The Solidarity Center is using its expertise in securing and protecting worker rights to attack the nightmare of human trafficking head-on — working with unions, businesses, and communities to open migrant workers’ eyes to trafficking traps, encourage them to speak up about their experiences, and help push for better migration policies.
|International Migrants Day, on December 18, honors the day in 1990 when the UN General Assembly passed the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Download this Solidarity Center poster.
In today’s global economy, poverty and unemployment drive men, women, and children to leave their homes in search of work and a better life. More and more workers are on the move—from country to city and from poorer to richer nations all over the world. The International Labor Organization estimates the migrant worker population at 120 million.
Migration and trafficking are points along a labor spectrum. The same factors that push workers to migrate also leave them vulnerable to exploitation. The most egregious worker rights abuse is trafficking — using fraud or coercion to recruit, transport, buy, and sell human beings into a life of sweatshop labor, domestic servitude, or prostitution. At any given time, says the ILO, more than 12 million men, women, and children worldwide are deceived or coerced into forced and bonded labor, involuntary servitude, and sexual slavery. The U.S. Department of State estimates that in 2003, nearly a million persons fell victim to this modern-day form of slavery.
|Photo courtesy of International Organization for Migration
In May 2007 the ITUC established a first-of-its-kind Global Trade Union Alliance against Forced Labor and Trafficking, with support from the ILO Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor. In January 2008, the ITUC and the European Trade Union Confederation hailed the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder said that as part of the Global Trade Union Alliance initiative, the ITUC is encouraging its member organizations in Europe to push their governments to ratify the Convention and to make sure it is fully enforced. "The criminal gangs and the recruiters who organize this trade in human beings must be stopped and punished," said Ryder, "and the factors which make people vulnerable to this exploitation must be dealt with."
Since its founding, the Solidarity Center has worked around the world to eliminate all forms of worker exploitation and to build support for worker rights. Our partnerships with workers, trade unions, governments, and civil society coalitions uniquely position us to create community and workplace-based safe migration and counter-trafficking strategies that emphasize prevention, prosecution, and protection.
|Solidarity Center Counter-Trafficking Strategies
- Educating intending migrant workers about labor laws and workplace rights in their own and foreign countries
- Helping to draft and pass improved anti-trafficking and safe migration legislation
- Training teachers to run school-based awareness programs
- Promoting union-run legal aid, counseling, and information centers
- Researching local, regional, and national trafficking trends and demographics
- Supporting common counter-trafficking initiatives between stakeholders
in sending and receiving countries
- Creating standardized reporting forms for use in police stations
ILO Report: 52 Million Domestic Workers Worldwide.
January 9, 2013—Some 52 million people over age 15—primarily women—labor as domestic workers around the world, according to a report released today by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Of those, 83 percent are women. The vast number of domestic workers, 21.4 million, are in Asia and the Pacific region, with 19.6 million in Latin America, 5.2 million in Africa and 2.1 million in the Middle East.
Human Trafficking Thrives under Worker Exploitation.
November 28, 2012—Human trafficking thrives in an environment of worker exploitation and engenders forced labor, debt bondage and other egregious labor abuse. The most effective way to address this scourge, says Neha Misra, Solidarity Center senior specialist on migration and human trafficking, is by empowering workers to have a voice in their workplace and supporting their right to organize and join unions.
Take Part in World Day for Decent Work Oct. 7.
October 5, 2012—Being employed in “decent work” sounds basic. But for millions of people around the world, it is not a reality. When workers are jobless—or, at the other end of the spectrum, forced to toil under dangerous job conditions or for pay so low they cannot support themselves or their families, decent work is out of reach.
U.S. Steps Up Efforts to Address Human Trafficking.
September 26, 2012—In the Congo, Marie Godet Niyonyota was kidnapped by rebels and turned into a slave. Physically and sexually abused, she bore five children—all of whom perished in a battle. Miraculously, she survived and escaped and with care and support, she began to heal. She learned to read and write and today is home, working toward a new future.
Nicaragua the Third Nation to Adopt Domestic Work Standard.
October 18, 2012—Nicaragua this week became the third country to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on domestic workers. An ILO “convention” sets international labor standards, and the “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” convention addresses issues such as working conditions, wages, benefits and child labor while requiring nations to take measures to making decent work a reality for domestic workers.
Global Activists Gather Against Child Labor in Agriculture.
July 27, 2012—Globally, more than 129 million children are agriculture workers, the majority of them unpaid and involved in hazardous and age-inappropriate jobs, according to the International Labor Organization. Their plight and the path to remove them from exploitive work and return them to childhood was the subject the International Conference on Child Labour in Agriculture, July 28th-30th, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
21 Million People Worldwide Are in Forced Labor: ILO Report.
June 4, 2012—Around the world approximately 20.9 million women, men, and children are trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave, according to a new report by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The figure means that, at any given point in time, around three of every 1,000 people worldwide are suffering in forced labor.
Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi Meets with Burmese Migrant Workers and Solidarity Center Partner Organizations in Thailand.
June 1, 2012—In her first visit outside her home country since 1988, Burmese democracy activist and member of parliament Aung San Suu Kyi visited migrant worker communities in Samut Sakhon Province, where 300,000 of Thailand’s estimated 2.5 million Burmese migrant workers live and work.
Burmese Migrant Workers Double Their Wages after Strike.
May 23, 2012—As workers around the world celebrated International Labor Day at the beginning of May, more than 500 migrant workers on the Thai-Burmese border took collective action to demand that their employer improve wages and working conditions in a garment factory where they were earning less than 25 cents per hour for an 11-hour shift, according to reports. As a result of their two-day strike, the workers succeeded in doubling their wages and winning important gains in workplace conditions.
Thai Jobs Serve as Siren Song.
May 9, 2012—Despite perceptions of a lack of opportunity in Cambodia and better rewards in Thailand, the reality migrant workers face across the border is not always ideal, Dave Welsh, Solidarity Center country program director for Thailand, tells the Phnom Penh Post.
Kuwait and Bahrain Unions Become First in the Gulf to Forge an Official Trade Union Relationship with Nepal.
January 20, 2012—Gulf States are relying on as many as 15 million migrant workers from Asia to grow their economies. As the economies of Kuwait and Bahrain thrive on migrant labor, Nepal’s largest employer is the Gulf States, where families depend on making money overseas.
After Floods Recede, Thai Unions Rally around Migrant Workers.
December 15, 2011—With support from the Solidarity Center, Thai unions are assisting thousands of migrant workers who are grappling with the aftermath of the historic October 2011 floods that swamped 1,500 factories in more than 20 provinces, killed 700, and left hundreds of thousands of workers jobless. On December 18, International Migrants Day, we recognize the efforts, contributions, and rights of migrants worldwide.
Leading U.S. Anti-Slavery Organizations Respond to 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report.
June 30, 2011–The Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), of which the Solidarity Center is a member, welcomes the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, released Monday by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP). Despite advances in the report, ATEST has serious concerns about the U.S. government's commitment to hold Uzbekistan, China, Russia, and India accountable for their policies and actions aimed at addressing human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Specialist Misra Tells How Structural Failures Facilitate Human Trafficking.
May 26, 2011—Earlier this week, Neha Misra, Solidarity Center specialist on migration and trafficking, testified before the U.S. Helsinki Commission about structural failures, exploited by multinational corporations, employers, labor recruiters, and others, that lead to human trafficking and slavery of workers in global supply chains.
Promoting Democracy in the Arab Region Is Also about Defending Migrants.
April 1, 2011—From Libya to Bahrain, migrant workers have been caught hostage in the whirlwind of the popular uprisings in the Arab world. All too often exploited and denied their rights, they are today the direct or indirect victims of the repressive policies imposed in response to the wave of hope for change sweeping the region. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for urgent international solidarity and a long-term response based on migrants’ rights and development aid for their countries of origin.
"Never Work Alone" Says New Report on Forced Labor.
March 16, 2011—Extreme exploitation of migrant workers is a dire trend throughout Europe. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has released Never Work Alone – a guide for trade unions and other civil society organizations to jointly combat modern-day slavery and trafficking of workers. ITUC and Anti-Slavery International have joined forces to combat forced labor in Europe.
Action Against Human Trafficking May Spark Conflict and Progress in 2011.
The Solidarity Center's Neha Misra was one of three participants in a question-and-answer session Thursday, February 3, at law firm Patton Boggs LLP. Misra, Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat human trafficking, and David Abramovitz, director of policy and government relations at Humanity United, addressed a diverse audience of lawyers, human trafficking abolitionists, students, and others.
International Migrants Day 2010.
December 18, 2010, marks the 20th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. On the occasion of International Migrants Day, the Solidarity Center salutes all migrant workers and their families, and we renew our call for greater respect for migrant worker rights in the workplace.
Chinese Efforts Against Human Trafficking. The Solidarity Center's Earl Brown joined an expert panel of analysts and academics who follow human rights in China as they testified on human trafficking, child and forced labor, and prostitution before the Congressional Executive Committee on China, chaired by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-SD).
Report: Immigrant Crab Workers Exploited. In a stinging indictment of our broken immigration system, a new report shows that crab-picking houses on Maryland’s Eastern Shore rely mainly on hundreds of immigrant women workers who are forced to pay excessive and illegal fees to foreign recruiters only to end up in low-paying jobs in isolated rural areas with poor housing. Cross-posted from July 14, 2010, AFL-CIO Now Blog
Solidarity Center CPD Commends Human Trafficking Editorial, Clarifies Definition. Applauding the need expressed in a Bangkok Post editorial to address the core issues of human trafficking, Solidarity Center Country Program Director/Thailand Rudy Porter also points out that forced and bonded labor exists "not only for commercial sexual exploitation, but also in the factories, plantations, boats, and homes where traffickers have forced foreign and Thai workers into slave-like conditions."
