Nicolas Lainez https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/25307/all cached version 08/02/2019 16:20:42 en Traffickers, cybergangs and paedophiles: a genuine threat or a fuzzy narrative surrounding displaced Rohingya? https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/nicolas-lainez-su-ann-oh/traffickers-cybergangs-and-paedophiles-genuine-threat-or-fuzz <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Claims that Rohingya women and children are at risk of being trafficked for labour and sexual exploitation simplify complexities, magnifying the emotional content. Policies shouldn’t be designed around them.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/PA-37022526.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Masfiqur Sohan/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The forced migration of the Rohingya (referred to as Bengali in Myanmar) has received much attention since communal violence erupted in Myanmar in 2012. Most of the coverage has focused on the reasons for flight and the conditions needed for repatriation, particularly since the latest outflow in August 2017. In addition, the international media began linking Rohingya and human trafficking when mass graves with the remains of Rohingya were discovered in Thailand in 2015. Recently, a new narrative has emerged describing how criminal gangs and traffickers are taking advantage of the chaos and poverty during flight and in Bangladesh’s refugee camps to traffic Rohingya women and children for sexual and labour exploitation. </p> <p>In this article, we identify the attributes of this latest narrative, its origins, and its implications for public and international policy. In conducting our analysis, we ask the following questions. What is the nature of the threat that trafficking poses to displaced Rohingya? How many cases of trafficking have occurred and what are the circumstances surrounding these cases? Should we be concerned about the scale of this phenomenon? </p> <p>These questions are important given the interventions that are now being designed by governmental and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to address the issue, particularly now that the latest Trafficking in Persons report from the U.S. State Department downgraded Myanmar to its lowest, Tier 3 ranking. This change, which may result in economic sanctions from the U.S. government, was justified by the country’s failure to protect displaced Rohingya who are subjected to “<a href="https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2018/282623.htm">exploitation – or transported to other countries for the purpose of sex trafficking</a>”. Bangladesh remained in the Tier 2 Watch, partly because “<a href="https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2018/282609.htm">Rohingya women and girls are reportedly recruited from refugee camps for domestic work in private homes, guest houses, or hotels and are instead subjected to sex trafficking</a>”.</p> <p>Given the impact on public opinion and policy, we provide a critical analysis of the coverage of the trafficking of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh so as to bring some clarity to an emotionally charged topic. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">What is the nature of the threat that trafficking poses to displaced Rohingya?</p> <h2>The sex trafficking narrative and its origins </h2> <p>The bare bones of the narrative are that Rohingya women and children are, because of poverty, desperation, and chaos, at risk of being trafficked by criminal gangs for sexual and labour exploitation during the process of fleeing from Myanmar and while residing in refugee camps in Bangladesh. </p> <p>We traced the emergence of this narrative in international media through an analysis of 27 media reports, three NGO reports, two UN press releases and two ‘country sections’ of the 2018 U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report. All were published between September 2017 and July 2018. This narrative derives from multiple sources, with the UN, the International Organisation for Migration Bangladesh, and the BBC appearing as key players in its construction. </p> <p>The first instance of a complete narrative appeared in an article published 17 October 2017 by the Australian outlet ABC. It was titled “<a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-20/sexual-predators-human-traffickers-target-rohingya-refugee-camps/9068490">Sexual predators, human traffickers target Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh</a>”. In it, the United Nations coordinator in Bangladesh set the tone, stating that “rape, human trafficking, and survival sex have been reported among the existing perils for women and girls during flight”. This fear was then echoed by organisations including <a href="https://www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-crisis/rohingya-children-in-bangladesh-makeshift-camps-risk-trafficking-sexual-abuse-and-child-labour-warns-save-the-children-1479802">Save the Children</a> in Bangladesh, <a href="https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/10/20/539210/Rohingya-Myanmar-sex-trafficking-Bangladesh-Unicef">CARE</a>, and <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rohingya-muslim-crisis-latest-prostitution-refugee-camps-sex-trade-black-market-bangladesh-burma-a8017256.html">UNICEF</a> in the following weeks.