Emee and her brother were taken from her rural community with false promises of work for good money but then enslaved in Manilla. Emee was enslaved within the Philippines but an estimated 10 million Filipinos migrate abroad for work, and many are subjected to human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour throughout Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East.
Flor was trafficked into the US from Mexico and enslaved in forced factory labour. She travelled into the US willingly with a “coyote,” or people smuggler, after being offered well-paid work in the US. Instead of the job promised, she was kept prisoner and abused, working extremely long hours. She told her story to another survivor, Ima. Both women were part of the Survivor Advisory Caucus attached to the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking in Los Angeles (CAST LA). Flor talks about her the pride and satisfaction that working with Ima as part of the Caucus has brought her. Another narrative from Flor can be found in the archive.
Irene is an Indonesian woman who was enslaved in Malaysia doing factory work that was hazardous to her health. Foreign workers constitute more than 20 percent of the Malaysian workforce and typically migrate voluntarily—often illegally—to Malaysia from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries, often in pursuit of better economic opportunities. However, workers can find themselves imprisoned, exploited, and in debt bondage. The law allows many of the fees of migration, which are first paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recovered.
Jaroslava is a Slovakian woman who travelled to the UK on the false promise of a job in a sandwich factory but instead enslaved in prostitution in London. She managed to escape to Glasgow and was put in touch with the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), which has provided support to allow Jaroslava to establish a job and aspirations for the future. The majority of those trafficked to the UK have been identified victims of sexual exploitation, followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation.
Mariana was trafficked into Germany from Ukraine in 1997 at the age of 16. She had accepted the offer of a job: the push for women to leave Ukraine and other old Soviet areas is powerful. They account for up to 90 percent of the unemployed and are usually the first fired. Traffickers abduct an estimated 35,000 women from Ukraine each year. Almost 50 countries serve as destination points throughout Europe and eastward. Germany is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for women trafficked from Ukraine and Russia, though victims also come from Africa (mainly Nigeria) and Asia (mainly Thailand). In the aftermath of her enslavement, Mariana still felt trapped. She couldn’t return to her Ukrainian village because her neighbors believed she had been a “prostitute in Germany,” and pimps were looking for her. She moved to her uncle’s house, then to a friend’s house, seemingly on a perpetual journey from slavery to freedom.
Egypt is a transit country for women trafficked from sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union to Europe and Israel for sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking occurs as well: Ragaa is an Egyptian woman trafficked into sex slavery within Egypt in 1995, and children are trafficked from rural areas to work as laborers in the agriculture industry. Each year over one million children between the ages of seven and 12 work 11 hours a day for Egypt’s agricultural cooperatives on cotton pest management. They face routine beatings by their foremen, and exposure to heat and pesticides.Ragaa’s experience included the offer of a “pleasure marriage,” which is a temporary arrangement to permit sexual intercourse, and a “temporary marriage,” because brothels are forbidden by law and Islamic Sharia in Egypt. Then she explains that her escape brought no sense that the experience was over. The problem of freedom after bondage was an ongoing fear of her traffickers.
Ros is an Indonesian woman who was a domestic slave in Indonesia. She became enslaved after being made a false offer of work by a man who then imprisoned her and physically abused her for four years. Her attempts to run away failed more than once because of the complicity of officials and others in her enslavement. Her narrative suggests that the police deliberately hampered their own investigation and refused to take Ros’ situation seriously. The government has taken some positive steps towards protecting domestic workers. Following pressure from local and international organisations, including Walk Free, the Indonesian House of Representatives recommended the Domestic Workers Protection Bill for its list of priority legislation in 2016. Ros was enslaved without leaving Indonesia, but significant numbers of Indonesians are exploited in forced labor and debt bondage abroad in Asia and the Middle East, primarily in domestic service, factories, construction, and manufacturing, on Malaysian palm oil plantations, and on fishing vessels throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Sopheap was born in Cambodia and enslaved into forced begging in Vietnam, then suffered physical abuse at the hands of minders. Children from impoverished families in Cambodia are vulnerable to forced labor, often with the complicity of their families, including in domestic servitude and forced begging or street vending in Thailand and Vietnam.
Vanessa was brought to the UK after being made false promises and forced into prostitution. She was able to escape after three months and was helped by Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), a support service in Scotland for trafficking survivors. The majority of those trafficked to the UK have been identified victims of sexual exploitation, followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation.
Wati was enslaved in forced domestic labour between 1983 and 2000, where she was beaten and abused. She tried to escape in 1990 and 1992, and escaped successfully in 2000. She told her story to another survivor, Kanthi. Both women were part of the Survivor Advisory Caucus attached to the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking in Los Angeles (CAST LA).
Unknown numbers of people have been held as slave laborers in China’s “Laogai” (labor reform camps). Human rights organizations claim that Falon Gong practitioners are often targeted for arrest, along with ethnic minorities, Catholics, Protestants, and Tibetans. By some estimates around 100,000 Falon Gong practitioners have been sent to the Laogai. Ying was one of these individuals. A student in France, she was imprisoned in 2000 while visiting her family in China.
Born in Albania, Zamira was trafficked into Belgium, where by some estimates Albanian girls aged 14 and 15 make up nearly half of the foreign women forced into prostitution. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.
