Four months after being trafficked to Thai fishing boats where they were forced to work in exploitative conditions, 54 Cambodian men were, at last, rescued and returned home to Cambodia. Their safe return was the result of strong collaboration, which was led by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the involvement of the Cambodian government and key implementing partners of USAID’s Cambodia Countering Trafficking-in-Persons (CTIP) program, including International Justice Mission (IJM), the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights (CCPCR), Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW) and the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC).
IJM provided technical assistance to the Cambodian anti-trafficking police during their interview of the survivors. In the interviews, the men described long working hours, poor living quarters, meagre and intermittent pay, and confiscation of their official documents. “We are glad to have been a part of bringing these men home and ensuring they are safe,” said IJM Cambodia Field Office Director Peter Williams.
CTIP program implementor Winrock International and partner CCPCR accompanied nine of the men back to their home villages, where they were warmly and joyfully welcomed by their families and local authorities. The immediate needs of the men and their families were assessed, and the program will continue to provide services and support to the survivors to prevent re-trafficking. “Thank you so much to the NGOs and government officers that assisted our family,” said a family member of one of the survivors. “We really could not do it alone,” said Winrock International Protection and Reintegration Specialist Un Vuthy.
“I am so excited to see them come back home” – One repatriated man’s family member.
The program has been working on similar cases since 2011, supporting 313 fishermen through legal aid, repatriation, reintegration support and social services. The program also provided legal aid for the case against Giant Ocean, a recruitment agency that cheated more than 1,000 Cambodians to work in exploitative conditions on fishing boats around the world, and produced a video on the case, Where is the Horizon?,
“I am determined to stop unsafe migration to other countries because the bad experience I had…taught me a lot,” said one of the survivors.