From fishing to sex work, trafficked people badly abused, major study finds

Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:00pm EST
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By Alex Whiting

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From dog attacks, strangulation and rape, to injured fishermen being thrown overboard and left to drown, trafficked people can suffer extreme violence and severe health problems no matter where they end up working, researchers have found.

In the largest ever study into the health of trafficking victims, researchers interviewed more than 1,100 men, women and children in Southeast Asia who had been trafficked into at least 15 sectors - including factory work, domestic labor, sex work and fishing.

"While we all hear about the horrors of human trafficking, when you get the statistical findings like this, it tells you that these nightmares are not isolated cases or necessarily the worst of the stories that get told," Cathy Zimmerman, one of the researchers, said in an interview.

Most previous studies looked at the health of women trafficked into sex work.

What this study found was that women trafficked for other forms of labor, including factory work, domestic work and as brides, suffered worse mental health problems than those trafficked into sex work.

They were more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and high levels of anxiety, Zimmerman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Men trafficked as fishermen worked for the longest periods, about 19 hours a day seven days a week, spending on average 16 months at sea with no means of escape, Zimmerman said. One man reported being at sea for about 10 years.

Some told researchers they saw captains pushing injured fishermen overboard.   Continued...