It's time to focus on trafficking for labour, urges new report

by World Vision International | World Vision - Asia Pacific
Friday, 10 June 2011 06:14 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Trafficking is typically associated with the sex trade. But it is now clear that the sale of people into slavery in the fishing, food processing, domestic work and other industries is the most common form of trafficking and needs far more public attention if it is to be stopped, according to a new report on trafficking in the Mekong region.

World Vision International’s report ‘10 Things You Need To know About Labour Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region’ lays out ten truths about trafficking that most people are unaware of in an effort to broaden debate about trafficking, and just who it is that ends up enslaved and where.

Based on findings from other reports as well as case studies collected by World Vision in the course of its efforts to fight trafficking across the region, the report states that across the Asia Pacific region there are an estimated three people trafficked for every 1,000 inhabitants while globally for every person forced into the sex trade, nine are forced to work.

The report states: “Trafficking for labour exploitation is generally not considered as severe a crime as trafficking for sexual exploitation, and there is a high level of impunity for offenders. Victims of labour trafficking are often not identified as such, and instead are detained and deported from the country where the exploitation took place. As a result, the majority of trafficked persons do not have access to assistance or justice, and the traffickers remain free to exploit others.”

Among the ten truths are the following:

  • Men and boys are often imprisoned on fishing boats
  • ‘Legal’ recruitment agencies are sometimes complicit in trafficking
  • Some factories hold workers against their will with no pay
  • Some victims of labour trafficking are exploited not in foreign countries but on their home soil

Abid Gulzar, Trafficking Programme Policy Manager for the Greater Mekong Region, who helped produce the report, said: “Governments are slowly addressing the issue of trafficking for labour but let’s face it, this is the 21st century and slavery of any form for any type of work should be eradicated. Many of us are for example eating fish or shrimp that was caught or processed by the victims of trafficking.”

The Ten Things report also comes with a list of recommendations about how to fight trafficking. These include urging the private sector to take responsibility for all labour within their supply chain with ongoing monitoring for compliance; banning the confiscation of workers’ official documents by employers; having governments target high-migration areas with vocational and skills training and safe migration information; strengthen and enforce workplace safety and protection with enhanced training for labour inspectors; regulate and monitor high-risk industries via codes of practice and heavy penalties for violators. The report also urges consumers to learn more about where the products they use or eat come and contribute to the fight against labour trafficking.

To learn more about the Ten Things, the report recommendations for action and to read the case studies of survivors download ‘The Ten Things You Need to Know About Labour Trafficking’ report.


Abid Gulzar, Trafficking Programme Policy Manager for the Greater Mekong Region,
Mobile: either +855 12222 374 (Cambodia) or +66 860523950 (Thailand), email:

John Whan Yoon, Mekong Delta Regional Trafficking Strategy Project Manager
Mobile: +66 81 8322933,

Laurence Gray, Director of Regional Advocacy in the Asia Pacific
Mobile: +66 818452807, email:

World Vision has been working to combat trafficking in the East Asia region since the late 1990s. Currently World Vision is implementing 13 national and two regional projects in the six GMS countries of Lao PDR, Cambodia China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The projects mainly focus on prevention, risk or vulnerability reduction, protection and policy advocacy.

World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.