World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – Listening to People’s Voices

Depriving humans of their ability to choose where they work, what kinds of work they engage in, how to manage the income produced by their labour, or restricting their ability to see family and friends remains among the most heinous of crimes.

Trafficking in people can include dramatic scenarios where people are abducted and forced under physical threat to work, into forced marriage, where young people, usually girls, are coerced into marriage believing that they are fulfilling familial duty. Trafficking also includes the much more common and much less high profile cases, in which people cross international borders willingly, even paying brokers to help them with documentation processes, and then find themselves trapped, with limited opportunities for employment, and reliant suddenly on the very people who helped them get there. Often unsure of their legal rights, perhaps aware of the illegality of their border crossing, such people end up working for low or no wages, in unsafe professions, or in dangerous working environments.

There are many organisations dedicated to combatting these issues – from raising awareness of migrant rights, to strengthening border controls, to providing safe passage back home, to skills development and health care for those who have fallen prey to these kinds of employment schemes.

It is of course very important to listen to the people who have managed to escape, or who have been returned, from experiencing this kind of trafficking, to learn from them about what would have helped them make stronger decisions about how and why to being the migratory process.

Equally important is raising awareness for families of the dangers in youth migration – and the risk of exploitative marriage – and supporting border and immigration police to become familiar with the different ways in which trafficking can occur.

It is also important to support people in their home environment, both before and after they have been exposed to trafficking. In addition to victim assistance once people have been returned, those looking at their options in-country need support. This includes equal access to high quality education, to legal information on rights, ways to migrate safely, and the kinds of job safety laws that govern safe employment. To support varieties of income generating strategies in source countries to enable more people to find employment closer to home. To diversify livelihood development strategies, education projects, and legal awareness which all come together to help make people aware of all of their options both in their country of origin, country of transit, and in destination countries.