Meeting the challenge proven practices for human trafficking prevention in the Greater Mekong Sub-region

Highlights the Meeting the Challenge series from the Mekong Sub-regional Project to Combat Trafficking in Women and Children.

Perhaps one of the most consistent and compelling storylines in global folklore is the tale of a young person’s journey into the unknown - a life-altering event for someone in search of adventure, fortune and happiness. This life journey is central to many literary traditions and indeed cultures. In the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), there are also many stories like this - stories about people who leave family and country behind in order to seek a better life elsewhere. Consequentially, it is also part of an increasing trend of greater mobility, regular and irregular migration for labour and contributes to further urbanization. While there may not be a pot of gold at the end of most migrants’ rainbows, the new destinations may provide better work opportunities and the chance to build a better life, earn more money and demonstrate the success of one’s initiative to family members back home with a regular financial remittance.

The reality, however, for many migrants in the GMS is less fortunate. Often they experience a destination full of new and unexpected obstacles, hardships, labour exploitation and sometimes outright misery. If the movement itself has involved force, threats, deception or coercion – or in any event if the migrant is a child – the combination of that movement and serious labour or sexual exploitation at destination is, by definition, human trafficking – a gross human rights abuse.

Unlike human smuggling or “illegal” migration, human trafficking is a crime against the person, not a crime against the state and, as such, it has emerged as a significant threat to the personal security of millions of people on the move across Asia and the GMS specifically. For society and policy-makers this has indeed become a “Mekong Challenge.”