More than a third of all children and youth who have migrated for work say they’ve experienced at least one of the following: excessive working hours, debt used as a form of control by their employer, withholding of wages, physical or mental abuse, or dangerous working conditions.
This disturbing figure was revealed in a recent study by World Vision.
In Laos, Child Rescue supporters are helping to make a real difference to this serious problem through World Vision’s End Trafficking In Persons (ETIP) project. It runs Child-Youth Clubs to help young people learn about safe migration practices, their basic human rights and protect themselves from human trafficking. Now operating in 20 villages, the clubs have 325 volunteers, and hold one session a week over eight months.
“We cannot stop children and young people from going to work in nearby countries. So it is necessary to build up their life skills so they are better equipped to protect themselves against the risks involved,” says ETIP Project Coordinator, Soutthasa Bouthady.
“Safe migration means that people intending to work in another country know how to identify the risks before making a decision, prepare themselves properly and obtain correct travel documents. For migrant workers it is important that they have a contract with an employer and also a work permit,” she says.
How big a problem is human trafficking in Laos? Many people from poorer communities in Laos seek better opportunities across the border in Thailand. More than 200,000 are currently working illegally in Thailand. This can make them more easily tricked or manipulated into hazardous work out of fear of punishment for not having proper work documentation. Even when travelling legally, migrants without local language, cultural understanding or support networks are more vulnerable to traffickers.
Buavanh, a 14-year-old Laotian schoolgirl says, “Some people tried to persuade me to work in Thailand and said I would be well paid. Before I joined the Child-Youth Club, I didn’t know what human trafficking was. I used to think that it was good that people were helping us to find work so that we can earn some money and help our family.” Buavanh’s aunt and uncle were both tricked into working in Thailand illegally without pay but the police were able to help them return home safely.
Child Rescue donations are also used to help survivors of human trafficking through counselling services, vocational training, and advice on how to set up a small business.