Posts Tagged ‘human trafficking’

Secretary Kerry released the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report today.  Coinciding with the release came this story.

‘Sea Slaves’: Forced Labor for Cheap Fish

  • Cambodian migrants hauled in the nets on a fishing boat in the South China Sea. A labor shortage in the Thai fishing industry is primarily filled by using migrants, mostly from Cambodia and Myanmar.
  • The living quarters on the fishing boats are typically cramped and the men sleep for short periods between hours of work.
  • San Oo, 35, was trafficked into Thailand from Myanmar and sold to a fishing boat. He was forced to work at sea for two and a half years.
  • Migrant workers unloaded barrels of fish at the docks in Songkhla. "Motherships" bring the catch to shore so that the trawlers can stay at sea.The crew on the Thai fishing boat included two dozen Cambodian boys, some as young as 15.

SONGKHLA, Thailand — Lang Long’s ordeal began in the back of a truck. After watching his younger siblings go hungry because their family’s rice patch in Cambodia could not provide for everyone, he accepted a trafficker’s offer to travel across the Thai border for a construction job.It was his chance to start over. But when he arrived, Mr. Long was kept for days by armed men in a room near the port at Samut Prakan, more than a dozen miles southeast of Bangkok. He was then herded with six other migrants up a gangway onto a shoddy wooden ship. It was the start of three brutal years in captivity at sea.

“I cried,” said Mr. Long, 30, recounting how he was resold twice between fishing boats. After repeated escape attempts, one captain shackled him by the neck whenever other boats neared.

Mr. Long’s crews trawled primarily for forage fish, which are small and cheaply priced. Much of this catch comes from the waters off Thailand, where Mr. Long was held, and is sold to the United States, typically for canned cat and dog food or feed for poultry, pigs and farm-raised fish that Americans consume.

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The political division at the New York Times has come under scrutiny and criticism in the past several days for faulty and inaccurate reporting about disagreement between the intelligence community and the State Department on classification guidelines.  This particular story, from a different division, seems pretty well documented.

We are accustomed to stories of women, especially young women and girls, being sold or kidnapped and held in sex trade bondage, but we hear precious little about other forms of modern human trafficking and slavery.

Clearly we need to feed our pets and livestock.  We do not need to do so on the backs of unpaid hostages in an unregulated industry.  It remains a mystery to me why some (men), when Hillary Clinton raised this banner,  called it a “soft” issue.  There is nothing soft about slavery.

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Neither do real men steal and sell girls.  Neither do real men laugh about it.

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Beautiful as she is, Hillary Clinton looked grim and distressed this morning at the White House.  She had flown for ten hours from Hawaii, after cutting her planned Pacific trip short, and gone straight to the White House to address the crisis in a place dear to her heart.  As I have mentioned here before,  Haiti was home to me for ten years during which I was happy, acculturated,  and completely embedded with the local population.  Just knowing how much Hillary cares about Haiti, it is written all over her pretty face, comforts me.  But,  of course, neither Hillary nor I,  as distraught as we are about this, are the ones the most in pain.  It is the people of Haiti, a people I love, that are suffering and in need of the help that Hillary is mobilizing.

Rarely, I have taken advantage of the State Department website function “text the Secretary,”  but last night I did because I watched that little girl Bea rescued on CNN.  She’s 13 and does not have parents anymore.  Suddenly the implication of the huge number of children orphaned by the earthquake hit me, and I realized that among all the enormous problems of every stripe that must be addressed to get Haiti on its feet, hiding under a banana leaf looms the threat, for these children, that is Haiti’s dirty little secret.

It is supremely ironic that in the First Black Republic, born of a slave revolt 206 years ago, a covert form of child slavery is practiced more-or-less in the open even in the 21st century.   Peasants (not a slur, in Haiti there is a rural peasant class, “paysannes”) with more children than they can care for routinely farm small children out to other families.   Sometimes godparents are chosen specifically to receive these children once they are four or five and can accomplish some chores.   In some cases,  the children are even installed with blood relatives of better means.  These children might be afforded a year or two of primary school, but the older and stronger they become, the less likely they are to continue in school and they end up stuck at home and working for their keep.  They do laundry by hand, sometimes at the river.  They iron with dangerous  charcoal irons.  The irons shoot sparks.  If you burn it, you pay to replace.   They carry water.  ALL of them carry water. It is hard work   They have no childhood.  They work – hard – and for no compensation.  They are little Haitian versions of Cinderella and Jane Eyre living with her aunt and cousins.  They are called “rests-avecs.”  It means “live with” or “stay with.”

We tend to have a negative concept of orphanges.  There are orphanages in Haiti.  Perhaps, today, we prefer to call them children’s homes.  Some people who run these homes have been interviewed over the past few days, and over the years some have received coverage by American media.  They are kind, happy places.  Some might think that putting a child in an orphanage is cruel when there are families willing to take them in.  In Haiti, I would exercise a great deal of caution placing an orphan of the earthquake in an unrelated, and perhaps even a related family.  There is a danger that an innocent child, who has been through the worst thing any of us have ever seen,  might be assigned, with all good intentions, to a childhood of servitude.  In planning the social-humanitarian steps for the future weeks and months, we need to ensure that these children-at-risk are not subject to further cruelty of fate.

SO!  Last night I texted my dear, beautiful, and distressed  Madame Secretary to remind her that we cannot let that happen.

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