</p> <p>The second iteration of the narrative came in a November 2017 <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2017/11/636002-un-warns-trafficking-sexual-abuse-shadow-rohingya-refugee-crisis">press release by the IOM</a>, which &nbsp;emphasised that “desperate men, women and children are being recruited with false offers of paid work in various industries including fishing, small commerce, begging and, in the case of girls, domestic work”. Additionally, it reported that many Rohingya are confined and exploited, and in some cases, forced into marriage and prostitution.</p> <p>This new message spread rapidly through media outlets like <a href="http://www.asiaone.com/asia/human-trafficking-rife-rohingya-camps-aid-agencies">Asia One</a>, provoking further anxiety about the plight of the displaced Rohingya. In the months that followed, <a href="http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/newsdetail/index/7/12683/the-story-gets-worse-rapedtraumatised-rohingya-women--face-new-threat-from-sex-traffickers">IOM Bangladesh</a> reiterated that “a lot of girls are coming who have been separated from families. Many people say to them that they will help them but then these girls disappear”. </p> <p>The third significant addition to the narrative – the involvement of cybergangs and paedophiles – was published by the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43469043">BBC</a> in March 2018. The journalist described the plight of two trafficked 14-year-old girls: Anwara, who was abducted and raped, and Masuda, who was raped by the Burmese military, forced to leave Myanmar, separated from her family, lured by a trafficker with a false job offer, exploited sexually, and eventually saved by a local charity. The reporter suggested that Rohingya women and children are trafficked to Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh, Kathmandu in Nepal, and Kolkata in India. There cybergangs offer the women’s sexual services to local and foreign men, including paedophiles.</p> <p>The content of this report was widely disseminated by aid and human rights organisations, including <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/childrens-human-rights-network-blog/violence-exploitation-sex-trafficking-rohingya-children">Amnesty International UK</a>. Media outlets, such as <a href="https://womenintheworld.com/2018/03/21/investigation-reveals-how-sex-traffickers-target-young-rohingya-girls-living-in-refugee-camps/">Women in the World</a>, stressed the “even darker side to the already dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Bangladesh”, and the Malaysian <a href="http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/03/21/rohingya-children-trafficked-sex">Sunday Daily</a> emphasised that crime syndicates “are supplying underage girls to foreigners for sex”. In a separate investigation, two <a href="https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/pimps-and-traffickers-prey-vulnerable-rohingya-girls">PBS</a> journalists reinforced this notion when they reported that “foreigners, white men, Americans, Europeans” are acting as sexual predators.</p> <p>This culminated in the downgrading of Myanmar to Tier 3 by the U.S. State Department in its annual Trafficking in Persons report. The reason given in a news clip published in the <a href="https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/myanmar-downgraded-in-us-trafficking-report">Straight Times</a> of Singapore was that Myanmar is failing to protect Rohingya refugees who are subjected to labour and sexual exploitation. Bangladesh remained in Tier 2 Watch, partly for the trafficking of Rohingya women from the refugee camps for sexual purposes.</p> <h2>Deconstructing the Rohingya sex trafficking narrative </h2> <p>The Rohingya sex trafficking narrative alerts us to a real risk faced by a vulnerable group. However, its rapid emergence, dissemination, and incorporation into global policy raises troubling questions. Exactly how many cases of trafficking have occurred and what are the details surrounding these cases?</p> <p>From the material examined, the threat of sex trafficking appears amorphous and obscure. We found nine stories that briefly depict different trajectories and scenarios leading to abduction, forced marriage, sexual abuse, and forced or voluntary prostitution. We did not find figures indicating the scale of trafficking, or the number of women who work as forced or voluntary sex workers in and outside the camps. We also found no evidence of the structure and modus operandi of criminal networks.