Zipora was enslaved as a domestic servant in the United States by a diplomat and his family, who beat her and failed to meet the terms of the contract originally agreed upon. When she required medical care, they refused to provide it for 2 years. It was the actions of a stranger that helped her out of her enslavement and to get a T-visa, a special visa status for victims of trafficking. In 2007 Zipora filed a suit against her captors.
Esther was a textile worker in North Korea when she learned that she could make 20 times the amount of her current pay caring for children in China, so she decided to go to work for a short period of time. She was subsequently caught in human trafficking and was sold as a ‘‘wife’’ to a Chinese man who locked her up. After she escaped, with no one to help her, she went back to the trafficker who sold her and pled for him to help her get back home. But, instead, he sold her again to another Chinese man. Through the help of an American Pastor, she was able to escape to the United States in 2008.
Despite having the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, Europe remains a destination, and to a lesser extent, a source region for the exploitation of men, women and children in forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. According to the most recent Eurostat findings, European Union (EU) citizens account for 65 percent of identified trafficked victims within Europe. These individuals mostly originate from Eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. In Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Parliament has identified corruption and the judicial system as reform challenges towards accession talks within the EU. In Greece, the turbulent economic situation has increased vulnerability for populations seeking employment and livelihood opportunities. In Greece, unemployment reached 24.4 percent in January 2016 with a youth unemployment rate of 51.9 percent. “Evalina” describes numerous attempts to escape from her sexual exploitation as a child, including contacting family members, jumping from the window, and telling her clients about her situation. She described her situation as “impossible to escape” because she was always being watched.
There are an estimated 133,000 people living in modern slavery in Niger (GSI 2018). Caste-based slavery practices continue primarily in the northern part of the country and affect some 44,000 people. Nigerien boys are subjected to forced labor, including forced begging, within the country and in Mali and Nigeria by corrupt marabouts. Corrupt ‘marabouts’ or loosely organized clandestine networks may also place Nigerien girls into domestic servitude or commercial sex. Tatinatt was born and grew up in slavery. But now she is positive about the prospect of a better life for her children – Rissa (11) and Mohamed (13) now that they are learning to read and write.
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, over 2 millions people in Pakistan live in slavery. One of the most prevalent forms of slavery here is bonded labor, in which an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the terms of employment is exploited, ultimately entrapping other family members, sometimes for generations. Bonded labor is concentrated in Sindh and Punjab provinces, but also occurs in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, in agriculture and brick-making and, to a lesser extent, in fisheries, mining, and handicraft- and carpet-making. Some feudal landlords and brick kiln owners affiliated with political parties use their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labor. Veero’s family took salary advances as migrant farm workers, after which the landowner trapped them by claiming the debt was never repaid. Veero was able to escape her enslavement on foot, a difficult and dangerous journey. Today she works on farms as a freewoman, and helps with the release of other slaves. So far she has helped at least 700 others out of slavery.
The 2016 Global Slavery Index ranks Haiti eighth in the world for prevalence of modern slavery by population. Today, about 407,000 children in Haiti are engaged in domestic child labor, according to a study conducted by UNICEF in partnership with more than 30 organisations. The investigation also found that 207,000 children under the age of 15 work in unacceptable forms of domestic child labour. Haitian children born in to poor families suffer from the restavèk system in which they are sent to work in domestic servitude because their families do not have the resources to care for them. Helia was five years old when, after the death of her mother and grandmother, she was sent to live and work at someone's house as a restavèk. Forced to work long hours with no breaks, denied food and subjected to physical violence, Helia attempted to escape to different homes multiple times, but found each home as bad as the last. Helia was finally freed after people in the community pressured her owner to free her. Though Helia married, had children and thought her life had finally gotten better, in 2004 men broke in to her house, raped her and her daughter and took her husband away. Due to poverty Helia had to send one of her own daughters to work as a restavèk and lived in constant fear of the men who killed her husband. Helia now works with KOFAVIV (Commision of Women Victims for Victims), working to challenge the restavèk and end slavery in Haiti.
There are an estimated 57,700 people in modern slavery in the US according to GSI estimates. The US attracts migrants and refugees who are particularly at risk of vulnerability to human trafficking. Trafficking victims often responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the US migrate willingly and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in industries such as forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. In 2005 Judith was living in the Philippines when her sister told her about a job in New York working for a diplomat family. While her sister warned her that the advertised income was just for show, it was still more than Judith could make in the Philippines and she decided to go. Upon arrival, her passport was confiscated, she was forced to work 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week with no rest. Judith was deprived of food and subjected to verbal abuse. Judith finally escaped on July 26th 2007.
Within Burma, some military personnel, civilian brokers, border guard officials and ethnic armed group continue to recruit or use child solders. In some cases, recruiters use deception, offering incentives or coercing children or their families through false promises about working conditions, salary, and promotion opportunities. While Human Rights Watch have noted that there is no way to precisely estimate the number of children in Burma's army, and while there is an ongoing process to end the forced recruitment of underaged children, there remain numerous accounts proving that the use of child soldiers continues among the 500,000 troops in the country. Saw Htoo, 16 years old, was forced to join the Dkba army as a child soldier. Not wanting to fight against his own people, Saw Htoo defected and is now in the care of the Karen National Union.