Without parents to care for her, Abirami was forced to live at a relative’s house from a young age, where she suffered abuse and was later prevented from attending school so she could perform domestic duties for the family. She ran away to become a child soldier in Sri Lanka at the age of 13. Although Abirami joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) movement voluntarily, rather than being abducted like many other children, her recruitment at such a young age is against international law and now considered a war crime. Having now left the LTTE, Abirami discusses the possibilities of what she might do next and struggles to imagine her future.
In France, women and children are being subjected to domestic servitude, in cases in which families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households. Trafficking networks have expanded to operate in large towns outside of Paris, including Lille, Marseille, Chartres, Toulouse, and Nice. Affoué was taken from the Ivory Coast and exploited for 12 years under domestic servitude in France without pay or a day off. She eventually escaped with the help of a French NGO, and now she is moving forward with her life, together with her son.
There are an estimated 6000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Kuwait (GSI 2018). Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labour, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labour recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labour broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage. To a lesser extent, migrant women are also subjected to forced prostitution. Afrin Akhtar travelled to Kuwait in 1996 looking for work, however upon arrival she was left at the airport for days until she was taken to work for an employer, being told money was being sent back to her family. After a month Afrin Akhtar ran away but was taken by police back to the ‘agency’ and she was again forced to work in people’s homes, receiving no money for her work.
It is estimated that there are over four million domestic workers in India. The domestic sector is informal and unregulated, obscured in private homes, and workers are not recognised as such but rather as ‘informal help’. Their wages are, on average, only a third of those in other sectors, they have very limited social protections, and commonly suffer poor working conditions, exploitation, abuse and slavery. Many domestic workers are migrants from poorer states and are among the most marginalised and socially discriminated populations in India. Most of them are Dalits or come from other disadvantaged castes and tribal minorities, many are landless, illiterate and innumerate, which increases their vulnerability and disempowerment. Afsana was just 16 years old and her parents were struggling to feed their family when a woman offered to get Afsana a job. Eventually both parents agreed and Afsana was taken to a house to undertake domestic work. Forced to work long, gruelling hours and physically and sexually abused Afsana never received any money for her work. Afsana eventually escaped with the help of a local worker.
There are an estimated 6000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Kuwait (GSI 2018). Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labour, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labour recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labour broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage. To a lesser extent, migrant women are also subjected to forced prostitution. Afzal travelled from Bangladesh to Kuwait to follow his wife who had been working abroad for three years. Afzal was sent to do housework where he experienced threats, beatings and sexual violence at the hands of his employer and her sons.
In France, women and children are being subjected to domestic servitude, in cases in which families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households. Trafficking networks have expanded to operate in large towns outside of Paris, including Lille, Marseille, Chartres, Toulouse, and Nice. "Agnès" arrived as an orphan to study in France but instead of education she was forced to work long hours without pay or contract. She eventually escaped with the help of neighbours.
It is estimated that there are around 875, 000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Nigeria. It remains a source, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Within Nigeria, women and girls are trafficked primarily for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. Boys are trafficked for forced labour in street vending, agriculture, mining, stone quarries, and as domestic servants. Religious teachers also traffic boys, called almajiri, for forced begging. Aicha was told she would be staying with a woman and helping her with the housework. However instead, Aicha found herself locked in a stranger’s house and forced to work longs hours taking care of children and doing all the cooking and cleaning. Aicha stayed there for 3 years before she returned to her village. Through Plan International she has learned dress-making, and hopes to have her own workshop.
It is estimated that there are 59,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Haiti (GSI 2018). The majority of Haiti’s trafficking cases involve children trapped in domestic servitude as restavèks. They are often physically abused, receive no pay and have significantly lower school enrolment rates. As a result of this, many children flee employer’s homes or abusive families, becoming street children. Moreover, female foreign nationals, especially from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labour in Haiti. Other vulnerable groups include children in residential care centres, children working in construction, agriculture, fisheries, and street vending, along with internally displaced persons as a result of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Alina “Tibebe” Cajuste was given away as a child to live as a restavèk (a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child). Alina was forced to work long hours with no breaks, no days off and subjected to physical abuse daily. One day Alina finally escaped, travelling to Darbonne to find her mother who told her about her father and why she was given away. Alina found her father and his family, however after his death she was not accepted by the family. Becoming so low, Alina states that it was only with the help of a women’s organisation that she was able to feel like she existed in society.
