Tag Archives: Forced Labor

Well-Made Campaign Seeks to End Hiring Traps

by Amanda Kloer

Well-Made, a new campaign from Verite, focuses on one of the root causes of labor exploitation and slavery: hiring traps aimed at migrant workers. Hiring traps are a common way for people to end up in human trafficking. But human trafficking can be prevented by tracing supply chains back to hiring traps and exploitative hiring practices.

What is a hiring trap? Basically, it’s a situation where a labor recruiter uses some combination of deception and coercion to lure a worker into an exploitative work situation. Hiring traps and deceptive hiring practices are used by recruiters to lure workers into unfair or exploitative labor. Sometimes the job offers involve outright lies, and sometimes just omission of key details (like substandard living conditions). You can read some examples of hiring traps here.

If hiring traps are the problem, the Verite’s Well-Made Campaign has an answer. The initiative focuses on giving companies and investors the tools to trace supply chains back to the labor recruiters who are often behind hiring traps. Addressing these fair hiring issues at their root can help address many of the labor exploitation issues which show up in product supply chains. Migrant workers and contract workers are particularly vulnerable to labor broker abuses. Companies can solve a number of their labor compliance issues by monitoring the practices used to recruit and place workers in their supply chain. Continue reading

Another Sex Trafficking Ring Comes Tumbling Down

by Maia Blume

Success! A small but rapidly growing mom-and-pop shop prostitution ring operating out of the Boston area and New York has been busted. Five people (three in Massachusetts and two in New York) were just arrested on multiple charges relating to forced prostitution and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

The group has been operational for over five years, running brothels out of roughly 11 apartments in the greater Boston area. They would post ads on Craigslist and in newspapers in Massachusetts, New York, and California seeking Asian women to move to Boston to work as escorts (in a few instances, the women were in the country illegally). These traffickers were so aggressive in wanting to expand their business and grow their brothels, that they spent over $13,000 in one seven month period placing ads in just one local newspaper in Boston … who knows how much they spent in total! Once here, the women were picked up from a local bus station, distributed amongst the group’s apartments and forced to have sex for money. If they were not complicit, the ring leaders, Hong Wei, known as Ms. Chen, and Jing Liang Chen, known as Mike, would threaten to harm their families. Continue reading

Buy a North Korean Woman for Less Than a Used Car

by Amanda Kloer

The global recession has affected China like every other country in the world. But despite a dip in the Chinese economy, at least one imported product remains affordable there: North Korean women. In China, a woman can be imported from North Korea for about $1500, less than the price of a decent used car. And the business of trafficking women from North Korea to China is booming.

Korea estimates that anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 people from North Korea are currently living in China. Of those, about 80% are women. And of the women, almost 90% have been trafficked at some point or are currently victims of trafficking. For the most part, these women are trafficked into marriages. The one child policy in China has created a generation where men greatly outnumber women and Chinese wives are hard to come by. So Chinese men who want to get married are forced to look elsewhere. Some try to meet foreign women through legitimate means. But others just buy a wife from North Korea and have her shipped over, like an imported wine. Or rather, a piece of imported meat.

Sex trafficking is also going strong, serving the Chinese men who are looking to get laid rather than married. Sometimes, women are offered jobs in the Chinese tech industry. Those jobs turn out to be stripping for Internet webcasts and/or forced prostitution. North Korean women who are forced into prostitution face even more risks than those forced into marriages, because if caught, they face additional punishments back home.

Both the forced marriages and the sex trafficking are leading to a generation of Chinese-Korean children without a clear home. The children of trafficked women and their husbands or johns often end up not just homeless, but stateless as well. Usually, this happens when the Korean mother is caught in China without proper documentation and deported to North Korea, often to prison or a labor camp where she can’t bring the child. If the Chinese father doesn’t take responsibility for the child, then the kid ends up an orphan which no parent or country able and willing to take care of him or her.

The cross-border trafficking of women from North Korea to China has become an epidemic in the truest sense to the word. It’s spreading farther into both countries than the border region and infecting thousands of women. It’s even affecting a new generation of children, living without a family or a country to call home.

Photo credit: benjamin_mercadier

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Why Are iPad Factory Workers Killing Themselves?

by Amanda Kloer

A growing string of worker suicides and attempts has plagued a Chinese factory operated by Foxconn, the China-based tech company that produces, among other products, the new Apple iPad. In the past month, four employees at a single factory have attempted suicide, and 11 workers have killed themselves since 2007. And perhaps even more telling, all four of the most recent attempts have taken place at the factory. What is happening to these workers that is causing so many to turn to suicide?

