Asia region Anti-Trafficking conference

Day Two

Building on yesterday’s emphasis on collaboration, today looked at current examples of partnerships and delved more deeply into how specific stakeholders work together to tackle human trafficking across various sectors.

The first session of the morning addressed the fishing industry. It brought together a labour rights perspective, a legal voice and medical opinion to show how the three have joined forces to improve the wellbeing of Thai fishing communities and migrant workers at sea. Sompong Srakae, of Labour Rights Promotion Network and TIP Report Person of the Year 2009, spoke of the progress that has been made in Thailand, particularly in terms of recognising trafficking as a problem, over the past ten years but also noted the challenges and politics still to be overcome in the future. Dornnapha Sukkree, founder of MAST (Multi-stakeholder Initiative for Accountable Supply Chain of Thai Fisheries), talked about the importance of offering legal and medical support to victims when they return from sea. Dr. Katherine Welch of Relentless, built on Dornnapha’s presentation by stressing the need to provide both mental and physical healthcare and support to survivors as they reintegrate into the workplace. Her work model is based on trauma informed care that strives to help survivors without re-terrorising them.

The second session explored how big business and NGOs can work together with the common aim of advancing the rights of workers. Global Sustainability Director of Thai Union, the biggest producer of canned tuna worldwide, Dr. Darian McBain presented on the company’s SeaChange program. The program aims to ensure that the seas are sustainable, that workers are safe, legally employed and empowered, and that fishing vessels are legal and operate responsibly. She spoke of the use of technology to enable workers out at sea to communicate with land and raise the alarm when abuse occurs. Mark Taylor, of the ISSARA Institute, similarly demonstrated the power of technology in empowering and informing migrant workers. The ISSARA Institute has developed an app for Myanmar workers, where they can rate employers, labour brokers, service providers and NGOs, so that potential migrant workers are informed and can migrate safely. ISSARA, as an independent third party, offers support to both workers and businesses through a worker-centric labour monitoring system that allows grievances to be raised and positive feedback to be passed along.

After a coffee break, the next session explored the role of the financial sector in disrupting human trafficking. Speakers from Liberty Asia and Thomas Reuters talked about their collaboration in identifying publicly convicted human traffickers and feeding a database of names through to financial institutions. Due to international money laundering laws and legal requirements on banks to do due diligence on customers, financial institutions can flag inexplicable transactions and through the database link them with publicly identified traffickers. The collaboration views human trafficking as a business activity and aims to shave off the profits involved to make the illicit industry less appealing.

The fourth session of the day explored how trauma recovery and sustainable, decent employment have to go hand-in-hand during the recovery period. Matthew Fairfax, founder of Justice and Soul (a freedom business in Cambodia), talked about restoring dignity and confidence in the work environment without asking about workers’ pasts. For Fairfax, employment is about his employee’s future. Micaela Cronin, CEO of Hagar International, similarly spoke of the need to ensure the whole body is healed, which is individual specific and takes time.

The final session explored the role of law and legal bodies in enforcing, shaping and changing existing regulation to put survivors of human trafficking first. Archana Kotecha made a captivating presentation on the laws surrounding victim compensation. She argued for the need to go after the assets of traffickers; without ceasing their assets, no matter how many survivors are set free, traffickers can just set up business again and the abuse continues with a new set of victims. Archana offered an intriguing proposition: victim compensation should come directly from the seized assets of traffickers. Professor Jennifer Burns brought the day to a close by exploring the difficulties in getting victim compensation, particularly when the exploiters don’t have assets. She startled numerous people by announcing that forced marriage has recently been identified as a growing problem in Australia, which for the first time has become a source country. Despite the difficulties, Prof. Burn has successfully defended many victims in court and received millions of dollars of compensation. For anyone interested in learning more about forced marriage in Australia she urged to check out

It was a day of learning for everyone. We heard from diverse stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking are and how we can come together in support and collaboration around our shared goal.