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Vulnerability to Human Trafficking - Report

18 December 2014 at 10:24 am
Xavier Smerdon
The hope of making enough money to send back to impoverished families can outweigh known risks of child exploitation, a new Not for Profit study has found.

Xavier Smerdon | 18 December 2014 at 10:24 am


Vulnerability to Human Trafficking - Report
18 December 2014 at 10:24 am

The hope of making enough money to send back to impoverished families can outweigh known risks of child exploitation, a new Not for Profit study has found.

The report by World Vision Australia on the vulnerability to human trafficking was carried out in the countries participating in the aid agencies’ End Trafficking in Persons Project: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and drew responses from close to 10,000 children, young people and adults.

The Vulnerability Report: Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region found that previous experience of dangerous conditions or excessive hours does not necessarily deter young people from crossing borders or moving within their own country on a subsequent occasion to find work.

“For the last decade, millions of dollars have been spent trying to prevent the trafficking of persons in this region, but almost no organisation has been able to demonstrate with rigorous evidence that there has been impact in changing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in regard to trafficking,” World Vision’s Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons Melissa Stewart said.

“Most responses to date have been built on assumption.

“With this in mind, World Vision designed a comprehensive study to find answers and to build the much needed quantitative evidence to test our approach and guide future programming work for all organisations on this issue.

“The first-of-its-kind regional study, supported by a leading UK research university, found that increasing awareness of the risks associated with migrating for work was an essential building block for prevention of trafficking, but was only a first step.

“Raising awareness of risks absolutely needs to be supplemented by reinforcing protective behaviours such as travelling with formal documents and keeping in regular contact with family members.”

Stewart also said change to broader social and economic systems and structures was crucial to combating labour exploitation in the region, through measures including raising general literacy levels, and making it easier and cheaper for people to access formal identification documents.

She said the findings are informing World Vision’s End Trafficking in Persons (ETIP) program – a five-year anti-trafficking initiative active in both source and destination communities affected by human trafficking. The ETIP program is partly supported by funding from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“The study fills an important knowledge gap  by providing reliable data on attitudes, behaviour and knowledge of migrating young people, and will be a vital tool to inform programs designed to reduce vulnerability to trafficking,” she said.

“Measuring success in preventing trafficking is very challenging. The Vulnerability Report confirms that there is greatly increased awareness of human trafficking in areas where World Vision has worked.

“While awareness alone is not enough to prevent exploitation through trafficking, it does provide a foundation which allows people to understand and weigh risks and take protective actions.”

The report found that the most frequently reported negative experience faced by children and young people who had migrated within the region for work was working in dangerous conditions – primarily in the construction industry.

Other forms of exploitation experienced included being forced to work excessive hours, wages being withheld, and being hit, beaten or sexually abused. More than 30 per cent of child and youth participants from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar and more than one quarter from Vietnam reported restrictions on their freedom when they last migrated for work.

The study also explored attitudes to migrant workers in four border towns in the ‘destination’ country of Thailand. In these places, negative attitudes towards migrant workers were common, with more than half of the Thai locals surveyed believing that migrants cause disease and one third believing they cause crime and violence.

Up to one quarter of Thai citizens reported they had seen children under 18 working in dangerous conditions, or witnessed an employer beating a migrant worker, however very few had reported it or spoken to someone who might assist.

“These findings point to the need to foster positive attitudes and overcome negative attitudes to migrant workers,” Stewart said.

It assessed migration-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of young people and their primary female caregivers, and surveyed the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of Thai people toward migrants in areas with high migrant populations.

On the basis of the results, we make recommendations for actions that could reduce the vulnerability of young people to trafficking.

The primary purpose of the study was to inform World Vision’s efforts to reduce the vulnerability of certain populations. Yet given the breadth of the study (close to 10,000 respondents across five countries) and the dearth of available evidence on vulnerability to trafficking, the findings may also be of interest to others combating trafficking in persons including national governments, and other anti-trafficking organisations.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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