40% WERE DENIED FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
1 OUT OF 3 GLOBAL TRAFFICKING CASES INVOLVING WOMEN AND CHILDREN OCCURS IN EAST ASIA
13% OF LAO MIGRANTS HAD BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED
Read Phonevieng’s real life story:
Money is tight again. Any meagre income is spent on food and school. Phonevieng hopes to become a nurse, but that would incur a 7,850,000 kip (SGD 1,296) school fee — money that she does not have but desperately hopes for.
When a broker came to her village promising jobs in Thailand with good salaries, Phonevieng seized the opportunity. The broker promised to cover the transportation costs and the fees for 17-year-old Phonevieng’s passport.
When they arrived at the border, instead of driving across the bridge, they boarded a boat and bypassed immigration entirely. Something was amiss, but Phonevieng knew no better; she’d never left Laos before. Once in Thailand, Phonevieng was offered 2,500 Baht (SGD 101) per month to be a maid for a Thai woman. Wonderful! That meant earning enough in just over a year to pay for nursing school. Her employer also opened a hairdressing salon, and offered an extra 1500 Baht (SGD 61) for Phonevieng to work in the salon as well.
After working for four months, Phonevieng requested her salary, but the employer refused. She was told to work for three more months before being compensated. She also had to repay the transportations costs, and was threatened with a police report if she continued asking for her salary. Without an employee ID card, Phonevieng was considered an illegal worker.
Phonevieng despaired. She felt trapped. One day, Phonevieng met a Lao friend who referred her to another workplace.
Unfortunately, her previous employer found out and reported her to the police, accusing her of stealing money from the salon. Phonevieng was arrested, and then sent home with empty pockets. Unfortunately, Phonevieng’s story is not unique.
What Can Be Done?
Solving this issue requires tackling the root causes across various levels. At the individual and community level, World Vision runs Child-Youth Clubs to help young people learn about their basic human rights and how to protect themselves from trafficking. At the government level, World Vision advocates for better policies and regulations for cross-border migration.
For victims of human trafficking, rescue missions are carried out to remove them from exploitative situations, psychosocial therapy is provided to help them recover from emotional scars, and vocational training is given so that they can rebuild their lives and provide for their families in a sustainable and safe way.
Why Do They Do It?
In rural villages of Laos where majority of households are below the poverty line, jobs are hard to come by. Families live hand to mouth and each day is a fight for survival. In some cases, older siblings feel the burden of caring for their family. In other cases, parents are desperate enough to send their children away for work. Human traffickers exploit the vulnerable in such situations by offering jobs that sound promising, but in reality are set to trap them in forced labour.