</p> <p>When <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2017/11/636002-un-warns-trafficking-sexual-abuse-shadow-rohingya-refugee-crisis">IOM</a> suggests that trafficking is rife in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, they provide no data to sustain their claims about trafficking rings and sexual assault. Instead, <a href="https://womenintheworld.com/2018/03/21/investigation-reveals-how-sex-traffickers-target-young-rohingya-girls-living-in-refugee-camps/">aid experts</a> and <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rohingya-muslim-crisis-latest-prostitution-refugee-camps-sex-trade-black-market-bangladesh-burma-a8017256.html">reporters</a> use adverbs as in “[t]he investigation found that young Rohingya girls living in refugee camps in Bangladesh are being targeted <em>en-masse</em> by sex traffickers who try to force them into lives of prostitution”, or the conditional tense as in “children and youths <em>could</em> fall prey to traffickers and people looking to exploit and manipulate them” (emphasis added in both quotations). </p> <p>Moreover, we are provided with generalisations based on personalised and emotionally charged stories of trafficked victims, such as that of Masuda in the BBC report. Masuda’s story is a tragedy, but the empirical biases and narrative tropes leave the reader unable to assess the severity and magnitude of the trafficking threat. Are traffickers, sex clients, and paedophiles really connected? Are tens, hundreds, or thousands of Rohingya women and children being trafficked? In other words, are we dealing with anecdotal cases or systemic issues? </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Are tens, hundreds, or thousands of Rohingya women and children being trafficked? In other words, are we dealing with anecdotal cases or systemic issues?</p> <p>Moreover, the Rohingya sex trafficking narrative sets three key players in scene: the “<a href="http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/13774.html">savage,” the “victim” and the “saviour</a>”. These fight for power, life, and human rights in a theatre of chaos following a humanitarian crisis. According to <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43469043">relief experts and reporters</a>, this setting produces trauma and desperation, and in turn exploitation by unscrupulous traffickers.</p> <p>Three main groups have been identified as the savage: the Burmese military, “<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rohingya-refugee-women-girls-myanmar-sexual-violence-bangladesh-dibarah-mahboob/">accused of using rape and sexual abuse as weapons in its violent campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority</a>”; opportunistic traffickers who “<a href="https://news.sky.com/story/pimp-says-rohingya-plight-good-for-business-11124977">know exactly who to target. From the most desperate, they hunt the most vulnerable</a>”; and <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2017/11/636002-un-warns-trafficking-sexual-abuse-shadow-rohingya-refugee-crisis">local and foreign sex predators who exploit desperate women and children</a> and are organised in “<a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/childrens-human-rights-network-blog/violence-exploitation-sex-trafficking-rohingya-children">networks, online and offline, [that] are dedicated to specifically targeting refugee minors for prostitution</a>”.</p> <p><a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1369183X.2017.1417028">Research</a> calls into question the existence of well-structured criminal groups in charge of complex trafficking operations. Instead, an array of recruiters, brokers, carriers, moneylenders, document forgers, and employers provide different services to migrants. <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/anna/676/1">Some offer free services for altruistic reasons, some charge reasonable amounts for their services, and others abuse their power to gain substantial profit and control</a>.</p> <p>The victims are the Rohingya women and children living in the refugee camps. According to the reports, after having faced sexual and physical violence, dispossession, and forced dislocation they become traumatised, desperate, and vulnerable. This makes them easy prey for traffickers. While some young women are lured and abused, others trade sex as a means of survival, particularly the latest arrivals “<a href="https://news.sky.com/story/pimp-says-rohingya-plight-good-for-business-11124977">who are more desperate and have nothing</a>”. No distinction is made between trafficking for sexual exploitation, which by definition involves deception, transportation, and exploitation, and sex work, which is a legitimate form of labour in which individuals engage under more or less constraining circumstances. Here, forced trafficking and voluntary sex work are conflated. