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Migrants’ poverty and desperation supply fodder for modern-day slavery
Many Rohingya complain that Bangladesh makes it too difficult for them to obtain passports, so they rely on human traffickers when migrating for work.
Their plight begins when they willingly pay traffickers to put them on rickety boats for a perilous journey across the Bay of Bengal to reach Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia.
In the past few years, Thai authorities have been severely criticized for shoving boatloads of emaciated, sunburned Rohingya back to sea, with little food and water, to prevent them from seeking asylum in Thailand.
Rohingya who do land in foreign countries are often caged and eventually repatriated, or trapped in limbo as “stateless” migrants because they have no evidence of citizenship.
Many American and other international companies outsource their products and services in poorer countries where trafficked workers are exploited, but they rely on subcontractors’ shell companies to arrange the grittiest and most dangerous jobs.
That enables the corporations’ U.S. and foreign headquarters to deny direct responsibility or financial liability for any abuses.
“Educating intending migrant workers about labor laws and workplace rights in their own and foreign countries” would help solve trafficking, said the Solidarity Center, which the AFL-CIO created in 1997.
“Creating standardized reporting forms for use in police stations” also would ensure trafficked workers are recognized and given legal aid and other help when they are arrested or rescued, the Washington-based center said.
The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act forbids “involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage and forced labor,” even if the worker “consented [or] participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked.”
The problem of human trafficking often spills into the United States.
On April 19, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed lawsuits charging Global Horizons, a labor contractor based in Beverly Hills, Calif., with recruiting Thai workers and subjecting them to “physical violence,” dilapidated housing, hunger, low salaries and other abuses on farms in Hawaii and Washington state.
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