Modern Slavery: A Collection of Stories

by Michelle Palmer

After my post on Forced Labor and Channon’s post on Sex Trafficking, my own dear dad suggested I write a post with some examples to show what happens and how it happens. I agreed it might be helpful to demonstrate the various ways people are tricked, trapped, and exploited so that we can build a more robust understanding of the forms slavery takes today. I have taken these examples from various anti-slavery organizations. Please consider visiting the links attached to each story for more information and how you can help end slavery.

*Stories marked with an asterisk are excerpts. Follow the link in the title for the full story.

Time for electronics industry to end supply chain slaveryApple-Getting-Rid-of-Potentially-Dangerous-Chemicals-in-the-iPhone-Assembly-Line-Video-AP-455080-2_opt*

“One such story goes like this. In 2011, a Nepali man named Bishal (not his real name) applied for a job with a Malaysian electronics company. He was told he could only be employed if he first paid a $1,266 fee — about double the average annual income in Nepal. Since Bishal didn’t have savings, he borrowed the funds from a moneylender at a monthly interest rate of 5%, using his family land as collateral. After calculating the promised monthly salary, he was confident he would be able to pay back the loan and save money to send home for his family. When he arrived in Malaysia, Bishal was faced with additional fees and realized he’d been deceived about his salary. After purchasing food and transport, he had about $90 left over each month to pay down the loan and send home to his family. This will be Bishal’s reality for the two years that he estimates it will take him to pay off his loan. The debt isn’t the only thing keeping Bishal in Malaysia. He was also forced to surrender his passport to his Malaysian employment manager. He cannot leave. He is a modern-day slave. And he is not alone.”

From CNN via Verite

Restavek Slavery in Haiti: Evelyn’s Story

Evelyn.jpg“Evelyn Benèch was only 10-years-old when her parents sent her from their remote rural community to live with a family in Port-au-Prince. Although an urban family promised to care for her and send her to school, they instead forced her to work nonstop and regularly abused her. Evelyn became trapped in restavèk slavery.

Fortunately for Evelyn, her mother participated in a child rights training sponsored by Beyond Borders. As she learned about the great risks facing children who live apart from their families, Evelyn’s mother decided to do all she could to find and retrieve her daughter. It wasn’t easy, but eventually Evelyn’s mother found her and brought her back home where Evelyn, now 16, goes to school.”

From Beyond Borders

Eric from the Philippines: Trafficked to Palm Plantations in Sabah

“Eric was a 23-year-old farmworker from the Philippines who decided to pursue employment as an Overseas Foreign Worker in Malaysia. Eric’s recruiter offered him a plantation job that paid US$444 per month, including meals and accommodation, with potential for overtime. He was told that his work visa would be given to him at the job site. Upon arrival, Eric’s passport was taken. He was housed with 9-12 workersPalm-oil per bedroom and charged US$10 a week for food, which amounted to almost two days of work. Workers had a quota of 150 fruit bunches a day. If workers didn’t meet the quota, they had to continue working, miss their ride and walk 1.5 hours home through dense and dark thickets. Food and water were inadequate. Eric had to buy canned food on credit and boil rain water for drinking and cooking. Eric never received his work visa. He was not paid at all at the first plantation and left after two weeks for another plantation with even poorer living conditions. When work conditions did not improve at the second plantation, a group of workers objected. In response, the labor contractor had the workers arrested for improper work visas. Eric was taken to a detention center for deportees, where he spent almost ten months. Eric’s total loss was US$2859, and he received no pay during his stay. He was unable to pay off the loan he took to pay the recruiter’s fee.”

From Verite

Grace’s Story*

“As a 10-year-old girl, Grace was abused at the hands of a trusted family member. In her words she says: ‘This abuse changed the way I saw myself in the mirror, and in the way I presented myself to other people. My self-esteem deteriorated, and my relationships with men were completely skewed. As I grew up I fell into a battle with drugs and an eating disorder.’

Her life was spiraling out of control so she decided to make a change and move in an effort to start over. One day, she met a man who befriended her in her new town. He offered her a job providing massage services out of his home. In her vulnerable state, Grace accepted the job, but it wasn’t long before she discovered she had been lied to. Unknowingly, Grace had fallen into the trap of human trafficking.

Held against her will and forced to sleep with multiple men a day, Grace was sold as a sex slave in the middle of one of the wealthiest and  ‘safest’ places in the United States. As time went on, the abuse and conditions became worse and she desperately longed for a way out. Every threat imaginable was thrown at her– threats of violence, withholding of the drugs to which she was now completely addicted, and harm to her family.”

