24 minutes | Feb 19th 2019

Becoming a slave: who's vulnerable to being trafficked?

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In Episode 3 of Series 4 Dr Patricia Hynes from the University of Bedfiordshire and Patrick Burland, Senior Project Officer for Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery for the UN Migration Agency (IOM) discuss their research which looks to improve understanding of the causes, determinants and ‘vulnerabilities’ to human trafficking as well as the support needs of people from countries who have experienced trafficking into the UK. 

0.00 – 2.32 The episode begins with a short clip of Kieran Guilbert of the Thomson Reuters Foundation who spoke to the Rights Track about a forthcoming project profiling the lived experiences of people who have been trafficked. Kieran begins by referencing contemporary examples of stories from survivors of slavery. His view is that while we know a great deal about trafficking we know little of how victims are helped to recover.

He speaks of a multi-media project featuring the survivors of slavery which takes as its starting point the idea that freedom from slavery is not the end of the story but the beginning of a new story which includes healthcare, counselling, education jobs and integration back into society.

 2.33 – 3.07

Todd refers to the clip and asks Patricia Hynes to comment on Kieran’s suggestion that the conversation about trafficking needs to “move forward”. He then goes on to ask about the model of vulnerability that they have developed.

3.08 – 5.25

Patricia agrees it’s important to look forward, but doesn’t accept that we have full knowledge of what trafficking involves given that:

  • the nature of exploitation is evolving
  • whilst we know a great deal about sexual exploitation, little is known about the trafficking of men and boys from the countries they have studied
  • there are gaps in national statistics on trafficking

 In her view there is a need to focus on:

  • plugging the gaps in our knowledge re trafficking
  • identifying the next step is for survivors
  • finding out more about needs of survivors or how they recover from trafficking

 So look forwards but also look backwards.

 5.26 – 6.05

Todd asks why their research focuses on people from Nigeria, Albania and Vietnam when the largest proportion of survivors listed in the National Referral Mechanism(NRM) are UK nationals.

6.06 – 7.08

In reply Patricia gives the following reasons: 

  • they were in the top 4 countries re: NRM referrals
  • the focus on UK nationals is very much child sexual exploitation whereas they wanted to be able to use the International Organization for Migration’s determinants of migrant vulnerability model
  • for funding purposes the countries had to be ODA eligible countries(the UK is not)

7.09 – 9.27

Todd moves on to ask how survivors can look forward to a positive future.

According to Patrick research conducted in the field indicated a lack of knowledge around trafficking to the UK and what support was given to victims on their return. However, given that it is difficult for the victims to remain in the UK in the longer term, it appears that on their return to their home country they find it difficult to access comprehensive support and assistance programs, leaving them vulnerable to being re-trafficked.

9.28 – 9.37

Todd asks Patrick to explain the IOM model of determinants of vulnerability

9.38 – 12.19

Patrick outlines 4 levels of determinants that affect vulnerability prior to, during and after the migration experience. It seeks to understand what might provide protection and resilience to the individual during the migration journey.

  1. Individual - age gender, education, wealth/income/employment
  2. Household and family - size, household wealth/family background
  3. Community - how protective is the community of individuals, beliefs and practices - found to be a significant factor in placing people in vulnerable situations
  4. Structural - access to safe migration opportunities, governance, rule of law, corruption, the socio-economic situation within the country

12.20 – 12.54

Todd summarises this as looking at vulnerability “from the micro to the macro”. He asks whether established cultural practices lead people into being trafficked unwittingly.

12.55 – 13.53

Patricia agrees and says their research in Albania confirmed this. She talks of a “code of silence” where trafficking is not mentioned.

She points to gender imbalance and the inability of the state to protect individuals as structural aspects of vulnerability and confirms that income inequality is also a major factor in vulnerability.

13.54 – 14.38

Todd refers to an earlier Rights Track episode with Austin Chioi-Fitzpatrick who has conducted research on the perpetrators of slavery and asks whether, during their research, they obtained information on the traffickers themselves.

14.39  - 17.35

Patrick replies that across the 3 countries the profiles of traffickers can be quite different. However they able to investigate the ways in which traffickers are able to recruit their victims and the role of households and communities in influencing the decision to engage with a potential trafficker.

They found that:

  • traffickers often have strong connections directly or through intermediaries to the victim via family or community which develops feelings of trust and security in the individual.
  • these people may have a higher status within the community which can create pressure on an individual to engage in the process
  • the people approaching the individual may or may not be aware of the potential for trafficking to take place 
  • migration involves connecting an individual to a complex and shifting network of contacts and intermediaries, starting within their family and community but ending up elsewhere.

17.36 – 18.43 

Todd moves on to consider the situation in the UK and the proposed Victim Support Bill.He asks two related questions:

  1. What is the status of the victims; will they be returned to their home country or do they have asylum status how many?
  2. Is the Victim Support Bill a welcome development?

18.44 – 20.04

Patricia says she supports the Victim Support Bill although she argues that it represents a beginning

  • She supports the extension of the 45 day reception period which she argues is not long enough
  • She suggests that even a 12 month extension period may not be long enough. Research shows it takes a long time for individuals to feel safe, secure and to be able to talk about their experiences given the extent of the traumas they have experienced.
  • She Infers that the current system in the UK is not as supportive as it might be

20.05 –  21.37 

Patrick refers to research he undertook with representatives from NAPTIP (National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Nigeria)

In all they have only supported 6 victims of trafficking who had returned to Nigeria from the UK. The assumption is that the number is greater given that Nigeria ranks in the top 5 NRM referral countries and this suggests that very few victims returning to Nigeria are able to access assistance and support back in Nigeria.

21.38 – 21.54

Todd asks about plans to share the research findings with policy makers and the wider community attempting to put an end to slavery.

21.55 – 22.28

Patricia explains:

  • The research has generated substantial data set of 170 interviews (58 are of survivors) and there is a wish to disseminate it as widely as possible
  • They are working on the final draft of a report to Parliament due in March; the working title is “Between two Fires”
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