Labor trafficking is a type of modern-day slavery or labor exploitation whereby individuals are forced, deceived, or coerced into performing labor. Labor trafficking in the Latin American countries is characterized by events of forced labor, debt bondage, and use of threats, violence, lies, as well as other types of coercion to force individuals to work against their will in many industries (Andrees, 2008). Human trafficking is today a growing social policy challenge in Latin America and Europe, regions containing major sources, transit routes, and destination for trafficked people. Common forms of labor trafficking include scenarios where individuals are forced to work in households as domestic servants under inhumane conditions. At the same time, individual risk factors comprise unemployment, poverty, membership in certain indigenous groups, lack of education, and homelessness (Sakamoto, 2009). Outside factors that contribute to labor trafficking includes a growing demand for domestic servants, factory workers and agricultural workers, and political crises and natural disasters that lead to vulnerability. Another important factor that seems to prevail across Latin America and Europe is the limited economic opportunities for Latin American women. By focusing on these “pull” and “push” factors, this paper compares and contrasts labor trafficking in the Latin American countries and Europe. This paper argues that in both Europe and Latin America, the factors capable of pushing individuals toward acceptance of risky job propositions have been aggravated by “pull” factors like the expectation of economic opportunities overseas or in urban areas
In both Latin America and Europe, victims of labor trafficking are recruited through deception. However, the situation seems to be worse in Latin America than in Europe. In Brazil, for instance, victims of labor trafficking tend to be recruited in particularly vulnerable regions. Usually, the most vulnerable populations are selected, whereby they may be promised good jobs with attractive wages, in addition to free transportation to the places where they are supposed to find work (Sakamoto, 2009). Once they arrive, these vulnerable individuals would find that they were lied to during recruitment. Hence, victims in Brazil would then be told that they already owe a debt to the recruiters for the cost of transportation as well as the food that they were provided with during their transportation. Besides the case with Brazil, this trend seems to be common across Latin America. As Bedoya et al. (2009) established in their multiple-case study that was undertaken in the remote villages of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru, the issue of debt bondage is prevalent as a form of forced labor. In this system, intermediaries or labor contractors tend to recruit agricultural workers through wage advances. The vulnerable workers agree to settle up their advances with their labor or proceeds from their labor. When these workers are finally conveyed to their workplaces, it is typical to find that they had been deceived by the intermediaries, and may later learn that the value of their labor has not been suitably taken into consideration toward the reimbursement of the advance (Sakamoto, 2009). They also tend to be informed that they would be charged for accommodation and the work tools needed for the jobs, such as aprons, boots, clothes, and hats. At the same time, the cost of their food is also taken from their salaries. Those who protest are told to pay their debts first, while those who resist are retained through violence (Sakamoto, 2009).
In both Europe and Latin America, debt obligations are typically used as a means of coercion. One prominent form of the debt obligation is victims’ accommodation and transportation. The accommodations expenses are also factored into part of the costs that would be deducted from these vulnerable workers’ salaries. The accommodations characteristically lack basic hygiene and food provisions. Usually, the cost of food is higher than their normal sale prices. Accordingly, the workers understand that their accommodation expenses are obligations that would have to be cleared and clearing it is seen as a matter of honor (Sakamoto, 2009). In such circumstances, a worker who contemplates leaving would be prevented from doing so on the guise that he or she is indebted to the labor contractor and cannot be discharged on condition that he has first to clear his debt. At the same time, those complaining about their conditions or attempt an escape are beaten or threatened to ensure that workers are continually driven into a state of fear (Sakamoto, 2009). In Europe, the victims usually have to pay the traffickers before being transported to target areas of work. Recent research estimates for labor trafficking in Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, and Sweden showed that it is common for migrant workers to pay exorbitant fees to recruiters, for transportation, accommodation in addition to other “services,” and to be lied to about working conditions. Such employees often end up in situations that expose them to labor exploitation, particularly in sectors that employ low wages, low-skilled, seasonal, precarious workers, and part-time workers (Sakamoto, 2009). In the same way as in the case with Brazil, labor contractors in Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru also use coercion to prevent employees from leaving, as they are usually paid very little or denied any payment in the first “reimbursement period.” This is strategic, as it is intended to ensure that workers are driven into greater debts to purchase their foods in addition to other essential goods at inflated prices from their recruiters. In using this system, workers may often work an entire season without any cash payments (Sakamoto, 2009). As a result, they remain in huge debts that make them remain bonded to their employers for long periods.
