People who get trafficked have only themselves to blame. They should have been more careful.
Statements like this – blaming victims of human trafficking for what has happened to them – are common. Often they are unstated or implied.
Even the more well-intentioned belief that awareness raising is the primary solution to trafficking focuses the responsibility on the victim. Surely if they are ‘aware’ of the possibility of being trafficked, they could take steps to avoid it.
The reality is vastly more complex. Staying safe from human trafficking is not just a matter of having some basic knowledge or being careful.
Something in common
Blue Dragon has rescued close to 1,400 people from human trafficking. We’ve rescued children and adults, males and females, from places of slavery within Vietnam as well as neighbouring countries.
Every person we rescue has their own unique experience of being trafficked. Some have been trafficked into brothels and forced marriages; others into all sorts of forced labour.
And while every story is different, there are some common threads running through them. One very common theme is that people are trafficked when they’re trying to make a better life for themselves.
There’s a cruel irony in that. The “perfect victim” is someone who just wants to find a job and earn a decent living. Instead, they are sold into untold brutality and lose everything.
Mai and Hao
That’s exactly how Mai and Hao were trafficked.
The two young women grew up leading very different lives. Mai, who is 20 years old now, grew up in a pagoda in southern Vietnam with her mother. After 19 years there and having completed her education, Mai set out looking for her first job.
Hao, on the other hand, already had some experience of work. She’s 29 and grew up in northern Vietnam, where she worked in a factory after finishing school. With the global economic downturn, Hao’s factory closed early this year and she went online looking for jobs.
Both Mai and Hao wanted to make something of their lives. They came across job ads promising decent work in a restaurant and they applied.
But instead of finding something better, they were sold into a scam centre in northern Myanmar. Day after day, they were forced to work online tricking people into sending money to their trafficker. When they missed their daily targets, the traffickers beat them.
Violence reigned. Every moment was terrifying.
Thanks to a tip-off about their location, Blue Dragon sent a rescue team to bring Mai and Hao home. After 6 months in slavery, and a weeks-long journey through jungles and across rivers, they reached the border of Vietnam on Sunday. Finally, they are safe.
And their first stop after crossing the border? A hearty meal to begin with, then a visit to the beach on the drive back to the city.
To keep people safe from human trafficking, practical solutions are needed.
Families need support to keep their kids in school. Young adults need access to legitimate job opportunities. And communities need to have resources – facilities, leadership, infrastructure – to help those citizens who most need help to get ahead.
Blaming the victim won’t get us anywhere. Nor will simple responses that overlook the complexity of human needs and the complex economic system that drives this crime.
But there is much that we can do, so that people like Mai and Hao can live their lives in safety – and flourish.
Blue Dragon is on a mission to end human trafficking. If you want to help, please consider getting involved in the September 10 Blue Dragon Walk. Wherever you are, you can walk the distance of your choice; or you can sponsor one of the many people who are taking part in the event. Visit the website here: bluedragonwalk.org