The victims’ testimonies included in this report are meant to be representative only and do not include all forms of trafficking that occur. Any of these stories could take place anywhere in the world. They illustrate the many forms of trafficking and the wide variety of places in which they occur. No country is immune. Many of the victims’ names have been changed in this report. Most uncaptioned photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims, but they show the myriad forms of exploitation that define trafficking and the variety of cultures in which trafficking victims are found.
Olga, 23, came to Dubai from Moldova on a visitor visa after hearing about a job opportunity there. A Russian woman and an Indian man picked her up at the airport when she arrived. They took her to their apartment and told her she would instead be prostituted. When she refused, they beat her and threatened to kill her and bury her in the desert. They threatened to harm her if she did not pay them back for her travel expenses, and then sent Olga to a local hotel to meet customers and collect money from them. After two weeks, Olga met another woman from Moldova in the hotel and told her about her condition. The woman advised her to report her situation to the police, who raided the apartment and arrested the suspected traffickers.
Mansur sold family land to pay a Dhaka employment agency that promised him well-paying work in Libya. When he and some 40 other Bangladeshi workers landed at the Tripoli airport, two men from the agency met them and immediately took away their passports. The agents then took the workers to an abandoned warehouse in a suburb of Tripoli and told them to wait there. They threatened to deport the men if they disobeyed. Not able to speak any language other than Bangla, Mansur and the others remained in that warehouse for two months, helpless and nearly starving. When the agents finally took the men to work, they deducted more than half of the promised monthly salaries for food and accommodation. When fighting erupted in Libya in February, Mansur and the group of Bangladeshi workers fled with whatever little money they had managed to save. The men were robbed and joined more than 10,000 other Asian and African migrant workers at a refugee camp near the Tunisia-Libya border, waiting to go home empty handed after years of toil.
Mattalla spent most of his life as a slave. He often watched his owners beat his mother and sisters. When he protested, they beat him too. Matalla’s job was to take care of livestock and make charcoal. His family lived in a small area of the owners’ settlement surrounded by cloth. They were given no food except for the occasional leftovers and often cooked and ate lizards they caught in the desert. Escape in the Sahara would almost always lead to death by hunger or thirst or at the hands of slave owners who would find them. Mattalla was beaten if he lost a camel, if he sat on the same mat as his owners, or if he disobeyed them. When Mattalla met some soldiers on the road, he told them he’d rather be shot dead than return to his owners. The soldiers helped him escape and receive support from a local NGO. His family remained with the owners.
Alissa, 16, met an older man at a convenience store in Dallas and after a few dates accepted his invitation to move in with him. But soon Alissa’s new boyfriend convinced her to be an escort for him, accompanying men on dates and having sex with them for money. He took her to an area known for street prostitution and forced her to hand over all of her earnings. He made Alissa get a tattoo of his nicknames, branding her as his property, and he posted prostitution advertisements with her picture on an Internet site. He rented hotel rooms around Dallas and forced Alissa to have sex with men who responded to the ads. The man, who kept an assault rifle in the closet of his apartment, threatened Alissa and physically assaulted her on multiple occasions. The man later pled guilty to trafficking Alissa.
Karina was 19 when Nestor, an acquaintance from her neighborhood, offered her a job at a restaurant in the capital. Karina thought it was a great opportunity for her to leave her small town and earn her own income. She went to Lima with Nestor and began to work as a waitress in a seafood restaurant. She soon fell in love with Nestor’s friend Edy, who, after gaining Karina’s trust, forced her to have sex with men in various Lima nightclubs. Edy then moved Karina around among nightclubs in various cities, including one in her own home town, for two years. With a friend’s help, Karina managed to escape and returned to her family. Edy continued to call her with threats and demands. He also started threatening the friend who helped Karina escape. Although she has filed a police report against Edy and has the support of a public attorney, Karina continues to live in fear, without any protection for herself or her family.
Maira was 15 when two well-dressed men driving a nice car approached her and two friends in a small Honduran village. They told the girls they were businessmen and offered to take them to the United States to work in a textile factory. Maira thought it was the perfect opportunity to help her single mother, who struggled to support seven children.
But upon arriving in Houston, the girls were held captive, beaten, raped, and forced to work in cantinas that doubled as brothels. Men would come to the cantina and choose a beer and a girl, sometimes as young as 12. They would pay for the beer and sit with the girl while she drank it. If they wanted to have sex with the girl, they would take her to the back and pay cash for a mattress, paper towels, and spermicide. The captors beat the girls daily if they did not make enough money.
