Migrant Workers Face Exploitation, Serious Health Consequences: Report
Aug.1, NY: A new study released by IOM and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine offers new insight into the experiences of migrants in situations of labour exploitation, including trafficked persons, in the commonly under-regulated sectors of textiles, mining and construction.
Labour Exploitation, Trafficking and Migrant Health is based on 71 in-depth interviews with men and women who had worked (or been trafficked) in these sectors in Argentina, Peru and Kazakhstan. The exploratory study documents the harm and health consequences for these migrant workers.
“The research found that people in situations of extreme exploitation (such as labour trafficking) face not only occupational health risks, but also harm due to their terrible living conditions,” says IOM’s Rosilyne Borland, a Buenos Aires-based IOM regional migrant rights and vulnerable group specialist and a co-author of the research.
Those interviewed for the study were commonly recruited by family and community networks, and travelled for work (within their own country or internationally) as part of a general strategy to improve their lives. Most had little or no information about the conditions of the work before they travelled and some were deceived or misled, particularly those who ended up in trafficking situations.
The study also showed that migrants faced gruelling hours, risky conditions, and had to ‘learn on the job’ how to use machinery, chemicals and other dangerous materials. Many were hurt while working and few were able to get medical care.
In jobs where they were paid by the piece (textiles) or by the ounce (gold), migrants reported very high levels of stress, as they worked long hours in an attempt to make more money to support themselves and their families left behind, or to pay off debts. Migrant and trafficked workers had little information about their rights, even in those countries which had laws to protect them from exploitation.
Respondents did not understand the health risks they were facing, and tended to focus on short-term problems, rather than more serious consequences, such as mercury poisoning or tuberculosis.
Most viewed law enforcement or migration officials with suspicion, rather than sources of support. In some cases, migrants had heard about trafficking and were aware risks might exist, but still saw migration for work in these sectors as their best option.
“As you might expect, our study showed that people who were identified as trafficked worked longer hours, experienced more violence, had less freedom of movement, and were more likely to be deceived by recruiters,” says Borland. “But the research also shows that the larger population of migrant workers lived and worked in similar conditions, with similar health risks and consequences, even if not identified as trafficked.”
The study has implications for policy-makers, donors and service providers, and includes concrete recommendations. But perhaps its most important contribution is to share the stories of the people themselves.
“The research gives voice to the experiences of victims of trafficking and migrant workers who have suffered under unthinkable conditions, making their experience visible to those working on these topics,” says Vanesa Vaca, a project assistant at the IOM Regional Office for South America in Buenos Aires and coordinator for the study in Latin America.
Worldwide, people are trafficked into many different kinds of exploitation, including sexual exploitation and forced labour. While the majority of victims identified worldwide continue to be those in sex trafficking, labour exploitation is of growing concern. Since 2010, the majority of the victims of trafficking assisted by the IOM Global Assistance Fund – which has helped more than 70,000 people – have been trafficked into labour exploitation.
The Oslo Times International News Network