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Counter Trafficking and Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants: Annual Report Activities 2011

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Increasing Evidence of Forced Labour Across Asia Says New IOM Report

Thailand - A new report spotlights Asia’s place in the global trade in human beings, with Ugandan women turning up as sex workers in Malaysia, and men from Southeast Asia ending up in South Africa and Latin America after months or even years on fishing boats.

Counter-trafficking and Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants, newly released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows that over half of the 2,700 trafficking victims assisted by IOM globally in 2011 were in Asia.

Of these, 48 per cent had been trafficked into forced labour, 30 per cent for sexual exploitation, and ten per cent for a combination of both. The remaining 12 per cent were trafficked for other purposes, such as begging or forced marriage. Two out of every five cases were children under 18. Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan were the fourth, sixth and eighth most frequent countries of origin for victims. Thailand (4) Afghanistan (6) and Indonesia (7) were among the top countries of destination.

“Human trafficking has gone global, and is worth some USD 32 billion a year to criminal groups,” says John McGeoghan, IOM’s regional Migrants Assistance specialist, based in Bangkok. “Our report shows that rice farmers from Cambodia are floating around on fishing boats like rubber ducks on the world’s oceans, while African women are being trafficked to Asia.”* Many victims suffer severe violations to their human rights, adds McGeoghan. “Trafficked persons are often victims of rape, torture, debt bondage, unlawful confinement, and threats against their loved ones, as well as sexual and psychological violence.

“We are seeing an increase in cases in which individual victims have been subjected to both labour and sexual exploitation especially for workers who are isolated or have restricted freedom of movement,” he said.

The report – informed by data gathered by 150 IOM offices worldwide – highlights differences between several countries across the region

  • Thailand is a source, transit and destination country – a hub for exploitation in the Great Mekong Subregion. The country attracts migrants fleeing poverty and conflict, war orphans, women trafficked for sex, and child beggars. Infants including babies are exploited for long hours on the street where they are exposed to extreme dangers. In addition to being trafficked internally, Thais are trafficked to East Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

  • Indonesia is a main source country for low-skilled labour migrant, 83 per cent of them women, working in the black economy. Legal and illegal recruitment companies are big players in the trafficking industry.

  • Lack of education, gender-based violence, lack of opportunities and absence of cross-border mechanisms facilitate trafficking in Nepal.

  • Men from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, trafficked to the Thai fishing industry are passed from boat to boat and can spend many years at sea. Fishermen have been assisted and retuned home by IOM from Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa, Timor-Leste, and Senegal.

  • Cases of male sexual exploitation have been assisted in Afghanistan, although most victims are working in factories and on construction sites.

  • IOM has found evidence of sophisticated predatory activities among traffickers. One agent in Bangladesh admitted “When there is a natural disaster or scarcity of food, poor people look for work. They stay at railway stations, bus stops and shelters. I, along with my workers select the younger and good-looking ones and induce them to come with us by falsely promising jobs, money or marriage.”

In the Asia Pacific Region, family-related factors, such as family breakdown, domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, and the low status and role of children, all contribute to increased vulnerability of children. Of particular concern are cultural contexts where children are viewed as possessions or commodities for economic gain, and may be trafficked to pay a debt.

“We provide safe and dignified voluntary return for exploited victims of human traffickers,” says IOM’s McGeoghan. “This includes shelter, counselling, psychological assistance, legal aid, vocational training, or grants and placements to get people back to work. We also work with governments to ensure standards are maintained, and we advocate for better care for and awareness of victims of trafficking wherever they may be through our global network.”

The full report can be downloaded at

For more information please contact

John McGeoghan,
Regional Migrants Assistance Specialist at
Tel: +6681 9158706 or


Joe Lowry,
Senior Communications Officer at
Tel:+66818708081 or

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