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The Rohingya sex trafficking narrative sets three key players in scene: the “savage,” the “victim” and the “saviour”.</p> <p>Moreover, this narrative reduces Rohingya women and children to naïve, helpless, traumatised and passive pawns in need of rescue and assistance. In the sex trafficking narrative, the voices of the women described as trafficked are replaced by that of the reporter. They appear as archetypes of the powerless victim, deprived of agency. However, the reality of sex providers is often a mix of coercion and consent, and of ambiguous pathways leading simultaneously to exploitation and agency. </p> <p>The saviours are the representatives of organisations such as the IOM and the UNHCR, and NGOs like CARE and Save the Children. These organisations provide assistance to refugees, develop preventive and protective initiatives to limit trafficking, and create “<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rohingya-muslim-crisis-latest-prostitution-refugee-camps-sex-trade-black-market-bangladesh-burma-a8017256.html">an opportunity for women to rebuild their lives</a>”. Other saviours include the <a href="http://www.asiaone.com/asia/human-trafficking-rife-rohingya-camps-aid-agencies">Rapid Action Battalion</a> – a top police unit in Bangladesh – that cracks down on traffickers and saves victims; the journalists who risk their lives to conduct undercover investigations; the artists who listen to “<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rohingya-refugee-women-girls-myanmar-sexual-violence-bangladesh-dibarah-mahboob/">the displaced Rohingyas’ stories of trauma and resilience</a>”; and the <a href="https://www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-crisis/rohingya-children-in-bangladesh-makeshift-camps-risk-trafficking-sexual-abuse-and-child-labour-warns-save-the-children-1479802">prime minister of Denmark</a>, who visits the Rohingya camps to witness their situation first-hand. These saviours play different roles in the Rohingya sex trafficking narrative, but all share a human rights agenda and face numerous challenges in eliminating trafficking. </p> <p>This positions globally privileged individuals and institutions as “‘defending’ and ‘civilizing’ ‘lower,’ ‘unfortunate,’ and ‘inferior’ peoples”, as <a href="http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/13774.html">Mutua Makau</a> puts it in his book <em>Human rights: a political and cultural critique </em>(p. 14). In reality, these actors are part of a structure of wider international political organisations that enforce policies, distribute funds for programmes, and apply certain human rights and economic frameworks partly based on an economy of emotions distilled by the media. Their intentions are laudable but the narrative places them in a position of power and expertise because of their access to resources and political influence. Their knowledge about the issue of trafficking is privileged over that of the Rohingya whose voices are withheld. </p> <h2>Conclusion</h2> <p>At an everyday level, we are surrounded by a myriad of narratives that help us to make sense of reality. Narratives are storytelling devices that simplify the complex and contradictory forces of our world and, in this case, magnify the emotional content of their subject. They are selective in their representations, and their power is in the way they frame reality. Their duty, however, does not extend to providing us with detailed facts, substantiated data and structural analyses. Thus, narratives may be useful for selling newspapers, and raising awareness and funds, but they are unreliable for expanding and deepening our knowledge of a subject or for designing intervention programmes and policies. </p> <p>This is why we have undertaken a brief analysis of the narrative that has been constructed around the trafficking of Rohingya women and children during flight and from camps in Bangladesh. The trafficking of Rohingya for labour and sexual exploitation has become an issue of serious concern for civil society and the U.S. State Department. However, it appears that narratives rather than data have shaped programme design and international policy. This has real implications for the people who have been trafficked or who may be, for those who use sex work as a survival strategy, and for both Myanmar and Bangladesh. The interests of displaced Rohingya would be better served by policies based on the collection and analysis of hard evidence and in-depth analysis rather than hearsay and anecdotes.</p> <p><strong>This commentary first appeared under the same title in <a href="https://www.iseas.edu.sg/articles-commentaries/iseas-perspective">ISEAS Perspective</a> 2018, n. 47.