18th of October marks European Union Anti Trafficking Day against Trafficking in Human Beings, a day to remind of work of all of those who do not cease in efforts to prevent people from being bought, sold and exploited like commodities. Work of those who on daily basis meet with the local communities and warn them about exploitation cases, raising awareness and preventing atrocities from happening. Work of people like Mr Ang. This is his story.
Mr Ang Oy from Kampong Cham province experienced abuse from fraud recruitment agencies many times. He has been stolen money of, exploited by his employer, taken his passport away and cheated on several occasions while looking for job opportunities in Thailand. He withheld from reporting his experience to the authorities, being unaware of the process until he joined a meeting on migration within Migra Action project run by Gruppo di Volontariatio Civile (GVC) co funded by the European Union. Today Mr Ang works as a Social Ambassador of the project, shares his story with the villagers and informs them on the migrant workers’ rights, preventing them from falling into a trap of exploitation and abuse. Just recently, he warned his compatriots from registering with a fraud recruitment company. At the end of June villagers from Mr Ang hometown were approached by a broker from Fruit Picking Australia Company, advertising them jobs in Hong Kong with a salary up to 1,000 US dollars per month in a shoe factory.
The villagers shared this news within Self Help Group, a village meeting on migration, and with Mr Ang. It turned out that the company was not registered nor accredited by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, therefore was not licensed to run any recruitment process. In Cambodia the recruitment of workers to an abroad job runs only through officially registered agencies and jobs are offered only to the countries with a signed memorandum of understanding. Cambodia has up to now no agreement with Hong Kong about recruitment of workers into a garment sector.
"Luckily, we heard about the story and we could protect and prevent people from registering with the company", says Linda from Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), a non-governmental organization which co-operates with GVC and organizes the migration meetings in Kampong Cham province-. If there was no Self Help Group of Migra Action or no Social Ambassador was present, many people would have registered with this fraud company". Linda from LSCW estimates that the company cheated around 200 villagers from Kampot and Takeo provinces offering well-paid jobs, upon registration and payment of the recruitment fee. The future workers, however, have never seen a contract nor been offered any employment: the company disappeared after accepting deposits of approximately 250 US dollars per person.
Linda in now assisting the villagers who register with the company in filing a complaint and follows the case with the police enforcement. "We had reports from other villages that the company has already changed the name and is active in other provinces luring Cambodians for jobs abroad. Everything about this company is fake. They even used a Malaysian stamp on their documents. But many of their victims is illiterate and cannot read the documents". It is very important to continue raising awareness about the migration process and workers’ rights among the communities to prevent situations like this and worse to happen. However prevention of exploitation requires a lot of time and trust from the community. "At first people from Mr Ang village were angry with him and with us about the whole situation. They wanted to go to Hong Kong, they wanted to have a decent job. But when they heard stories from their relatives being cheated in Takeo, they have changed their mind. Now they trust us" she says. “This trust has been built gradually. We have been working with men and women like Ang Oy since 2013” – says Enza Di Iorio Country Representative of GVC in Cambodia and project manager of Migra Action.“With Migra Action we collaborate directly with the former migrants and their families, who share their experience within the community. We believe that through this direct approach we can better reach those who are at risk of trafficking and exploitation, as well as reduce a stigma of those who did not succeed in their migration experience and isolated themselves from the community.” – adds Di Iorio. The programme is a second project of GVC and its partners focusing on rising awareness of potential migrants on the risks of irregular migration and it has been co-funded by the European Union.