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

 


Art and creativity as elements of psychosocial support and mental health for migrants

Art and creativity as elements of psychosocial support and mental health for migrants
Categoria: Migration and Health
Autor: Karen Carpio

Assistance programs for people in crisis situations have changed their focus from one based on the care and prevention of psychological symptoms, to one that involves the three spheres of the psychosocial approach model. This model contemplates the relations between mind and body, social and economic relations, and culture. In the case of migrants, psychosocial well-being has been closely linked to the concepts of identity and community, which include a person's sense of belonging, internalized social roles, adaptation to their cultural context, differences between social support models, among others. In that sense, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) experts suggest activities in which affected communities cease to be merely recipients of services created by actors outside the community, and instead become active agents of their own solutions, with the support of external actors.

The Manual on Community-Based Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergencies and Displacement, launched by IOM in mid-2019, introduces the principles of the MHPSS and describes specific activities to implement them on different axes, such as rituals and celebrations, sports and games, non-formal and informal education, among others. 

There are several benefits that have been identified in carrying out artistic interventions as part of the psychosocial approach model for emergency and displacement support. One of the main benefits is that these types of activities have the capacity to transform suffering, negative experiences and collective wounds into artistic and cultural productions that give new meaning to what has been lived. These activities can also strengthen social relationships at different levels (for example, family and community) and strengthen the resilience of individuals. The use of art (songs, videos, sculptures, paintings, poems) also allows metaphorical naming of themes that would otherwise be unmentionable, allowing new narratives to be introduced into larger segments of society.

Activities that can help healing

There are many creative and art-based activities that can be carried out to address the complex psychosocial situations that groups of migrants and displaced people go through. However, these activities must be suitable for the specific population group (taking into account age, gender, migratory history, identified psychosocial needs), the context and the resources available to them. With regard to staff, the use of professionals from various fields is promoted, including professionals in plastic arts, music and theater. In order to ensure the quality of the interventions, at the time of designing the activities, the place of the activity in the intervention pyramid (IASC) must be clear and incorporate the three spheres of the psychosocial model.

The Manual offers several examples of activities that can be implemented. Here are some possible creative and art-based activities for psychosocial support:

  • Theatre of the opressed: It is characterized by the active participation of the audience in the work or performance. An unresolved situation that oppresses an individual is presented. The scene is repeated a second time with the intervention of an experienced moderator to guide the interactions. During the repetition, members of the audience can stop the play, take the place of the oppressed character, and suggest another possible outcome of how the problem could be solved. In the case of migrant returnees, the theater of the oppressed can be an opportunity to sensitize communities about the problems they face, show solidarity, and create bonds.
  • Circus Arts: This type of activity has been used mainly for children and families. Circus arts can strengthen resilience, personal development and self-confidence. The circus arts allow a playful approach, through the use of clowns for example, to various psychosocial issues.
  • Collective narratives: In some cultures, speaking in the first person may not be as well received as speaking collectively. This dynamic allows the voices of community leaders who have a good reputation in a community to be raised.
  • Visual arts: Visual arts are a recurring resource for working with children and adolescents, but it is also useful with adults. These include everything from drawing, painting and sculpture, to photography and video, which makes it a valuable tool to express realities and ideas without using words. In Nigeria, for example, a combination of self-portraits and storytelling allowed for the strengthening of self-esteem and transformation capacity of affected migrant communities.
  • Storytelling: Stories allow people to connect with a group through identification with a given situation. It is a valuable emotional resource, since not only those who listen to the story learn, but it allows the storyteller to identify their value with their peers, who will be able to recognize common experiences.
  • Archives of Memory: In many parts of the world, archives of memory are created as a way to gain closure on past experiences and accept changes. It also serves as a way to honor victims and not forget the experiences that affected a group, community or even country. They make use of varied documentation, photographs, stories, personal objects and oral culture, among other forms of expression.

Activities to provide psychosocial assistance should always be designed for the specific context in which they will be carried out and for the needs of the people affected. It is necessary to have professionals who know how to direct the activities and recognize cultural differences, identifying if, for example, in a culture men will not participate in recreational activities, but in other types of artistic dynamics, or if women will have difficulties to feel comfortable in activities that are mostly bodily, so that the activities can be properly designed.

To look into the recommendations of IOM to make use of creative and artistic activities as a means to address the mental health and psychosocial well-being of migrants and displaced persons, as well as learn about other areas of intervention in SMAPS, we invite you to download this manual.