are: Prevent, Protect, Prosecute and Partnership (between UN and different NGOs).

Last but not least, Darby reminds us of our roles in Human Trafficking. If we buy certain products made through forced labor and slavery, we are supporting Human Trafficking. Therefore, it is crucial to be a conscientious consumer and check a product’s ‘slavery footprint’ at www.slaveryfootprint.org to make sure we are not giving our money away to traffickers who will in turn trafficked more victims.

By: Afif Haitsam