That question echoed through the minds of the people that joined the advocacy campaign against human trafficking, MTV-EXIT Philippines, had in the Cebu Technological University in Cebu City. Ellen Ramirez, as she introduced herself, was a former overseas foreign worker. She narrated that her story happened 2 years ago when she was enticed to apply for a job in another country in her high hopes to earn big for her loved ones. She said that the processing of her application passed legalities and that she has checked all the necessary background information about the agency that offered her the job and found that it was eligible. Armed with her legal documents and her dreams for a better life, she flew to a country in the middle east, a country where she thought she’d finally see the lighter shade of life, away from the pains of living a hard-up life.
She later learned that all the promises made were really meant to be broken when she found out that what was legibly written on the contract would then be forfeited. She recalled that it was stated in her contract that she will be earning a certain amount of money but when she got there, it was reduced into half. It was not what she expected, but because of her selflessness and her aim to provide the needs of those she cared for that were left home, she decided to continue with the job. Only when she thought that the salary issue was the only matter that she should be concerned with, she was faced with a new dilemma, she is working on a job which she actually didn’t apply for.
It was described in her contract that she will be working as a nanny or one who tends to kids and their needs, but her employer had other plans of their own. She basically became a housemaid who has to do the entire household chores and has no scheduled breaks and rest days away from her duties. Yes, she is indeed a very hard-working and responsible person and should be acknowledged and be rewarded with the perks she deserved, but unfortunately, her employers don’t see her value and see her as someone who is paid to work and work without even considering that she is human after all. Her passport was even seized from her and was kept by her employers to make sure that she doesn’t leave the house. And the list of deception and abuse goes on.
She was asking whether or not she was a victim of human trafficking. She was wondering how it happened to her when in fact the agency that recruited her presented legal documents. And the sad part was she herself couldn’t believe that she was in fact victimized and what she went through is a serious case.
So what exactly is human trafficking and just how big this issue is that we couldn’t just let this matter pass by?
Human trafficking as simply defined is the buying and selling of men, women, and children within countries and across borders for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. It is estimated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that there are more than 20 millions who are victims of human trafficking and over 11 million are coming from the Asia Pacific alone. And it doesn’t stop there, the numbers are growing each year.
The most common form of trafficking is forcing the victim into forced labor, forced sex work and forced domestic work, and it is an industry that makes US $32 billion dollar every year. Now you wouldn’t be wondering why many people are enticed to become a trafficker and prey on its next victim.
What drives human trafficking? If the demand is high, then supplies should be delivered, in this case, the demand should be met. Therefore, if there is a demand for cheap sex, cheap labor, and all the list of things that could only be accomplished illegally, then the industry will forever pose a threat to the world. Poverty could also be a cause why people opt to become the criminal. Human trafficking is a billion dollar industry, and it sound tempting enough to join the bandwagon of illegal recruiting and smuggling of things from drugs to body organs. Poverty is also a common thread that runs through the stories of the victims. They are given the promise of a well paid job and a better life in another place, or another country, most possibly with too-good-to-be-true opportunities and benefits included. They don’t have the idea even in the slightest that the person making that extravagant promises is a trafficker. They always find it out a little too late.
The fact that everyone is vulnerable to being a victim of this crime is alarming. Anyone could become a victim, it could be that stranger who was ahead of you on the line in the toilet cue, it could be a close friend of yours, it could even be a family member or a relative, and the worst that could happen, it could be you. Both male and female, seeking a better life and wanting to escape poverty in their home country are more likely to be tricked and become human trafficking victims.
The Philippines, unfortunately, has also become a huge contributor to this industry. The country served as a transit, where there were reports that syndicates transited victims from mainland China through the Philippines to third country destinations. The Philippines is also destination country for a small number of women who are trafficked from the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, Russia and Eastern Europe for commercial sexual exploitation. But what is more saddening is the internal trafficking going on among Filipinos. Internal trafficking of men, women, and children also remains a significant problem in the Philippines. People are trafficked from rural areas to urban centers including Manila, Cebu, the city of Angeles, and increasingly to cities in Mindanao, as well as within urban areas. .It is a global phenomenon and could be happening in every country there is that exists in the world, and it is happening right now. The only way to help in combating against this modern-day crime is to be aware and be knowledgeable enough. There should be no room for compromises.