Monday, August 25, 2008

Troubling Numbers

From the Inquirer:

By Juan Mercado

August 21, 2008

“A small number of women are occasionally trafficked from China, South Korea and Russia to the Philippines,” the report notes. “Sex tourists came from Northeast Asia, Europe and North America (seeking) minors.” But overall, the Philippines remains a “country of origin.”

Every day about 3,000-plus Filipinos migrate.

And some find themselves trapped in brothels. Many slave under forced labor conditions.

A two-stage “railroad” operates here. From indigent communities in the Visayas and Mindanao, women and children are funneled into Cebu, Manila and other cities. Some end up in whorehouses. Others become abused workers in homes or factories.

The second stage kicks in when Filipinas are peddled abroad as sex workers. They are shipped “primarily to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and countries in the Middle East and Western Europe.”

“Traffickers used land and sea transportation to transfer victims from island provinces to major cities,” the report found. “A growing trend is the use of budget airline carriers to transport victims out of the country. Traffickers used fake travel documents, falsified permits and altered birth certificates.” Traffickers often confiscate passports, identity cards and airline tickets to control a victim. Without these documents, migrants are vulnerable to deportation. “This is legal coercion.”

US federal law now makes it illegal to seize documents to force others to work, the report notes. “Foreign governments are encouraged to criminalize withholding of travel documents.” People-trafficking and people-smuggling often overlap, says the analysis “Drawing Lines In A Dark Place.” This is “an uncomfortable but almost unavoidable part of social reality in areas that adjoin rich countries with a demand for labor.”

Burmese and Cambodians have been hoodwinked by promises of high pay on fishing boats in Thailand and the Andaman Sea. They ended up abused slaves. The bodies of some victims were “dumped as common refuse,” the US report says. “Few environments are more conducive to exploitation than the high seas.”

“A significant number of Filipinos work under conditions of involuntary servitude.” Cases cropped up in Bahrain, Canada, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Côte d’Ivoire, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Palau, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Trafficking through brokered marriages has surged. Brides from Vietnam, Cambodia or Mongolia are picked “through the Internet in the comfort of home,” the report adds. Some Indonesians were prostituted by fake “Taiwanese husbands.” Over 20,000 Vietnamese women married in Taiwan through marriage brokers. International marriages in South Korea now crest at 43,121. “An international marriage market is booming,” studies by Minda Valencia, Myra Ramos and Nimfa Ogena revealed. In 2006, there were 24,905 marriages to foreigners registered, up from 21,100 the previous year. “[Many] Filipina brides head for Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.”

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