</strong></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/natalie-brinham/breaking-cycle-of-expulsion-forced-repatriation-and-exploitation-for-r">Breaking the cycle of expulsion, forced repatriation, and exploitation for Rohingya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/amal-de-chickera/ten-reflections-inspired-by-rohingya-crisis">Ten reflections inspired by the Rohingya crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/amal-de-chickera/rohingya-refugee-making-factory">The Rohingya refugee making factory</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Su-Ann Oh Nicolas Lainez Fri, 31 Aug 2018 07:47:59 +0000 Nicolas Lainez and Su-Ann Oh 119396 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nicolas Lainez https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/nicolas-lainez-0 <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nicolas Lainez </div> </div> </div> <p>Nicolas Lainez is an associate fellow at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research on Social Issues in France.</p> Nicolas Lainez Wed, 22 Aug 2018 12:50:42 +0000 Nicolas Lainez 119398 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Modern Vietnamese slaves in the UK: are raid and rescue operations appropriate? https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/nicolas-lainez/modern-vietnamese-slaves-in-uk-are-raid-and-rescue-operations-appropria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The arbitrary and controversial categorisation of people as modern slaves in need of rescue does not reflect the complex reality and expectations of many who fall foul of it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u563152/14814199198_5b32d1732c_o.jpg" alt="14814199198_5b32d1732c_o.jpg" width="100%" /><span class="image-caption">'The Remittance Economy'. Raymond June/flickr.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/raymondjune/14814199198/in/photolist-p7Dyn-8Cr6Cr-apUx3d-9wj3qc-4Hx9hL-8ZvHTW-atUQdo-oz5Diy-yo5YZa-FvKhG1-72DBQ2-4WbXkh-P7JEdk-Q8jNaW-Q8jLAU-NZWMPR">(CC BY-ND 2.0)</a></span></p><p>The recent publication of a <a href="http://www.antislaverycommissioner.co.uk/media/1159/iasc-report-combating-modern-slavery-experience-by-vietname-nationals-en-route-to-and-within-the-uk.pdf">study about the modern slavery of Vietnamese nationals in the UK</a> by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has renewed public interest in modern Vietnamese slaves in the UK. While this topic has made headlines for years, it garnered a lot of attention earlier this year with the publication of various articles in <em>The Guardian</em> about <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/25/trafficked-enslaved-teenagers-tending-uk-cannabis-farms-vietnamese">cannabis ‘factories’</a> in the UK and the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/aug/26/ready-married-kidnapped-brides-vietnam-china">abduction and trafficking for marriage of Northern Vietnamese women to China</a>. In the past few weeks, countless news clips have denounced the harsh conditions forced upon Vietnamese adults and minors in cannabis farms, nail bars and brothels. Their provocative titles – ‘<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-slavery-nailbars/is-your-manicurist-a-slave-uk-anti-slavery-drive-helps-public-spot-signs-idUSKBN1CE20V">Is your manicurist a slave</a>?’ or ‘<a href="http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/teenage-slaves-trafficked-to-work-in-capital-1-4562979">Teenage “slaves” trafficked to work in Capital</a>’ – are generating increased public concern. In response, raid and rescue operations are being conducted in accordance with the 4Ps of the British government’s <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/modern-slavery-strategy">Modern Slavery Strategy</a> – Pursue, Prevent, Protect, and Prepare.</p> <p>At first glance, conducting raids in nail bars, cannabis farms and brothels would appear to be useful, helping to dismantle trafficking networks, rescue modern slaves, and show that the government cares about the issue. But how appropriate and effective really is this approach? In my opinion, it is highly problematic, because the vast majority of Vietnamese nationals in the UK do not consider themselves modern to be slaves, but rather undocumented migrants who do not wish to be ‘rescued’. Moreover, as I later show, raids often create problems for Vietnamese migrants, and they fail to address the structural conditions that underpin their abuse.