The victims’ testimonies included in this Report are meant to be illustrative only and do not reflect all forms of trafficking that occur. 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. Many of the victims’ names have been changed in this Report. Most uncaptioned photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims. Still, they illustrate the myriad forms of exploitation that comprise human trafficking and the variety of situations in which trafficking victims are found.
Kieu’s family relied on their local pond for their livelihood. When her father became ill, the nets they used fell into disrepair. Mending them would cost the equivalent of approximately $200 they did not have. Her parents turned to a loan shark whose exorbitant interest rates quickly ballooned their debt to the equivalent of approximately $9,000. “Virgin selling” was a common practice in their community, and Kieu’s mother, after acquiring a “certificate of virginity” from the hospital, sold her to a man at a hotel. Kieu was 12 years old. Upon hearing that she was to be sold again, Kieu fled, making her way to a safe house where she could recover. Kieu is now self-sufficient and hopes to start her own business.
When teenager Melissa ran away from home, she was quickly found by a man who promised her help, but was actually a pimp who intended to sexually exploit her. He used psychological manipulation and coercion to hold her in prostitution, and advertised her using online sites. Refusal to do what he said was met by beatings and threats. Despite her fear of being found and killed if she ran, Melissa one day managed to escape from a hotel room where he was keeping her. A patron at another hotel nearby helped her reach the police, who arrested her trafficker.
Romania – England
Ioana and her boyfriend had been dating for a year when they decided to move to England together. He arranged everything for the move, including housing, and Ioana left her job and family in Romania with excitement for a better life. When she arrived in Manchester, everything changed. Her “boyfriend” and a friend created a profile for Ioana on an adult website and began advertising her for sex, arranging clients, and taking all of her earnings. She was afraid to try to escape, because he had become violent. Now safe, Ioana speaks out about her experience: “I don’t want this to happen to any other girls again.”
Still a teenager, Aanya dropped out of school with the hope of finding work to help her family. Leaving her home in a region rife with poverty, Aanya arrived in the capital and felt lucky to find work in an upscale neighborhood through a domestic worker placement agency. Rather than a good job, Aanya ended up enslaved in a home, locked in, and abused by her employer. For months she endured violent beatings and isolation. Terrified, she worked without pay, forbidden from interacting with—or even calling—anyone she knew. With the help of police and anti-trafficking activists, Aanya escaped, and her case has gone to court. Back home with her family and re-enrolled in school, Aanya is receiving follow-up care.
Oscar’s cousin worked in a bar in the gold mining region of Peru and told him stories of being paid in chunks of gold. Oscar, 16 at the time, left home in hopes of finding similar work. Upon arrival, the mine owner told him that he had to work 90 days to repay the fee his cousin received for recruiting him, and because the owner controlled the river traffic, there were no options for escape. Oscar then realized he had been sold into slavery. Oscar contracted malaria but was refused medical attention and left to die in a hut; the other workers cared for him and fed him out of their own meager rations. Too weak to work in the mines, he was forced to work in the kitchens. After the 90 days were completed, Oscar packed his bags to leave, but the boss told him he was not free because he was only credited for working 30 days. Oscar was not credited with 90 days’ work until he worked for eight months. Upon his return from the Amazon, Oscar was hospitalized for yellow fever. To repay the doctors, he had to borrow money from his family; Oscar believed the only way to repay that debt was to return to work in the jungle.
Philippines – Saudi Arabia
Marie left her home for a job as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia—the opportunity for a fair wage and a safe workplace made the sacrifice of leaving her family and her life in the Philippines seem worth it. In reality, Marie spent her time in Saudi Arabia being sold from employer to employer—11 in all. In the last home where she worked, she was beaten severely. After her stay in the hospital, she was sent home to the Philippines. She has never been paid for her months of work.
Pakistan – United Arab Emirates
Mariam and her 16-year-old daughter Fatima were promised jobs at a beauty salon in the United Arab Emirates. On their flight from Pakistan, a friendly man gave Mariam his number just in case she needed any help while there. Mariam and Fatima were picked up at the airport by an acquaintance of the person who paid for their flights and promised them jobs. She took their passports. Then, instead of going to a salon, the mother and daughter were made to engage in prostitution to pay for their plane tickets. Mariam had to see her daughter cry every time a client left her room. When she could, Mariam called the man from her flight and confided in him; he encouraged her to contact the police. They convinced their captor that they needed to go to the market, but instead found a taxi and went to the police. During the investigation, the police uncovered other victims, also lured with promises of jobs in a beauty salon.
Burma – Thailand
Trusting his recruiters, Myo believed he was leaving his home in Burma to work in a pineapple factory in Thailand. Yet, when he arrived, he was sold to a boat captain for the equivalent of approximately $430. He was held on the boat for 10 months, forced to work, and beaten regularly. On the rare occasion that the boat docked at port, the officers bribed local police to allow them to keep the fishermen on the boat rather than risking them escaping if they were allowed to set foot on shore. Myo was finally able to escape and sought refuge in a temple. He continues to struggle with deafness, having had his head and ear smashed into a block of ice on the fishing boat.
Philippines – Australia
With dreams of successful boxing careers, Czar and three of his friends fell prey to three Australians who helped them procure temporary sports visas and paid for their travel from the Philippines to Sydney. Upon arriving in Australia, the men were already in debt to their captors, who confiscated their passports and forced them into unpaid domestic labor as “houseboys.” Rather than making their way in the boxing industry, they were forced to live in an uninsulated garage with mere table scraps for meals. After three months, Czar finally entered a boxing match, and won the equivalent of approximately $3,500, but the money was taken by his captor. Shortly thereafter, Czar ran away and escaped. One of his friends also escaped, and went to the police. An investigation was opened into their captors on counts of exploitation and human trafficking.
Mexico – United States
Flor Molina was a hard worker and a good seamstress, working two jobs in Mexico to support her three young children. When her sewing teacher told her about a sewing job in the United States, she thought it was a good opportunity. Once they arrived at the border, the woman who arranged their travel took Flor’s identification documents and clothes, “for safekeeping.” She and her teacher were taken to a sewing factory and immediately began working. Beaten and prohibited from leaving the factory, Flor began her days at 4:00 in the morning; she not only worked as a seamstress, but had to clean the factory after the other workers went home. After 40 days, she was allowed to leave to attend church, where she was able to get help. With the help of a local NGO, Flor was able to break free. Now, she is a leader in a U.S. national survivors’ caucus, and advocates for victims’ rights and supply chain transparency.
Ajay was only 15 when he was abducted from a city playground one evening and sold to a rich sugarcane farmer, far from home. Upon waking the next morning—and until he was able to escape about a year later—Ajay endured back-breaking work cleaning livestock pens and processing sugarcane. He was forced to work with little food and less sleep, even after he lost a finger while cutting cane. Escape seemed inconceivable to him and the other children on the farm, until one day his owner sent Ajay to run an errand. Ajay seized the chance to escape and began the long journey home to his family. His family celebrated his return—a year after he was abducted—and while they asked the police to investigate what happened to Ajay, many children continue to be held in forced labor on sugarcane farms and elsewhere.
Needing to support their families, teenagers Dung and Chien dropped out of school and went to work as gold miners. The boys were forced to work underground around the clock, under constant surveillance, and controlled by threats. They were told they would not get paid until they had worked for six months. Racked with untreated malaria and malnourished, Dung and Chien organized an escape attempt with some of the other boys being held in the mines, only to be caught and beaten by the foreman. They were able to finally escape with the help of local villagers, who fed them as they hid from the bosses in the jungle. With the help of a local child support center, the boys are looking forward to being reunited with their families.