The UK National Crime Agency estimates 3,309 potential victims of human trafficking came into contact with the State or an NGO in 2014. The latest government statistics derived from the UK National Referral Mechanism in 2014 reveal 2,340 potential victims of trafficking from 96 countries of origin, of whom 61 percent were female and 29 percent were children. Of those identified through the NRM, the majority were adults classified as victims of sexual exploitation followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation. The largest proportion of victims was from Albania, followed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Slovakia. This survivor of modern slavery tells the Salvation Army of how she travelled from Sierra Leone to the UK after being promised a better education. Instead, she was trafficked into domestic servitude. This survivor was made to do all the housework, denied any privacy and never received any wages for her work. It was only when one of her employer’s children’s teachers called the police that this survivor was able to escape.
Despite having the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, Europe remains a destination, and to a lesser extent, a source region for the exploitation of men, women and children in forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. According to the most recent Eurostat findings, European Union (EU) citizens account for 65 percent of identified trafficked victims within Europe. These individuals mostly originate from Eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. In Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Parliament has identified corruption and the judicial system as reform challenges towards accession talks within the EU. In Greece, the turbulent economic situation has increased vulnerability for populations seeking employment and livelihood opportunities. In Greece, unemployment reached 24.4 percent in January 2016 with a youth unemployment rate of 51.9 percent. The story told by “Anastasia” has elements of both sexual exploitation and domestic servitude perpetrated by her parents on her as a child.
In Tanzania, internal trafficking is more prevalent than transnational trafficking and characteristically facilitated by victims’ family members, friends, or intermediaries offering assistance with education or securing employment in urban areas. Impoverished children from the rural interior remain most vulnerable to trafficking. Girls are exploited in domestic servitude throughout the country and in sex trafficking particularly in tourist hubs and along the border with Kenya.
Angel ran away from home to avoid a forced marriage and accepted exploitative domestic work to avoid being homeless. Her story demonstrates how initiatives by anti-slavery NGOs to educate young workers about their rights can help them to avoid financial and sexual exploitation.
In the Philippines, women and children are subjected to sexual exploitation in brothels, bars, and massage parlours, online, as well as in the production of pornography. The Philippines is an international hub for prostitution and commercial sex tourism – a highly profitable businesses for organised criminal syndicates. The demand for sex with children among both local and foreign men has continued to fuel child sex tourism. Rising internet usage rates, the availability of mobile phones and poverty has fostered online child sexual exploitation.
Annabel left school at 13 and began working various exploitative jobs, first in domestic service and then in a brothel, where she experienced a police raid. Instead of coming to her rescue, the effect of the police operation was to shame and stigmatize Annabel in her own community, making it harder for her to reintegrate or find other work. Annabel also discusses her future, and what changes she would like to see to prevent vulnerable people becoming enslaved.
There are an estimated 9000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Oman (GSI 2018). It is is a transit and destination country for men and women primarily from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines, most of whom migrate willingly as domestic servants or low-skilled workers in the country’s construction, agriculture and service sectors. Trafficked persons subsequently experience conditions of modern slavery such as the confiscation of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, long working hours without rest and physical or sexual abuse. Asma left her infant daughter in Tanzania in 2015 to work in Oman as a domestic worker. However, she found that her employers paid her far less than she expected and she was subjected to sexual abuse.
There are an estimated 592,000 people living in modern slavery in Bangladesh (GSI 2018). Men, women and children are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Bangladesh is host to more than 1 million undocumented Rohingya, including hundreds of thousands who fled Burma in previous decades. The Rohingya community’s stateless status and inability to work legally increases their vulnerability to human trafficking. Rohingya women and girls are reportedly recruited from refugee camps for domestic work and are instead subjected to sex trafficking. Within the country, Bangladeshi children and adults are subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and forced and bonded labour, in which traffickers exploit an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the employment terms. Bakul was 15 years-old when she married Rony, a man 4 years older than her. His family and friends pressured her into marrying him. At 16 years-old she gave birth to her daughter Jui.
