Human trafficking: How close to us is it?

Human trafficking: How close to us is it?

 

Human trafficking seems like a crime away from our reality. But, the truth is, it is so close that we often cannot see it.

Although there are people more vulnerable to this crime than others, human trafficking can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, economic status, level of education, inside or outside their country. Victims of trafficking are as varied as the forms the crime can take: labor exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced begging or forced crimes. Human trafficking can be present in all sectors.

People in organizations that deal with human trafficking cases painfully discover how human rights are violated in different regions and countries. One of the people working in this area is Dayan Corrales, Technical Assistance and Protection Specialist at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. Dayan supports the assistance of trafficking cases firsthand, and has met many people who have been victims of this crime. She shared the following story:

Ana* was a young, professional woman, who had university studies and a great job profile. She was living in a country in Central America when a company in another continent contacted her through her social networks, showing interest in hiring her. It was a consolidated company, with a good profile and offices in different countries.

The first thing Ana did after receiving the offer was to carry out an investigation on the internet about the company. After verifying that everything seemed to be in order, she sent her curriculum. She had several interviews in English with the people who wanted to hire her, and when she was told she was the selected candidate, she decided to travel to the other side of the world for her new job.

Ana was excited by the prospect of being able to work abroad. Who doesn't dream of working in a foreign country? She would get to see new things, advance her career and open doors for her future.

A few weeks later, she undertook the trip. Upon arriving in the new country, a car from the company was waiting for her at the airport, with the logos of the office on the sides. A person from the company was holding a sign with her name, welcoming her.

Upon arrival at the hotel, this person asked for her passport to complete the necessary procedures to start work the next day. He told Ana that he would pick her up the next morning to take her to the office and start technical training. She handed over her documents and eagerly went up to her room where she took a bath, drank a coffee and waited for the next day.

Just as promised, they picked her up at the hotel in the same car, but to her surprise the final destination was not what she expected. When she got out of the car, she was not in front of a company, but in front of a bar. The next three months of her life would be a nightmare.

Ana was sexually exploited at the bar, being the victim of all kinds of abuse and violence. They beat her and raped her regularly. She had strict meal and work schedules ... All the forms of violence that we are terrrified to imagine were a part of her reality.

But how was she going to escape? She was in a strange country with a foreign language, without her identification documents and with no one to contact to help her. In addition, her exploiters extorted her with all the information they had about her. After all, they knew where she lived, and who her friends and family were through their social networks. They told her that if she tried to escape, they would kill her and her loved ones.

After three months of abuse, Ana could no longer stand it. She felt that her life had been stolen. If she escaped, she was at risk of being killed, but she already felt dead. So one day she took the risk and in an oversight she managed to escape. She was finally able to free herself from that nightmare and get help to return to her country and resume her life as it was before.

Ana's story is harrowing, but it is also necessary to know. Not only does it teach us that anyone can be a victim of trafficking, but it also helps us identify some warning signs:

  • Be careful with offers that seem perfect or too good to be true.
  • Deception is one of the most common means used to attract victims of human trafficking.
  • The use of power is also a highly used means of controlling victims, involving the use of force, threats or other forms of coercion.

*The name has been changed to protect the person involved

 


What makes migrants vulnerable to gender-based violence?

Categoria: Migration and Gender
Autor: Jacinta Astles

An increasing number of women are migrating independently from Central America and the Caribbean. Women represent 58.9 per cent of migrants from Caribbean countries and 50.3 percent from Central America. Moving abroad offers a range of potential opportunities and challenges, which are impacted by a person’s gender in complex and multifaceted ways.

Gender and migration are intersecting factors that mutually affect each other. Migration can have positive and negative effects on migrants depending on their individual characteristics and conditions. Likewise, an individual’s gender influences their experience of migration, including the risks and vulnerabilities involved in their journey.

Migration has the potential to create positive outcomes and contribute to women’s empowerment. It can open opportunities for: higher income, asset ownership, self-esteem, decision-making power and new autonomy. On the other hand, gender and migration can intersect to produce negative outcomes, such as multiple forms of discrimination, exploitation, and stigmatization. Migration may also offer women and girls an opportunity to escape situations of gender-based violence in their countries of origin.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. It may be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial and/or psychological. It can occur in public or in private and individuals of all genders can be victims. It disproportionately affects women, girls, and those of diverse gender identity or diverse sexual orientation (LGBTI) persons because of underlying gender inequalities. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.

GBV can be a factor that drives migration from countries of origin. According to a report by Support Kind (2018), GBV perpetrated by family members, gangs and drug traffickers forces many women, girls, and LGBTI individuals to leave El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. GBV, particularly sexual violence, is used to maintain control over territories and populations, as gang members punish women, girls and their families for not complying with their demands. An average of less than 10 percent of GBV cases in the region result in convictions. As they are unable to gain protection in their countries, many women, girls and LGBTI individuals migrate in search of safer living conditions.

Migration does not cause GBV. However, during their journey, some migrants face situations where they are more vulnerable to violence. Numerous factors influence a person’s risks and vulnerabilities throughout their migration journey. Alongside gender, a key factor is whether the migration route is safe and regular.

Unsafe or irregular migration routes increase the risks of GBV, including human trafficking. Migrant women, girls and LGBTI individuals are disproportionately targeted by human traffickers. According to the 2019 Trafficking In Persons Report, traffickers in the Caribbean target migrant women, particularly from Jamaica, Guyana, and the Dominican Republic. In Costa Rica, LGBTI persons, particularly transgender Costa Ricans, are vulnerable to sex traffickers. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of sex trafficking and domestic servitude.

At their destination and for those who return to their countries of origin, other intersecting factors, including a migrants’ financial insecurity, awareness of their legal rights, and language abilities influence their vulnerability to GBV.

Gender norms and unequal power relationships are the root causes of GBV against women and girls as well as men and boys and those of diverse gender identities. Perpetrators seek to exploit inequalities in order to exert power, coerce and deceive their victims. Recognizing these causes is central to developing effective interventions.

One of the strategies put forward by the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) addresses both gender inequalities and GBV through national labour laws, employment policies and programmes. This approach recognizes the independence, agency and leadership of women and seeks to reduce their vulnerability by increasing their access to labour markets.

According to the GCM, countries must ensure that the human rights of women, men, girls and boys are respected at all stages of migration, that their specific needs are properly understood and addressed and that they are empowered as agents of change.

These initiatives should be complemented by measures that support victims and ensure the effective prosecution of crimes.

A human rights-based and gender-responsive to migration governance is crucial for reducing GBV. Ensuring that the lives of all migrants are protected, and they have access to justice reduces their vulnerabilities and alters the culture of impunity in which perpetrators believe they will not face punishment.

GBV can cause short, medium and long-term physical and mental health consequences for survivors. Understanding how gender intersects with migration and addressing the root causes of GBV through a gender-responsive and human rights-based approach will create greater equality and human dignity throughout the region.