Trafficking in children and women constitutes a serious violation of human rights. The ILO Convention No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour includes trafficking in children as one of the priorities for urgent action. The ILO Convention No 29 on Forced Labour calls on States to suppress “any work or service which has been exacted under the menace of any penalty, and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily.”
In Southeast Asia, Thailand and the Philippines are among the countries facing serious problems of trafficking in persons. In both countries, many of the women migrating have been recruited not knowing the living and working conditions they would need to endure nor the extent of debt that they would have to bear. Deception is the most common method used to lure victims, using false promises related to the nature of work, the income and working conditions.
The return and reintegration process, among all the stages of the migration process, is the least subject to policy interventions and, in many ways, the least studied and understood. It is becoming quite clear that the return and reintegration process is not as straightforward as it appears. Among the main problems and difficulties that women face upon their return are the following:
- The psycho-social effects, including in some cases trauma from the trafficking experience and health and medical problems, which is especially true in cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation;
- The family and social reintegration problem: the breakdown of family relationships; stigmatization and rejection by families and communities;
- The financial difficulties, including coming home empty-handed, inadequate savings or wastage of savings;
- The employment and skill related problems: lack of remunerative alternative employment; lack of local job opportunities and support to start and sustain a viable business; lack of skills or de-skilling; and in the case of those below 18, difficulties of returning to a normal school environment due to the interruption;
- Filing complaints against exploitation and abuse.
In addition, upon repatriation trafficking victims continue to be vulnerable to reprisals from traffickers and criminal networks and unpaid debts, and even further face risks of re-trafficking.Some victims are subject to prosecution for irregularities in the migration movement such as using false documents, for having left the country illegally or having worked in the sex industry.
Given the recent emphasis for law enforcement and policy changes in many destination countries in Asia, it is now expected that there will be more cases of repatriation than before. The ILO proposes to support a humane reintegration process of returned trafficked victims back to their countries of origin that clearly emphasizes their long-term economic and social empowerment and the provision of core social services to victims. Considering the ILO’s labour mandate, strong emphasis will be placed on the area on assuring economic and occupational aspects of reintegration in full recognition of the returnees’ self-reliance and resilience. This project aims to contribute to the reduction of trafficking in children and women for sexual and labour exploitation in Asia, through support to a humane reintegration process of returned trafficked victims back to their countries of origin. The project will focus on their economic and social empowerment and the provision of a core set of social services with the following 2 key components:
Economic and Social Empowerment of Returnees (Direct Support to Returnees)
Assistance services to the returnees will consist of counseling and health care, legal assistance and rights education, access to education, skills and entrepreneurship training, microfinance and the labour or product markets, based on the individual cases, needs and aspirations. If appropriate, assistance to their families will include family reorientation programmes, community networking and awareness raising programmes. Ethical issues will be followed in due course. Pilot operation will use the guidelines by the concerned Government agencies and relevant offices and NGOs.
Upon Immediate Return
- The project will work closely with the local agencies providing immediate assistance to returned victims, such as legal aid, counseling, and referral to social services. In particular, the project plans to support:
- Provision of sufficient and effective referral services with the help of continuously updated information on the kinds of government and non-governmental assistance and support available for returned migrants that match the needs of returnees;
- Provision of social services such as psycho-social counseling and health care in order to recover from the traumatic experience and medical problems;
- Provision of small grant money for those returnees with serious financial problems.
The second stage of support involves a longer-term reintegration process of the trafficked victims back to their countries of origin, based on individual needs and aspirations. ILO expertise will be mobilized to give strong emphasis to the long-term economic reinsertion of returnees with a view to achieving self-reliance. Support services for trafficked victims would include the following activities:
- Continuous provision of referral services based on information on the kinds of assistance and support available for returned migrants, including enrollment in local level training programs and other employment services;
- Continuous provision of social services such as psycho-social counseling and health services according to individual needs as recovery is often a long process;
- Provision of career counseling and occupational guidance in accordance with local labour market demand and individual aspirations and potentials of the returnees. In case the returned victims do not wish to go back to their communities of origin, city-based occupational guidance and training will be provided;
- In order to ensure that returnees become self-sustaining, and avoid being trafficked again, implement several income generation activities. It will include small-scale savings and credit schemes (i.e. set up and strengthen Self-Help Groups; set up small business), and a variety of vocational skills training ranging from basic mathematics, computer courses and business skills1. For those returnees without primary school diplomas, non-formal education will be provided prior to vocational skills training. Job placement services will be provided to those successful graduates of vocational skills training programmes, through networking and collaboration with employers’ groups. For those successful graduates who desire to set up their own small business, small grant seed money will be provided as appropriate;
- Provision of opportunities for the trafficked victims to meet with others who have shared the same experiences and to help each other in the readjustment and reintegration process (i.e. set up and strengthen peer networks);
- Provision of legal assistance for filing complaints against exploitation and abuse, and support for registration of children.
If appropriate, the support involves the return of the trafficked victims to their families and communities of origin. Community services for trafficked victims and their families would include the following activities:
Provision of family reorientation and value programme in order to rebuild the family relationships, and to remove stigmatization and rejection by families and communities. It will include practical life skills such as building planning skills and basic mathematics. Community-based awareness raising programme will be included to prevent re-trafficking.
In each country, the project proposes to provide technical advisory and capacity building services for organizing the central referral mechanism for returned trafficked victims, including the systematic data collection/documentation of returned trafficked victims’ cases and follow-ups, as well as training for civil society groups so that an effective mechanism for the victims’ reintegration will be enhanced and become more sustainable.
The project will involve both central and local governments, business and employers’ groups, NGOs, and other civil society groups working with trafficked victims and/or irregular migrants to assess reintegration needs and target assistance, in particular in the areas of career counseling, vocational training and job placement.
In the 1st year of the project’s operation, the project aims to develop career counseling and occupational guidance materials and provide training to concerned agencies.
During the project implementation, if strong need is identified for networking between the two target countries and/or with the major destination countries for the purpose of further capacity building of concerned agencies, study visits will be organized to enhance more collaboration and further enhancement of necessary interventions for trafficked victims.
Throughout the project’s duration, the cases and the follow-up to them will be documented so as to provide a basis for systematic assessment of reintegration needs and targeting of assistance.
1 Vocational training materials will include “cultural entrepreneurism guides” developed by ILO/SEED, the ILO/IPEC materials on Non-formal education and rural skills training and the ILO/SEED’s Gender and Entrepreneurship Together training materials.