The Longhua-based factory where workers are jumping off the roof in growing numbers is huge. It’s actually the single largest assembly base for consumer electronics in the whole world. They employ and house around 300,000 workers on their massive compound. And when I say massive, I mean massive — a Foxconn consultant once turned up at the wrong entrance, and had to drive for 30 minutes to reach the next closest one. Foxconn, the company who runs this and other factories, is famously secretive and one of the least transparent companies in the world. In addition to the iPad, they also make products for some of the world’s leading electronic companies, including Sony, HP, Amazon, Nokia, Motorola, Nintendo, Microsoft, Dell and Cisco. Basically, if you own a computer, phone, iPod, Wii, Kindle, or printer, chances are it came from Longhua.

That means if there is something rotten in the state of Longhua, it’s not just affecting one company or a small percentage of consumers. It’s affecting almost every major electronics producers and millions, if not billions, of consumers who use their products. With such a volume of business at stake, Foxconn has a vested interest in making sure any pesky human rights issues at the factory don’t leak out or interfere with production. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t investigate the suicide of a worker last July, who jumped to her death after an iPhone prototype she was in charge of went missing. And perhaps that is why they’ve either refused to comment on the recent string of suicides, or brushed them off as the result of domestic disputes.

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Chocolate Paves the Path to the Dark Side

by Angela Longerbeam

When the Easter Bunny visits your house this year, will he be complicit with the slave trade? Before delivering treats to more fortunate children, did he hop on over to Africa’s Ivory Coast and make sure trafficked children weren’t harvesting his cocoa? That Easter Bunny. We love him, but he sure is a slacker sometimes. 

News has swirled around for awhile now regarding labor practices in the chocolate supply chain. In spite of signing the Cocoa Protocol back in 2001 and thereby promising to move toward slave-free chocolate production, companies like Hershey seem to be okay with kids farming their cocoa. It is heavy labor in and of itself, unsuitable for children, and made infinitely more exploitative with no pay and a daily serving of abuse. They either support these labor practices directly, or else they support it indirectly, by looking the other way. 

Eating chocolate is bliss, and so, of course, is ignorance. 

The demand for transparency and ethical business practices have surfaced through petitions and organized boycotts. Fair trade chocolate brands are becoming more prevalent and popular all the time. But we, as concerned consumers, only have as much knowledge on the subject as chocolate companies allow -– and no company in its business-sensed mind is going to make itself look bad. 

That’s why a journalist from Denmark, Miki Mistrati, has gone undercover to see what’s really happening on the Ivory Coast’s cocoa farms in a new documentary called The Dark Side of Chocolate.  

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Human Trafficker Gives Rare Video Interview

by Amanda Kloer

If you’ve had an interest in the issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery for any period of time, you probably have wondered, “How can one human being actually enslave another? What’s going through his or her head?” Now, here’s your chance to know. A South African NGO has filmed a former human trafficker who lured girls and women from Thailand to South Africa with the promise of high-paying jobs and then forced them into prostitution. Check out his story in his own words, with more after the jump. Warning: contains graphic descriptions of violence.

This man might not be your stereotypical trafficker, in part because he seems to have had a change of heart about what he was doing, but his descriptions of the trafficking process are incredibly complex. It starts with false promises, includes enforcement of corrupt police and the graphic physical and psychological abuse that goes on. It’s a very brutal reality described in the starkest of terms.

One of the most interesting parts of the interview was that they were able to anticipate law enforcement raids and simply move the girls to another place. Finding human trafficking victims is incredibly difficult for this exact reason. I have to wonder if this ability to detect and then evade inspection by the police is a common phenomenon among traffickers, or if it was this man in particular who was just highly skilled.

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Initial Reports on Human Trafficking at Olympics Clash

by Amanda Kloer

In the months leading up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a number of organizations were giving Canadians a strong warning: human trafficking, and especially child sex trafficking, increases around major sporting events like the Olympics. Organizations working with trafficked women swear up and down that when a big athletic event comes to town, they do more business. Other organizations, often those working with prostitution but not human trafficking issues, have claimed these predictions are baseless fear-mongering. Well, information from the latest Olympics is starting to roll in, and of course, the results are different in the eyes of different groups.

Having only been over for a couple weeks, Vancouver is still recovering from what was a very busy Winter. However, a couple reports regarding prostitution and human trafficking in the area have come out. Local organization Prostitution Alternatives Counseling and Education (P.A.C.E) has said that street level prostitution in the most common areas, whether voluntary or involuntary, was slow throughout the games. They’ve categorically stated that the Olympics caused no bump in human trafficking, which was what they predicted. Another organization, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, claims that trafficking was a reality during the Olympics. They said they served at least five internationally trafficked women and saw at least 100 domestically trafficked women. They also postulated that a lot of the commercial sex was taking place indoors, where no one was looking for it. Continue reading