After six years, Maira was able to escape the cantina and return to her mother with the help of a kind American family. Her two friends remain missing
Amita came to London from the Middle East as a domestic servant for a family that treated her well and paid her decently. When her employer moved into a high-level job that provided house staff, the family no longer needed Amita. They helped her find work with another family. Amita’s new employers took her passport as soon as she arrived and made her sleep on the floor in the living room to prevent her from stealing things and hiding them in her room. They did not pay her or allow her out of the house, and they threatened to report her to the police as an illegal if she tried to run away. Amita worked in the family’s house from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. After that, she was taken to clean various office buildings until midnight or early morning. One night, the employer’s son and his friends were drunk in the house and attempted to rape Amita. After that, she decided to run away and managed to escape with the help of a security guard.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an armed group that originated in northern Uganda 20 years ago, now operates in the border areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. When the group attacked Josephine’s village, she and her family had too little time to flee. A group of about 80 LRA men surrounded her house. They tied up the family and shot and killed Josephine’s grandfather in front of her. They took Josephine and her three brothers into the bush. After an hour of walking, the men separated the children into pairs. Josephine and her 14-year-old brother Patrick never saw their other two brothers again. Josephine remained on the move with the LRA for eight months, never staying in one place for more than a week. She was forced to carry heavy loads, find food, and cook. She and other girls, some as young as 12, were forced to become LRA “wives.” Josephine was assigned to a boy who had also been kidnapped and forced to be an LRA fighter. She watched as the men forced him to kill another boy by striking him on the back of the head with a machete. Josephine managed to run away one day when she was sent out to look for food. She walked 40 km and found safety in a village in Sudan. Her brother Patrick escaped two months later during a Ugandan army attack on the LRA.
Sabine was 23 when her parents gave her to another family as partial payment for a used car. The family who took Sabine used her as a domestic slave for three years, making her look after their seven children and hiring her out to other men for sex. They burned her with an iron and cigarettes and beat her with iron bars and sticks, took her identity papers and claimed her unemployment benefits for themselves, and chained her up in a squalid shed at night to prevent her from escaping. They threw scraps of food on the ground for her to eat, treating her worse than an animal. When Sabine fell ill, the family dumped her outside a Paris hospital. She had no teeth and weighed less than 84 lbs. Her nose and ears had been mutilated, and she needed corrective surgery. A French court sentenced Sabine’s parents to 30 years in prison, the maximum sentence under French law. Ten other defendants received prison sentences of between 2 and 25 years.
Farshad, 22, signed a contract with an employment agency in Dushanbe that promised him a well-paid construction job in Russia. The agency also promised to provide housing and three meals a day. The agency’s lawyer traveled on the train with Farshad and about 50 other young men, who gave the lawyer money for train tickets, bribes for the customs officials, and migration cards. In four days of travel, the men were given only water. When they arrived in Russia, the lawyer abandoned the group, and the men learned that the agency had not organized any work for them there. Another agency that the men found offered help but then confiscated their passports and sold the men to a local factory director. When the factory director found out some of the workers were planning to escape, he returned their passports only after they agreed to sign statements absolving the firm of any forced labor. Farshad and the others were once again stuck in Russia without work or money to return home.
Maria came to the United States with some 50 other Filipino nationals who were promised housing, transportation, and lucrative jobs at country clubs and hotels under the H2B guest worker program. Like the others, Maria dutifully paid the substantial recruitment fees to come to the United States. But when she arrived, she found that there was no employment secured for her. She did not work for weeks, but the recruiters seized her passport and prohibited her from leaving their house. She and other workers slept side-by-side on the floors of the kitchen, garage, and dining room. They were fed primarily chicken feet and innards. When the workers complained, the recruiters threatened to call the police or immigration services to arrest and deport them. A federal grand jury indicted the two defendants for conspiracy to hold the workers in a condition of forced labor.
For Mylee, a young single mother from the Philippines, employment as a maid for a family in Saudi Arabia was a possible route out of poverty. Her employer was an officer in the Saudi Royal Navy. While his wife was away, he raped Mylee. She was subsequently raped repeatedly but was too scared to run away.
Mylee was given just one piece of bread to eat at meal time. When she fell and cut herself while cleaning, blood gushed from her wound, but her employer refused to take her to the hospital. He told her, “You might as well die.” Mylee wrapped the wound with her own clothes.
After several months, Mylee managed to contact Philippine labor authorities in Saudi Arabia, and they arrived at her residence with local police. While they gathered outside, Mylee’s employer raped her for the fifth time. The police finally rescued her after hearing her screams from outside the house, and they arrested her employer. The criminal investigation is ongoing.
Ravi was among hundreds of workers lured to the United States from India by an oil rig construction company operating in the Gulf Coast. Lacking skilled welders and pipefitters to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005, the company brought Ravi and others from India on H-2B visas, promising them permanent visas and residency. But, the promises were false. Instead, Ravi was forced to live with 23 other men in a small room with no privacy and two toilets. The camp was lined with barbed wire and security guards, so no one on the outside knew Ravi’s whereabouts. The company charged so much for food and a bunk bed that Ravi was unable to send any money home or repay the money he borrowed for his travel expenses to the United States. When the workers began organizing to protest their working conditions, the company began arbitrary firings and private deportations of the protest leaders. Those who remained filed a class action lawsuit and applied for TVPA immigration services.
Samantha was born in Feira de Santana and grew up in poverty and with little education. At 15, she ran away from home to live on the streets after being sexually and physically abused by her father. A woman she met offered Samantha a job as a maid in another city in the state. Samantha accepted, excited by the opportunity to both earn money and move further away from home. But the destination house turned out to be a brothel, and Samantha was forced into prostitution and drug abuse. She was stripped of freedom and overcome by fear and sadness. After cycling through various assistance programs, government agencies, and shelters, Samantha went back to Feira de Santana, where she lives with a partner and his brother and sister. Her partner beats her and she still occasionally has sex with men for money.