From A21

Brick Kiln Owner Guilty for Trapping 12 People in Bonded Labor Slavery*

“On Friday, justice was served for 12 former bonded labor slaves, as the wealthy brick kiln owner who had once trapped and abused them was found guilty for his crimes.

Back in 2010, this kiln owner had personally recruited impoverished women and men from small villages several hours outside Bangalore. He promised the families good wages to work in his kiln, but instead forced them to labor more than 12 hours a day for only a fraction of their promised pay.

The families were constantly supervised, could never leave the1920_survivors-on-the-day-after-rescue.jpg kiln, and could not even talk to one another as they toiled all day in the hot sun making bricks by hand. If any laborers escaped, the owner and his henchmen tracked them down and dragged them back.

In August 2014, IJM partnered with anti-trafficking police, local police and district officials to conduct a rescue operation at the facility and bring all 12 laborers and their young children to safety.

‘They were so ready to leave,’ remembers IJM’s Esther Daniel. ‘When we walked into the facility, I motioned to two women holding children. They just ran toward us. We could physically feel their desire to be free and out of that horrible situation.'”

From IJM

Eleven Boys and Young Men Freed from a Shoe Factory

“Proactive government officials, police and IJM staff rescued 11 laborers from an urban shoe factory last Wednesday, including three teenage boys and many others who had been trafficked from northern India.

The workers told authorities they had followed the traffickers under the promise of a well-paying job, but instead were heavily controlled and forced to work in harsh conditions.

The men toiled from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week, making women’s high heels. They worked with scalding-hot machinery and breathed harsh chemicals all day. They ate and slept in the same room where they worked. Some had been enslaved this way for up to four years.

One young man later explained, ‘In four years, I was never allowed to visit my home in Bihar, although I requested it many times. I thought of running away, but others who had run away were brought back and beaten with iron rods, tortured with long needles and locked in a room for several days.’

IJM Bangalore discovered the shocking abuse in the factory and alerted local officials. Together, they coordinated the rescue operation that brought these young men to safety and gathered evidence to arrest their abusers. One supervisor is currently in custody, and police are searching for the other alleged traffickers.

After the rescue, government officials granted each of the rescued laborers Release Certificates, which break the false debts and other claims the traffickers used to enslave these men. They also ensured each worker had food and medical care, then arranged for them to travel home to Bihar by train. IJM staff accompanied the men to ensure they returned safely.

The three teenage boys rescued during the operation are under protection with the Child Welfare Committee, who will determine when it is safe for them to go home.”

From IJM

Tricked and Trapped By a Traffickerf6iWfk-P*

“Tina bounced through more than 20 foster homes before being adopted by loving parents at age 12. She was insecure and vulnerable when a guy in his 20s approached her one day as she was heading to a neighborhood store in Chicago. ‘I didn’t know what trafficking was,’ Tina says. ‘I didn’t know what a pimp was. I didn’t know what slavery was. I had no idea.’ The older guy struck up a friendly conversation. He wasn’t threatening. Tina thought she had nothing to fear. The guy began to buy her gifts and drive her to school. He was building up trust, while secretly planning to snatch it away. On her 14th birthday, Tina accepted a ride from the man, but this time he trafficked her to Cleveland, Ohio, where she was raped and trapped as a sex slave. For more than a year, Tina was forced to serve up to 18 men a day. She was beaten and burned with cigarettes if she failed to earn enough money for the trafficker. She was warned that calling for help would be futile.”

From Free the Slaves

Brothers in Slavery*

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 10.16.12 PM.png“Elias Vieira da Silva and Nerisvan da Silva Elias survived day by day. Housed in a dilapidated shack, sleeping on hammocks, pelted by rain. They had no clean drinking water. There was no bathroom. They were responsible for clearing brush and applying pesticides to control weeds in pastures at a cattle ranch— with no personal protective equipment. ‘I once asked for a cape to protect me from the poison,’ Elias recalls. ‘The boss told me to use an old bag, so that’s what I did.’ The brothers were totally dependent on a ranch hand for all their food. When Elias asked for money to buy meat himself, he was told: ‘The poor were born to be poor, and rich to be rich.’ The São Lucas farm is just six miles from the city of Araguaína, but the two could not escape. The farm boss threatened they would never be paid if they tried to leave. Still, Nerisvan was worried about his older brother’s exposure to toxic chemicals.”

From Free the Slaves

For more information….

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