Published on People Move

Trapped in Transit

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In observance of the International Migrants Day, Dec 18

Thousands of people embark on journeys hoping to find a better place to live. Some, the lucky ones, can choose where, how, and when they can realize that dreams. But for other people for whom international migration is the only survival option left, migrating to a new country for better living conditions can be a long, dangerous and life threaten journey. In such circumstances migration can increase vulnerability to exploitation, modern slavery or human trafficking.
During their migration journeys, thousands of irregular migrants face abuse, exploitation, trauma, human trafficking, modern slavery, or may even die en route ( McAuliffe and others). According to a recent report by the ILO and Walk Free Foundation in collaboration with the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM),  in 2016 about 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in force marriage or sexual exploitation. About 17.4 million of modern slaves were international migrants either victims of forced labour (6 million) or sexual exploitation (11.4 million). For the past five years, the report found that 89 million people across the world have experienced some forms of modern slavery for a period of time ranging from a few days to five years. Assuming that 43% of them are international migrants, this implies that about 38.4 million of international migrants may have experienced modern slavery during that period. A survey by IOM in 2016 also found that 71% of migrants who travel from North Africa to Europe have experienced some forms of exploitation and trafficking. Forced labor exploitation happens either in the private sector or in state-own companies and we may have consumed some of the goods and services sold through legitimate commercial channels.
The Chart below shows how migrants who are victims of forced labor exploitation could face various means of coercion by their recruiters or employers, ranging from withholding wages, physical violence, withholding of passport, etc. to keeping drunk or drugged. These figures show clearly how human rights of these victims are flouted.
The diagram lays out some of the recommended policy measure to strengthen these pillars. It is time for Malaysia to aim high.
The above figures show the important role migration and trafficking play in modern slavery.  The past few months have seen a growing concern at the international level for migrants’ safety and rights. The recent tragedies of Sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya, a transit country to Europe is challenging the international community on the need to define rules and laws that should govern migration across the world and protect migrant’s rights as human beings. Amnesty International and the IOM have called on the international community to pay a special attention to the thousands of African migrants trapped in Libya’s jails, subject to exploitation and unhuman treatments.
For the first time in September 2016, during the UN General Assembly, Heads of States discussed migration and refugees issues and recognized the need to adopt a comprehensive approach to human mobility and improved cooperation at the global level. The New York Declaration includes a commitment to adopt a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration by 2018. The global compact is expected to provide platforms and resources that will help improve job prospects at origin countries of migrants, create more legal pathways for migration, regulate international recruiters, and combat smuggling.

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