A prominent disparity in the pattern of labor trafficking in Europe and Latin American comes about in the victim’s places of origin. The victims in Latin America are mainly indigenous people from within the borders of their countries. Those in Europe come from other countries outside the borders of their origin. When it comes to the issue of labor supply, the high prevalence of poverty undoubtedly leads to the large stockpile of vulnerable workers. A particular feature differentiating Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru from Brazil is the relatively high fraction of indigenous individuals (Bedoya et al., 2009). In all three states, indigenous peoples are caused to undergo a significant level of discrimination in the labor market. Bedoya et al. (2009) provided data indicating that the fraction of earnings inequality between indigenous and non-indigenous individuals that are attributable to discrimination in the labor market is substantially high. The level of discrimination is mainly based on disparities in salaries and conditions of work in rural areas. The case of Europe is different, as it mainly involves immigrants. Labor trafficking in Europe is primarily a European affair. Around 70 percent of the identified victims are EU nationals and may share nationalities, ethnic ties and in rare circumstances kinship links (Bedoya et al., 2009). Austria is considered to be the main transit country, particularly for victims who originate from Central Eastern Europe, while Spain, Italy, and the UK are main entry points for non-EU nationals. Most of the reported victims of sexual exploitation are female European Union nationals originating from Eastern and Central Europe. On the other hand, non-EU nationals who are victims often come from countries like Brazil, Albania, China, Vietnam, and Nigeria (EUROPOL, 2016).
The labor trafficking case scenarios have comparable push and pull factors. For instance, the social and economic situations in countries where these workers originate, also known as push factors, substantially motivate victims and suppressors. The likely victims of labor trafficking in both Europe and Latin America experience unfavorable personal case scenarios such as poor education, high unemployment rates, as well as low standards of living (Sakamoto, 2009). The only difference is that the victims of labor trafficking in Europe may experience significant rates of gender discrimination in their countries’ labor markets, which may drive them out of their countries of origin. Similarly, they may experience significant human rights violations and abuses, particularly in conflict-ridden zones, which may trigger them to flee to safer countries in Europe (Andrees, 2008). Victims of trafficking are always vulnerable individuals. Although each case has its dynamic and specific characteristics, persons targeted by traffickers are usually living in adverse personal circumstances. Unlike in the case of Latin American countries where forced labor happens mainly in agricultural industries and households, it is wider in the context in Europe and involved many industries, including the prostitution sector. Other target sectors include construction, cleaning, restaurant, and the agricultural sector. For instance, labor trafficking of women in Italy is mainly for purposes of sexual exploitation (EUROPOL, 2016).
In both Europe and Latin America, it appears that the factors capable of pushing individuals toward acceptance of risky job propositions have been aggravated by “pull” factors like the expectation of economic opportunities overseas or in urban areas. Accordingly, in both regions, victims of labor trafficking are recruited through coercion. However, the situation seems to be worse in Latin America than in Europe. A prominent form of the debt obligation is victims’ accommodation and transportation. A major disparity in the pattern of labor trafficking in Europe and Latin American comes about in the victim’s places of origin. The victims in Latin America are mainly indigenous people from within the borders of their countries. Those in Europe come from other countries outside the borders of their origin.
In the end, it is concluded that global anti-trafficking measures have only contributed to conflicting developments and there is a need to make consistent advancements in the prosecution policy area, and to show a low level of dedication to victim protection. To criminalize human trafficking, the countries in these two regions should ensure the right to non-punishment of trafficked workers for crimes they commit while being trafficked, or as a result of being trafficked. Accordingly, these countries should adopt legislation that can make sure that people who are victims of labor trafficking are protected from prosecution, detention, and punishment for offenses that relate to them being trafficked. Also, countries in Europe and Latin America that harbor labor trafficking should step up their efforts to approach human trafficking from the viewpoint of immigration policy as well as to make sure that victims’ fundamental human rights are respected. The countries in these two regions should engage National Rapporteur mechanisms to prevent trafficking for labor exploitation. These mainly consist of national human rights institutions intended to develop a specific thematic focus on exploring systemic exploitation patterns and documenting the structural factors fostering exploitation.
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