Post-Earthquake Support for Exploited Haitian Migrant Workers. While addressing the February 3, 2010, President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons announced that the Solidarity Center would be playing an important role in helping Haitian migrant workers avert exploitative conditions in the wake of the recent earthquake.
Kuwaiti Unions Advocate for Migrant Worker Rights. During the 10 years Muhnadiramla Athula was a housemaid for a family in Kuwait, far from her native South Asian village, she never received a dinar for her labor. Although she finally managed to escape and seek refuge at her embassy, she can’t go home because her employer will not give up her passport.
Human Trafficking Report Applauds Solidarity Center Partners as Anti-Slavery Heroes. The U.S. Department of State’s 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report highlights the work of two longtime Solidarity Center partners: Sompong Sakaew, founder of the Labor Rights Promotion Network (LPN) in Thailand, and Marietta Dias, an Indian retiree and naturalized Bahraini citizen who created the Migrant Workers Protection Society.
Survey Finds Human Trafficking, Debt Bondage Common in Dominican Republic. Haitian migrants who cross the border into the Dominican Republic for jobs in the construction industry are among the country’s most exploited workers, and many feel that union membership is the key path to decent work, according to a new survey developed by workers for workers with Solidarity Center support.
Hotel and Tourism Workers Help Fight Human Trafficking in Kenya. In the coastal city of Mombasa, where tourism is the main industry, the Solidarity Center trained shop stewards from a hotel and service workers union about the danger signs of human trafficking.
Migrant Worker Associations Provide Safety Net for Sri Lankans. Ten years ago, Solidarity Center union partners in Sri Lanka began a process to organize migrant workers and integrate them into a comprehensive economic and social safety net before, during, and after migration.
Migrant Workers Under Attack in Russia. In December 2006, Moscow police investigated the shocking murder of a 20-year-old Tajik migrant worker, whose severed head was found in a dumpster four days after he and a co-worker were stabbed on the way home from their jobs at a suburban food warehouse. The beheading, for which a Russian ultranationalist group has claimed responsibility, is the latest in an escalating series of attacks against migrant workers.
Solidarity Center Partner Co-Sponsors Bike Rally Against Trafficking in Thailand. The Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN), supported by the Solidarity Center, the International Labor Organization, MTV Exit, and a half-dozen other human and worker rights groups, held a three-day bicycle rally in Thailand to raise awareness of the fight against child labor and human trafficking.
Hope for Migrant Workers in Gulf States. The Solidarity Center is part of an effort that brings together union, employer, and government representatives to improve working conditions for migrants in the Gulf States.
Solidarity Center Organizes Groundbreaking Migrant Worker Rights Panel at ILO Meeting. A groundbreaking panel discussion on migrant worker issues, co-hosted by the Solidarity Center and the International Trade Union Confederation on June 13, 2007, during the International Labor Conference in Geneva, drew a standing-room-only crowd.
Dominican Republic Workers Establish a Network to Prevent Trafficking for Labor Exploitation. The Solidarity Center launched a program aimed at raising Dominican workers' awareness of trafficking and the laws that exist to prevent it. By focusing on the most vulnerable populations, program participants plan to create a counter-trafficking information and education network.
Global Labor Movement Endorses Migrant Worker Rights Action Plan. In December 2006, about 60 trade unionists and representatives of international organizations met in Brussels to lay the groundwork for a concrete action plan to organize migrants, defend and promote their rights, and improve their working conditions. The meeting was coordinated by the International Trade Union Confederation, the global labor organization representing 168 million workers.
Media and Popular Culture Spread Anti-Trafficking Message in Indonesia. With support from the Solidarity Center and its longtime partner the International Catholic Migration Commission, the Farmers Voice Radio Network hosted a three-day Anti-Trafficking Jamboree in Subang, West Java.
A Voice for Migrant Worker in Jordan's Export Factories. With Solidarity Center support, the textile union in Jordan has mobilized teams of Jordanian and Bangladeshi union organizers to work in the two largest QIZs.
Legal Clinic for Burmese Migrant Workers. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrant workers in Thai factories along the Thailand-Burma border are underpaid, overworked, attacked, and murdered. The Solidarity Center and the Thai bar association have opened a legal clinic to help protect these workers’ rights.
Changing the Human Trafficking Law in Sri Lanka. In 2006, The Solidarity Center training Sri Lankan government officials and police officers to implement new anti-trafficking provisions in the national Penal Code.
Empowering Workers and Their Children to Fight Human Trafficking in Indonesia. More than 25,000 Boy and Girl Scouts are learning how to stay safe in a part of Indonesia that is infamous for the cruel practice of human trafficking. The effort, which is supported by the Solidarity Center, is highlighted as an international best practice in the 2006 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report.
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