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There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). 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. Santiago travelled from Mexico to the United States and was trafficked into forced labour in California when he was 21 years old. Without papers, Santiago was vulnerable. When he asked his employer for his salary, she called immigration and had him deported, then arranged for him to cross back and then kept him in debt bondage for the expenses of his journey.

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Nasreen Sheikh

There are an estimated 171,000 people living in modern slavery in Nepal (GSI 2018). Within Nepal, bonded labour exists in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, and domestic work. Sex trafficking of Nepali women and girls increasingly takes place in private apartments, rented rooms, guest houses, and restaurants. Nepali and Indian children are subjected to forced labour in the country, especially in domestic work, brick kilns, and the embroidered textile, or zari, industry. Under false promises of education and work opportunities, Nepali parents give their children to brokers who instead take them to frequently unregistered children’s homes in urban locations, where they are forced to pretend to be orphans to garner donations from tourists and volunteers; some of the children are also forced to beg on the street.  Nasreen grew up in a small village between Nepal and India not easily accessible on maps or books. People born in her village do not often receive birth certificates and other identifying documents and as a result Nasreen does not know exactly how old she is. She guesses she is now somewhere between 27 or 28 years old. She was undocumented, without any proof of age or identification which allows for people to be exploited more easily. She was taken to Kathmandu to work in a manufacturing factory with her cousin when she was 9 years old. If she was not finished by her deadline, she would not be paid for all the work she had done during the week. She was forced to wake up at 4am and work until midnights, even then there were piles of clothes left over. After two months of working in a small room, the factory closed. Nasreen was turned into what she calls a ‘street kid.’ She met a man who she allowed her to go to school and receive an education, from which she was able to better understand her life and family’s history. He father and uncle died prematurely because of labour exploitation and her sister was forced into marriage when she was just 12 years old. While still a teenager Nasreen advocated for young girls and women in sweatshops. In 2008 she started her own business, ‘Local Women Handicrafts.’