</p><h2>Migration and exploitation: a complex picture</h2><p>According to the 2015 <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/30/contents/enacted">UK Modern Slavery Act</a><span>, trafficking is a process that involves recruitment, transportation, harbouring and transfer of people for the purpose of exploitation, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Based on this definition, Vietnamese nationals who are deceived, coerced and exploited during their migration and/or within the UK are considered trafficked victims and modern slaves. The modern slavery discourse assumes that these victims are naïve and disempowered. In contrast, consenting undocumented migrants who are simply transported by smugglers for a fee are considered smuggled but not trafficked under the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Most migrants make informed decisions prior to their departure, prepare for their journey with carefully chosen smugglers and brokers, finance their migration by incurring debts, and expect to undertake difficult work. </p> <p>On the ground, however, things are not so clear-cut. The findings of my research on Vietnamese migrants in France and an unpublished study conducted by the NGO <a href="http://allianceantitrafic.org/aatvietnam/">Alliance Anti-Trafic</a> with 140 returnees from Central Vietnam arrested in the UK suggest that the majority smuggled themselves into the country and embarked on their journey to improve their lives. They make informed decisions prior to their departure, prepare for their journey with carefully chosen smugglers and brokers, finance their migration by incurring debts, and expect to undertake so-called 3-D jobs – Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult – throughout their journey and during their stay. Ultimately, these migrants display a great deal of agency and courage in dealing with wider structural constraints, including the barriers erected by Fortress Europe, which hamper cross-border mobility and prevent them from becoming citizens in host countries.</p> <p>Their legal categorisation as either trafficked victims and thus modern slaves to be assisted, or as illegal migrants and thus criminals to be referred to the justice system and deported, depends on legislation and identification. However, the law and the procedures for identifying them are not easily interpreted and applied. For instance, the 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act does not define exploitation. This provides law enforcement agencies with some leeway to interpret the law, but also complicates the identification process, which is left to the discretion of police officers. On the ground, the distinction between trafficking and smuggling is problematic because pure choice is a fallacy, and there can be both coercion in smuggling and agency in trafficking, or a mixture of the two in both processes.</p> <p>Moreover, a Vietnamese migrant working in the UK for no salary is obviously abused; according to the law, s/he is said to be trafficked and enslaved. The same applies to a minor under 18 who, by law, is necessarily trafficked and enslaved with his/her consent being considered irrelevant. But, how do we assess the degree of exploitation and therefore enslavement of a financially-excluded Vietnamese migrant who borrows from moneylenders in Vietnam at an interest rate of 5% per month to defray the costs of the undocumented journey, or who works 10 hours a day at £3 an hour, 6 days a week with no vacation or benefits while transiting Eastern Europe or upon arrival in the UK, based on the flawed (or non-existent) definitions of exploitation provided by modern slavery legislation?</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">How do we assess the degree of exploitation and therefore enslavement of a financially-excluded Vietnamese migrant who borrows from moneylenders in Vietnam at an interest rate of 5% per month to defray the costs of the undocumented journey?</p> <p>My point is that the arbitrary and controversial categorisation of individuals as modern slaves in need of rescue does not reflect the complex reality and expectations of a majority of Vietnamese migrants in the UK. Hence, with the exception of a few persons who are clearly abused and deprived of freedoms, most Vietnamese migrants do not wish to be rescued, even when they have to endure harsh working and living conditions for years. For many, living precarious lives with prospects of better earnings in Europe is more appealing than living hand-to-mouth with no prospects in Vietnam. They are prepared to face challenges, setbacks and harsh working conditions, all of which do not equate to trafficking in their eyes. As a result of anti-trafficking campaigns, trafficking has become synonymous to abduction, deception and severe forms of abuse, scenarios that in their opinion do not apply to them.</p> <h2>The impacts of raid and rescue</h2> <p>Having provided a picture of their trajectories and clarified the lay and legal perspectives on trafficking, modern slavery and migration, I now turn to the impact of raid and rescue on Vietnamese migrant lives. A <a href="http://sexworkersproject.org/downloads/swp-2009-raids-and-trafficking-report.pdf">study</a> by Melissa Ditmore on anti-trafficking initiatives in the US stresses the chaos, confusion and trauma that poorly designed and executed operations generate in sex workers’ lives, the lack of immediate access to legal and social services following a raid, the detention of trafficked women (and especially those who do not wish to cooperate), the economic adversity that stems from detention, and the limited success of raids in identifying large numbers of trafficked victims. These findings also apply here.