Empower Foundation, Thailand: Comments on the USA Trafficking In Persons Report 2013 Global Network of Sex Work Projects
The chronic problem they have with accurate and credible numbers persists e.g. according to the first TIP report 2001 there were 700,000 people trafficked globally but now the same report claims 27 million people are trafficked. . It is not credible academically and not accessible to migrant communities. The report adds no new or useful information to the previous reports.
Thailand has an estimated 4 million migrants from neighboring countries. About 1.5 million have documentation that allows them to live and work in Thailand albeit under stringent conditions. The majority of migrants, over 2.5 million people including migrant sex workers, have no access to such documentation.
Nearly all 4 million migrant workers documented or not, work in substandard conditions in Thailand i.e. paid below the minimum wage, working long hours and working in places that don’t meet occupational health and safety standards. Of these a proportion will be working under duress…in unsafe, unfair conditions they do not dare leave in case they cannot find other work or are arrested. Of those a smaller proportion will be in debt bondage working off an exaggerated debt that is impossible to pay. Of those a smaller proportion still are in situations of forced labor with no freedom of movement whether in domestic work, sex work, agriculture or fisheries. Of those an even smaller proportion again will meet the legal definition of trafficked persons. A similar continuum exists for millions of local Thai workers.
Millions of people in Thailand, including four million migrants (4,000,000) have little or no access to services and routinely have their rights abused – yet the US only pressures Thailand to concern itself with people found to be trafficked (The report says 270 trafficked persons were assisted in Thailand last year). Improving enforcement of safe fair work conditions in all industries would assist all workers including but not limited to people who are trafficked.
Even for those 270 people who were identified as trafficked the strategy of detention and deportation are often experienced as punishment not assistance.
In 2012 -2013 the 107 men who were trafficked were given legal and social support, permission to find work and access to justice in Thailand. The remaining 163 people (children, minors and women) were given partial assistance and kept in detention prior to deportation. The ability to arrange safe return to Burma in particular is questionable. Armed conflict and human rights abuses are still prolific yet ignored by agencies deporting trafficked people. Around 80 minors were removed from the sex industry during raids. However these same raids also resulted in the illegal detention and human rights abuses of around 1,000 migrant sex workers. At least two teenage girls drowned in April 2013 while trying to escape from the government shelter.
For the remaining millions the situation was even bleaker. Whereas just ten people were convicted of trafficking, prosecution of workers was much more popular. Almost 400,000 people from neighboring countries were formally arrested and deported for immigration breaches and some 30,000 sex workers were arrested and charged with prostitution. Some migrant sex workers told of being alternately rescued and arrested for immigration and prostitution offences on separate occasions within the same year.