Marty Harris is an assistant digital editor at the Lowy Institute.
Determining the number of people trafficked worldwide is exceedingly difficult, and of course the number of people assisted is a small fraction of the total number of victims. This makes the following statistic even more confronting: in 2012, 14,000 children and 9000 women were rescued from human trafficking in China's Yunan Province alone.
A human rights think tank, the Nexus Institute, has released a new report on reintegrating victims of human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (the report was sponsored by the Governments of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking). Based on research with hundreds of victims of human trafficking, it concludes:
Trafficked persons throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region have suffered diverse and often very complex and traumatic trafficking experiences. Many have received a range of assistance and support in their post-trafficking lives, intended to help them overcome and move on from their experiences. Trafficked persons have often experienced very positive post-trafficking pathways. Many have been identified in a timely and sensitive manner, referred for assistance in the immediate aftermath of trafficking, assisted to return home and offered a raft of support and services toward their sustainable (re)integration in their home community and country. A number of trafficked persons interviewed for this study were now successfully (re)integrated in their families and communities, and had moved on from their trafficking experience. Much can be learned from these experiences and “successes” in the design of future (re)integration programmes and policies.
In spite of these important successes, many trafficked persons had far less positive post-trafficking experiences, and were not privy to the support and assistance that might have been central to recovering and (re)integrating after trafficking. One significant finding of this research study was that the (re)integration process does not always run smoothly and according to the range of laws, policies, standards and principles drafted at the national or international level.
Trafficked children were significantly represented in this study, signalling that children in the region are prolifically at risk of exploitation, and have been exposed to human trafficking. At the same time, the response to their specific needs and situation does not always seem to be adequately developed. Greater attention (and resources) are needed to the specific and yet diverse needs of trafficking children to more adequately support them in moving on from their trafficking experiences. This will involve not only improving the capacity of anti-trafficking professionals working with children, but also to mainstream trafficking into the social protection framework which should, in principle, be equipped with specialised skills in working with vulnerable children. Critically, trafficked children need to be (voluntarily) involved in the development and monitoring of (re)integration programmes designed to assist them. Only with their participation and input will (re)integration programmes and policies in the region be able to meet their needs and interests.
Photo by Flickr user Mayor McGinn.