“I got married at the age of 17. After a week from my marriage, my husband left to Thailand for work, because we were very poor. I have not seen him in many years. People in my village told me, that he certainly has another wife in Thailand already, but I knew that he will come back. What I did not know is that he has been trafficked” – Mrs Touch shared her testimony yesterday during the opening of HUMAN COST, photography exhibition by George Nickels in cooperation with GVC at Mirage, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
HUMAN COST is a selection of photographs and testimonials that were captured by the photographer George Nickels during the course of several visits throughout 2016 whilst accompanying GVC field workers in different locations in Cambodia as part of the European Union funded project. Nickels took part in several Self-Help Groups run by GVC and met with returned migrants and their families.
“The Self-Help Groups, that we run in Cambodia along with our partners: Legal Support for Children and Women and Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center are conducted on monthly basis in remote areas of provinces particularly affected by the migration to Thailand” – said during the opening of the event Enza di Iorio, GVC Country Representative in Cambodia. “These meetings give the returned men and women a rare chance to talk about the migration process they went through, as well as raise an opportunity for potential migrants and migrants’ families to be aware of the risks linked to irregular migration” – she added.
GVC workers have recreated in the exhibition venue one of the Self-Help Groups and explained the complexity of the migration process, different actors involved and difficulties which migrants and their families face. During the meeting Mr Touch and his wife, both portrayed by Nickles, shared their testimony. The couple crossed the border with Thailand several times. Mr Touch was trafficked and enslaved on a fishing boat, Mrs Touch was arrested during an attempt of crossing the border undocumented and remained nine long days and nights in a very small cell. When released, she had no alternative, but to go back to Thailand, otherwise she would had to repay the money to the broker who had smuggled her across the border. Today Mr Touch works with GVC as a Social Ambassador.
“I feel overloaded with sadness”, said one of the participants of the exhibition-Self Help Group. “What can be done by me, by us – the society to change this situation?” – she asked. “We need to spread information about the case like mine”, replied Mr Touch, survivor from an enslavement on a fishing boat. “Let people know what is happening”. “And not only here” – added di Iorio, “we need to spread the information back at our homes in Europe as well. It does not matter if refugees, migrants or workers. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and preservation of basic human rights”.
The exhibition, opened in commemoration of the International Migrants Day will be showing until 29th of December and will finish with a screening of documentary by “Homeward” by Mario Piredda, produced by GVC and Elephant Film.