After several months in slavery, Beatrice Fernando reached the point of no return. Standing on a fourth-floor balcony in Beirut, Lebanon, she realized there was “no other way to get home” but to “dive backwards.” In a recent interview she explained of her decision to step off the balcony: “When we take a step against slavery, the world will take another step.”In 1980, at the age of 23, Beatrice had responded to an advertisement for work as a housemaid in Lebanon. She left her home country of Sri Lanka, intending to send money to her parents and her three-year-old son. But in Beirut she became a domestic slave. She was locked inside a home, starved, beaten, never paid, and forbidden from communicating with the outside world. Guards were instructed to shoot her if she tried to leave. After she reached a turning-point and escaped by jumping from the apartment’s fourth floor, she spent 21 days in a coma. Doctors told her that she was paralyzed. After 14 months in hospital she recovered from the paralysis and returned to Sri Lanka. In 1989 she came to live and work in the US.
Forced child labour remains a source of concern in Nigeria. According the International Labor Organization, the number of children working under the age of 14 in Nigeria is estimated at 15 million. These jobs include street vending, begging, car washing and shoe shiners, while a large number work as domestic servants and farm hands. According to UNICEF, causes of child labour include widespread poverty, rapid urbanisation, breakdown in extended family affiliations, high school drop out rates and lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children. Bella was trafficked at 9 years old to Nigeria for domestic work. She was eventually helped by Plan International and is now learning to become a hairdresser.
There are an estimated 3.8 million people living in conditions of modern slavery in Chian (GSI 2018). Women and girls from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa are trafficked in to forced marriage in the country for fees of up to £30,000. The gender imbalance caused by the One Child Policy and the cultural preference for male children, has caused a shortage of women which has led to the trafficking of women to be sold as brides. As a result many women find themselves either deceived by promises of employment, sold or abducted and forced into marrying Chinese men who have paid for them. Kachin people are an ethnic minority who are predominantly Christian. Armed conflict between Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army has made life in the area difficult. This was exacerbated in 2011 with the end of a cease fire that left over 100,000 people internally displaced. In the camp where many of these people live there is little opportunity to earn a living. The government have made it worse by blocking aid to displaced people. This has led to women and girls becoming particularly vulnerable to trafficking as they search for jobs outside the country, often in China. Bennu was living in a Kachin refugee camp when she was trafficked to China and forced to have a sexual relationship with a Chinese man. She was also forced to do all the housework. Bennu was able to escape with the help of a fellow Kachin man.
Mauritania is one of the last countries in the world where people are still born into hereditary slavery, which means they are literally owned by other people, and forced to work for masters their entire lives. People in slavery come from the Haratine ethnic group, historically enslaved by White Moors. They can be bought and sold, or given as gifts, and face a lifetime of exploitation and abuse. Rape of female slaves is common and their children also become slaves. They are Muslims, and many believe that it is Allah’s wish for them to be enslaved because they are told that their paradise is bound to their Master. In reality, Islam dictates that a Muslim cannot enslave a fellow Muslim. Since 2007 slavery has been criminalised in Mauritania but the law is not enforced and the government is reluctant to acknowledge the existence of the problem. Bilal’s story shows how people can be encouraged or inspired to risk escaping from slavery after observing someone else leaving their situation, in this case her brother.
Carina, like many other children in Haiti, became a Restavèk worker. Restavèk is a traditional system in which Haitian children from homes suffering economic and social difficulties are sent by parents to live with other families and work for them as domestic servants. There is a perception that the child will be enrolled in school by the host household and treated like one of the family, but often the reality is completely different. For many children, the day is filled with work. As Carina describes, even the youngest are expected to fetch heavy buckets of water, hand-wash clothes, carry loads to and from the marketplace, and work in the fields—often laboring for 14 hours a day for no pay. Carina’s story suggests that a model of community education and resistance against the Restavèk system has been effective at freeing children and returning them home.
It is estimated that of the 400 000 enslaved in the Philippines, the majority are in forced labour. Recent surveys suggest that one in every two Filipino women are working abroad in unskilled and domestic work, some of the highest risk industries for modern slavery. High population growth combined with limited employment opportunities leads many Filipinos to look for work abroad. People are deceived by promises of higher salary and better working conditions, only to find themselves forced to work long hours with no pay under the threat of physical and sexual violence. This forced labour often involves debt bondage in which the enslaved is told they owe money for travel, accommodation and living expenses. Carla left school to find work in order to help support her family. Taken to an agency Carla accepted an offer to become a domestic worker in Manila where she was told she would be able to earn more money. After working in multiple houses for different families, she arrived at a home where initially she thought she would be treated well. However, she soon found herself working every day, locked inside the house, subjected to physical beatings and denied medical attention. Carla was rescued when neighbours heard screaming and called the police.