Sunday, September 24, 2017

Preventing Trafficking in Vulnerable Communities

Graduates of a Samaritan's Purse migration education and trafficking awareness training.

Graduates of a Samaritan's Purse migration education and trafficking awareness training.

A training in Myanmar teaches at-risk villages how to avoid being trafficked.

I recently led a training for church members from villages in Kyaukkyi. After I shared the definition of human trafficking, including its three elements (the acts, means, and purpose), one young man stood up and with tears in his eyes said, “I have been trafficked.” He shared his story with us and I met with him after the training. I had noticed that he was very energetic and friendly before the training—no one would have anticipated that he had been trafficked.

I was sad to hear his story as I have recounted here:

My name is Saw Myint,* and I am 25 years old. Five years ago, a job recruiter from a neighboring township came to our village and said we could get a job in Malaysia with good pay. I seriously considered this offer because we had few job opportunities in our village and they paid little. I needed and wanted to earn more money in order to sufficiently support my family. With this in mind, I accepted the job and went with the recruiter to his agency in Yangon.

Naw May Hnin San (right) teaches Burmese how to avoid labor trafficking.

Naw May Hnin San (right) teaches Burmese how to avoid labor trafficking.

The office appeared to be a busy department with staff, and they showed me photos of where I would be working. The work was making furniture (without carrying lumber) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The promised pay was about $6.75 per day. I had to pay about $700 for agency fees, which included the cost of a passport, document fees, and air ticket fees. Including myself, 11 other Myanmar nationals (10 males and two females) also received a visa and work letter to be employed at the furniture factory in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

When we arrived in Malaysia, we realized that our expectations were totally different from reality. Instead of working in Johor Bahru as promised, the 10 of us men were sent to Muar. I am not sure what happened to the two girls. In Muar, we were forced to work on a man-made island constructing a condominium. It is very hot with little shade.

Instead of working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. as promised, we were expected to work overtime or not get paid at all. This means we actually worked until 11 p.m. The company did not provide us drinking water, and we were tired. Our accommodation was a small room where eight people slept on the floor together. The work and accommodation facilities were in the same compound, with only one guarded gate to enter and exit.

By the end of the month, my salary would have equaled about $162. However, they charged us inflated “food fees and accommodation fees” and deducted this from our salaries. We received only $11.30 for one month of work. After four months of this, I could not stand it anymore and decided to escape.

I had little money and could only afford to eat one instant noodle pack every four days. I did this for five months. I didn’t have the money to go back to Myanmar. I felt ashamed. I had no money for my journey home, and the prospect of returning home without anything to show for my work was depressing.

I decided to stay and work in Malaysia. I stayed for four years illegally and did many different kinds of work. During this time, I was put in jail twice and experienced many other difficult times. I was angry at the recruiter and people from the agency who did this to me. I was so angry that I wanted to kill them.

But God never left me. I prayed to God to save me from this situation and to be with me when I was in jail. By the grace of God, I met a nice employer. He paid $450 to bail me out of jail. I worked and saved enough money to purchase a plane ticket home.

Before the Samaritan’s Purse training, I didn’t know that I was trafficked. I realize that I was trafficked for forced labor and labor exploitation. What the agency promised us and what we received were not the same thing—they deceived us.

I wish I had received this training before I went to Malaysia because it would have helped me to be more aware of fake job offers. I will share this training with others in my village so that they can understand what human trafficking is and how to safely migrate.

I really appreciate Samaritan’s Purse for doing this training.

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