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Synthesis Report on Cross Border Trafficking in Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, and China

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Action Aid International: Vietnam, 2005.

A study carried out in Southern Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Taiwan (China) by ActionAid International Vietnam (AAV) found that trafficking often occurs within the context of migration. Many women knowingly weigh the risks of migration and still decide to go, but are vulnerable and can be trafficked. “It is important to understand that many women are exercising agency when they decide to migrate and interventions should be developed to support them before their departure and at their destination points so they can assert their rights,” said Phan Van Ngoc, AAV Country Director.

This study was conducted as the first activity under the 3-year sub-regional initiative named “Combating cross border trafficking of Vietnamese women and children” to better understand the situations women face before departure, at their destination points and when they return. The initiative originated from AAV’s analysis that most regional and national interventions in combating human trafficking have focused largely on prevention and reintegration, while lack of on-site interventions at the women’s destination points. The report highlights trafficking being related to six key factors: “push” factors such as poverty and lack of opportunities, women’s agency (capacity to decide), lack of governmental and non-governmental mechanisms to promote safe migration, illegal and criminal mechanisms for migration that cause trafficking, gender inequality as seen through women’s lesser access to education, work, and patriarchal power structures that favour men.

Research in the different countries found that the conditions women face within each country vary greatly. The type of experience they have and the amount of money they are able to earn and remit to their families, greatly determines how they feel about their situation.

In China, Vietnamese women are often deceived into being trafficked after being offered work and are forced into marriage or sex work. Some women have children and choose to remain with their Chinese “husbands” though conditions may be difficult.  Other women are repeatedly sold to different brothels as sex workers and wish to escape.  Many women forced into sex work are brought to detention camps by the Chinese authorities after raids on brothels.  These women cannot be repatriated to Vietnam until they release their identity to the authorities, which many are hesitant to do.

In Cambodia, the research focused on Vietnamese women engaged in sex work. More than half of the women interviewed had been tricked into sex work and many were deceived by friends or family members.  There is a marked difference between women engaged in direct or indirect sex work.  Women engaged in direct sex work have lower levels of freedom and face more abuse and are more likely to want to return home. Women engaged in direct sex work are less likely to want to return home because they can earn higher income than at home.

In Taiwan (China), many women migrate as brides, domestic workers, or caretakers of elderly or children.  Women may enter the country legally as brides or workers, but some are deceived and trafficked into sex work or end up as servile brides.  In Taiwan (China), the level of satisfaction and the level of abuse and exploitation depend on the type of work they do and the channels women used to get to Taiwan (China).  Women who are introduced to their husbands through friends, family or acquaintances tend to be happier with their experience than women who are sent through bride contests or agencies. 

Research carried out in Southern Vietnam found that legal mechanisms are in place for women to migrate, but often the high costs to access them. Many families get into debts as they have to pay for these high transition costs. Thus, making women more vulnerable if they lose their jobs or do not complete their contracts.  The research also found that women are often poorly prepared to migrate since short training courses that are supposed to prepare them with language, culture and practical skills are not adequate. Upon return to their communities the perception of success or failure appears to be linked to how they are received by the community.  If they return without the income expected, sick or needing recovery, it is more difficult for the community to welcome women who are considered “unsuccessful” in their journey abroad.  In addition, when in some cases women return with children born abroad, they encounter barriers to registering their children with Vietnamese nationality. In order to address these issues highlighted in the research, AAV will begin phase II of the project to support women before their departure, at their destination points, and those who choose to return so they can claim their rights. The Phase II will be implemented in Taiwan (China), Cambodia, and Vietnam from October 2006 - October 2008.

Available Downloads

Pdf Synthesis Report (English)

Pdf Synthesis Report (Vietnamese)


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