Story provided by: Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos
In August of 2012, six Philippine nationals arrived in Hong Kong together to take up employment as waitresses, an arrangement that was promised to them by traffickers back home. As is often the case, they were required to pay the equivalent of HKD 10,400 up front for accommodation and living expenses. Upon arrival, they were informed of an additional cost of HKD 10,000 to cover their tickets, hotel rooms, and food. None of the women were able to pay off this unexpected cost, placing them in considerable debt to their traffickers.
The waitressing positions were a sham, and the six women were forced into sex work in order to pay back their debts. Their working conditions were inhumane, requiring them to serve their customers even when ill, and some were forced to sell alcohol as well. The living arrangements were no better, as they were locked up in their rooms and given meager food rations. One woman later expressed that their treatment was below that of animals.
Their dire circumstances prompted them to escape from their Wan Chai boarding house within the first few months of their fraudulent and illegal employment. Fortunately, they were able to find assistance from the Philippines Consulate, and, in December of 2012, two Philippine nationals were arrested in Hong Kong as a result. They were convicted of two counts of Trafficking in Persons and five counts of Aiding and Abetting Illegal Employment, as the six women never received valid employment visas, and they were sentenced to three years in prison.
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
Human trafficking indictors in this case
Common work and living conditions:
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
- Poor Physical Health
Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of indicators in this particular case. Also, the red flags in this case may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more about human trafficking here!
Are you or someone you know being trafficked?
Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
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