AWARENESS IS USELESS WITHOUT ACTION
“Masquerade” is part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s campaign, “Don’t Be Fooled”, targeting the scourge of human trafficking for labour purposes.
What would you say if your boss announced she’d like you to start working 16 hour shifts, 7 days a week, sleeping in your office or factory alongside all your unshowered colleagues, eating just enough to get by, and all without pay? And, you can forget about your healthcare and holiday leave.
Sounds ridiculous right? Who would agree to that? Nobody! And yet this is the life of many who are being used as forced labour (slaves) for a wide range of purposes and in many different industries.
People are forced into these situations in various ways. But one thing remains consistent; they are being exploited for profit, and somebody else is reaping the benefits of their labour.
Forced labour is so widespread today that many of the products you and I buy have potentially been tainted with it somewhere along the production line. I find this appalling. I don’t want to buy clothing that has been sewn together by someone who is forced to sit for 14 hours a day, I don’t want to drink coffee that was harvested on the backs of fathers torn away from their hungry children, and I don’t want to pay for jewellery that was pieced together by the blistered hands of young women who are denied food and beaten if they don’t work quick enough.
Although it can be found in almost any industry, forced labour is used heavily in agriculture, manufacturing, apparel, mining, hospitality, construction and fishing. Oftentimes the workers are migrants who don’t know the language and therefore have little chance of escape. Many slaves are in a debt bondage situation, slaving to ‘pay off’ a debt, potentially from borrowing a small amount of money for a necessity such as a medical bill. Some children are born into a debt bondage situation, and are promised as ‘payment’ as soon as they are able to be of use. There is also the case of domestic servitude, which occurs all over the world in the privacy of people’s homes. These victims have been tricked into thinking they are entering the paid role of Nanny or Housekeeper, only to discover they are being held captive as ‘domestic slaves’ in abusive conditions without pay.
There are many ways to combat this, and getting informed is the first step.