Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Shocking Story

By Ayesha Ahmad
September 14, 2008

The UK media has recently covered two instances of human trafficking.

Police Raids

The first story reported a series of raids involving over 50 polices forces across England and Wales. Some 500 people were arrested and almost 200 people including women and children were, as the newspaper reported, “released”.

The next day the story had disappeared from the media despite the enormous scale of the police operation. The operation was conducted to crack down on human trafficking, but the perspective is still that the way to do this is blaming the trafficked rather than the traffickers.

What happened to the men, women and children who were released? One can only assume that they were deported. And upon returning home, there may be no emotional reunion with their family; instead, these people who had already endured so much exploitation and abuse are sometimes and not uncommonly placed straight back into the hands of the traffickers linked to the gang masters in the UK that were imprisoned.

Imprisonment of trafficking victims or even traffickers does not erase the “debt” that will have issued to each trafficked victim. This is a debt that either has to be repaid in money or death. Returning a trafficked victim to their home country is only a continuation of their journey, the journey that they were enticed into with the prospect of providing a “better life” for their family.

Forced Labor

The second story in the media recently reported a shocking murder trial of four men who were part of a trafficking gang in Wales, UK. All four men were found guilty of manslaughter following the death of a Vietnamese man. The report describes how the 44 year old was dumped in a hospital with severe head injuries. A large police operation followed his subsequent death, tracing back to the perpetrators and revealing the following chain of events.

After entering the country illegally via the Ukraine and entering the UK in the back of a lorry, the trafficked man was provided work in an illegal cannabis factory. Two months later he was accused of using the produce and tortured before being left at the hospital entrance.

The focus of the police operation concentrated on prosecuting those responsible for the man’s death, yet no charges were made against them for trafficking. In fact, the issue of trafficking was entirely bypassed except for mentioning the illegality of the victim in the country.

Again, the traffickers are not viewed as responsible for trafficking people, which brings attention to an apparent
societal lack of comprehension of the vulnerability rendered by poverty and war that allows traffickers to deceive or coerce their victims. The first step in changing the opinion of society, including that of the media and how the media portrays human trafficking, must stem from distinguishing between the traffickers and the trafficked in terms of vulnerability and violation.

In the above two examples, both parties were viewed as criminals. This approach has got to change.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:42 AM

    These harrowing stories highlight the misunderstanding of trafficking by everyone - public and politicians.

    Politicians focus more on criminalising the bits we can see, e.g. in combating sex trafficking they think the answer is to criminalise the men who use prostitutes. All of a sudden the issue becomes one of "the moral case against prostitution" and the public loses interest. The issue of the "oldest profession" becomes the headline and the trafficked and traffickers fade back into the shadows and the horrors continue.