</p> <p>To take but one example, note that many Vietnamese minors go missing soon after being rescued and placed in foster care. Why? Because, in their view, rescue does not serve their best interests. There is a lack of Vietnamese foster carers able to overcome cultural and language barriers and the restrictions that are placed on detained minors’ freedom and ability access to phones or the Internet also adds to their discontent.</p> <p>Another negative is increased economic hardship. My research on the debts that Vietnamese migrants incur shows the crippling effect of having to manage varied deadlines, interest rates, and individual and familial responsibilities revolving around the payment of debts, which can amount to as much as £30,000. This is particularly so when the migrant borrows from relatives, moneylenders, banks, and rotating credit associations which impose variable interest rates and terms of repayment, or when the family pledges its assets including the family home. Every minute of work counts towards the repayment of the debt. Therefore, every moment spent in limbo, or in the uncertainty of endless legal and judicial proceedings, incurs a loss that may aggravate the economic situation of victims, migrants and their families in Vietnam. A household that loses its assets and the income of an offspring confined in foster care or prison may very easily fall into bankruptcy and consider sending another one to compensate for the loss. It may also consider sending back a forcibly returned or repatriated offspring who has not fully reimbursed travel expenses or earned the expected income, and was therefore unable to complete his/her personal and familial mission.</p> <p>Raid and rescue is tempting when dealing with so-called trafficking and slavery because the alarming rhetoric calls forth deep-rooted pictures of bondage linked to transatlantic slavery. Yet that association is misplaced, not least because the majority of ‘modern slaves’ reject their label and its associations. Instead of promoting a raid and rescue approach, we should rethink the entire conceptual foundation of the modern slavery paradigm. The first step is to consider the extent to which it acts as a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/julia-o%E2%80%99connell-davidson-neil-howard/on-freedom-and-immobility-how-states-create-vulne">smokescreen to conceal the severe control over human mobility</a> enforced by the UK and its European counterparts, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyond-slavery-themes/forced-labour-in-global-political-economy">deregulation of labour markets</a>, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/labour-rights-in-gig-economy">precarisation of workers</a>, and the increase in inequality under neoliberal policies. These structural forces, ignored in discussions on modern slavery, leave both citizens and non-citizens with little or no protection, and encourage labour exploitation and migration on a large scale. Against this backdrop, the idea of rescuing and repatriating Vietnamese ‘modern slaves’ becomes an offensive and painful irony.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kimberly-waters/rescued-from-rights-misogyny-of-anti-trafficking">Rescued from rights: the misogyny of anti-trafficking</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/barnali-das/rescue-by-force-or-rescue-by-choice">Rescue by ‘force’ or rescue by ‘choice’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/runa-lazzarino/freeloaders-blackmailers-and-lost-souls-rescued-sex-trafficking-survivo">Freeloaders, blackmailers and lost souls: rescued sex trafficking survivors in the hands of the assistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/kimberly-walters-neil-howard/interview-forced-rescue-and-humanitarian-trafficking">Interview: forced rescue and humanitarian trafficking</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/using-intersectional-approach-to-raid-and-rescue">Using an intersectional approach to raid and rescue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/vibhuti-ramachandran/critical-reflections-on-raid-and-rescue-operations-in-new-delhi">Critical reflections on raid and rescue operations in New Delhi</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Nicolas Lainez Wed, 29 Nov 2017 14:23:49 +0000 Nicolas Lainez 114889 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nicolas Lainez https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/nicolas-lainez <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nicolas Lainez </div> </div> </div> <p>Nicolas Lainez is a Research Associate at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research on Social Issues in France.</p> Nicolas Lainez Sat, 25 Nov 2017 03:28:51 +0000 Nicolas Lainez 114890 at https://www.opendemocracy.net