The lure of a job. The promise of self-sufficiency.
Met with deception and exploitation.
Long, grueling work hours. Skin bruised from beatings. Coerced into serving abusers. Punished for resisting. Aspiring for freedom.
Slavery hasn’t gone away. In fact, more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery across its many forms. And these victims exist in every country in the world.
You can help them.
The violation of human rights in modern slavery is largely hidden. In this post, we will share with you the facts of modern slavery and let you know how you can help fight human suffering.
We start with a story.
The Modern Slave Narrative of Vannak Prum
Vannak Prum was in need of money to support his pregnant wife. Too poor to pay for his wife’s expected medical bill, Prum left his Cambodian village in search of a job.
A man approached Prum and offered to get him a job on a fishing vessel in Thailand for a few months. Prum was unable to find any work, and so despite his initial suspicion, he travelled with the man to Malai. Prum, along with other men and women from Malai, travelled together across the border into Thailand. The group arrived in Thailand and were sold to work on a fishing vessel.
For four years, Prum was held hostage on the vessel. He was forced to endure long hours and demanding work. The workers were subjected to beatings, torture, starvation, and even beheadings by their traffickers. Prum survived largely in thanks to his skill in tattooing his shipmates, a skill he developed despite never working with art prior to his time on the ship.
One night, Prum decided to escape. The boat was heading towards the Malaysian shore and Prum saw his opportunity. Prum and another man leapt overboard. Clutching emptied fish sauce containers as buoys, they swam to shore.
Prum pleaded with the authorities at a police station to send him back to Cambodia. The officers sold Prum to a palm oil plantation, where he would be kept for four months.
One night on the plantation, Prum intervened in a fight and was slashed by a knife. He was taken to a hospital and was able to use a phone to contact officials in Cambodia.
After being hospitalized, Prum was jailed. Not long after, he was contacted by Manfred Hornung, a man who worked for a Cambodian human rights organization, who wanted to document Prum’s story and help return Prum to Cambodia.
Prum was brought before a judge. Having been coached by the local authorities to lie about his situation, Prum confessed to being an illegal immigrant instead of as a trafficking victim. Prum spent months locked in institutions until he was released in 2010 thanks to efforts by Malaysian and Cambodian human rights NGOs.
After years of slavery, Prum returned to Cambodia and reunited with his family. Prum is currently an anti-trafficking advocate, educating others about the dangers of human trafficking. He has spread awareness to the issue of modern slavery by painting rich illustrations that recalls his experience on the Thai fishing boat.
On June 19th, 2012, Prum was named a Trafficking in Persons Hero by the US Department of State for his advocacy work. In 2018, he released his book, The Dead Eye and The Deep Blue Sea: A Graphic Memoir of Modern Slavery, his tale presented with beautiful and harrrowing illustrations.
The Statistics of Modern Slavery
There are many victims still trapped working on Asian fishing boats. Even more are trapped in the general expanse of the modern slave industry.
As Prum’s experience shows, there is work to be done—by government, organizations, and individuals, to combat the reality of modern slavery.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. Modern slavery refers to practices such as forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking—where victims are held hostage in situations they cannot escape.
Taken from ILO’s page on forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking:
An estimated 40.3 million people (est. 2016) are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage.
1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children
Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector, 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
Source: Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, Geneva, September 2017
How You Can Help
A collaborative effort by individuals, activists, and governments worldwide can force an end to modern slavery and the billions of dollars of profits it generates. Forced labour affects everyone. From the victims it claims to the governments it robs to the safety it denies you.
Do your part to help end modern slavery.
Recognize: Identifying someone who might be in a labor trafficking or exploitation situation
They feel pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave
They owe money to an employer or recruiter and/or not being paid what they are owed
They do not have control of their passport or other identity documents
They are living and working in isolated conditions, cut off from interaction with others or support systems
They appear to be monitored by another person when interacting with others
They are being threatened by their employer with deportation or other harm
They are working in dangerous conditions without proper gear, training, adequate breaks, and other protections
They are living in dangerous, overcrowded or inhumane conditions provided by an employer
Report: If you or someone you know needs help
Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls, texts, emails, and live chats from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages. Call 1-888-373-7888 (TTY:711), Text 233733, Live Chat
The Global Modern Slavery Directory is a publicly-searchable database of over 2,900 organizations and hotlines working on human trafficking and forced labor around the world. Find at: https://www.globalmodernslavery.org/
Take Action: Now that you are aware, help fight modern slavery
Contact your elected representatives about supporting important legislation to combat modern slavery and aid victims
Donate money to organizations fighting human trafficking and exploitation
Call on world leaders to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Protocol on Forced Labour
Volunteer to fight factors that lead to trafficking such as poverty and drug addiction
Human trafficking and exploitation: A global health concern
Troubling freedom: Migration, debt, and modern slavery
Migrants and their Vulnerability to Human Trafficking, Modern Slavery and Forced Labor