Our investigations team was recently informed of Asha*, a female en route to Kuwait for promised employment. Her husband, Sitaram*, was a mason in their village in South Asia, but due to chronic leg pain, he was unable to walk properly and struggled to provide for his family. Their economic situation was dire as they had three small children to feed and educate.
Left with no other options, Sitaram decided to send Asha to Kuwait for foreign employment. Asha’s niece had gone to the same country a few months earlier, and they had received good reports from her. Sitaram was given a contact number for Yash*, a mediator who sent females to the border to pursue employment abroad. Yash, a suspected trafficker, collected the passports of these women and then lured them with the promise of good jobs and high salaries.
Asha met Yash in a nearby city to discuss the job and to obtain the documents she would need for travel. After her documents were processed, she was told that she would not be able to travel to Kuwait from the airport in her country. She was told to return home and await further instructions. A week later, Asha was instructed to travel to a different city, where she would meet five other girls who were also going to Kuwait. She was told that someone would be waiting for her at the bus station when she arrived to meet her and connect her with the other travelers.
When Asha arrived, a person was waiting for her and introduced her to the five other girls. The group of females traveled to another city by bus, where they were told they would meet another person who would take them to a place to rest before proceeding with their journey. An autorickshaw driver was transporting them to their lodging when he answered a phone call and began arguing with the person on the other line. Asha’s concern grew as she listened to the argument, and she began to doubt the legitimacy of her job offer.
She managed to call her husband, Sitaram, and she told him all of her concerns, begging him to help her return to their village. Sitaram shared all of this information with our staff, and the investigations team immediately took action. They interviewed the husband, collected pictures from him, and then began tracking Asha. They reported all of their findings to the local authorities and asked them for their assistance. As a result of their efforts, Asha and the other women were rescued. Asha provided her official statement, and she was informed that she would be contacted for further inquiry as the investigation proceeds.
South Asia: Monitors Intercept Five Minor Boys Traveling for Promised Work
Our staff was monitoring at a busy train station in South Asia when they noticed five boys: Hira* (12), Suresh* (13), Avinash* (14), Rahul* (16), and Birju* (17). The boys had just stepped off a train and were following a handicapped man named Manoj*. After observing the group for a while, our team stopped them for questioning.
Manoj claimed that some of the boys were his cousins while the others were his nephews. According to his statement, they had come to visit him. However, upon further questioning, our staff determined that Manoj was not related to the boys because he was unable to provide any of their parents’ names. Later, the boys and Manoj told our team that they were all from the same village. Since they kept changing their statements, our monitors asked them to accompany them to their booth for further questioning.
After reaching the booth, they separated Manoj from the children and started counseling them. They asked the boys why they had traveled to the city. At first, they lied, claiming they had only come to explore the area. Our staff was determined to uncover the truth, so they continued to counsel the boys, educating them about child trafficking and its consequences. After listening to our team, the boys finally admitted that they were going to work in an illegal jewelry factory in the city. Our staff then asked them to provide further details about their promised jobs, including their working hours, wages, and accommodations. Initially, the boys were hesitant to respond, but our staff reassured them that they were only there to help them and wanted to make sure they would be safe.
The boys said that Manoj had arranged the work for them. He hadn’t mentioned anything about their working hours, but he had promised them monthly salaries of Rs. 3,000 ($37 USD). They further mentioned that it was their first time to travel outside of their hometown, so they were unfamiliar with their surroundings. Our monitors then asked if their parents were aware of their travel and work plans. They said they were aware and had agreed to let them travel to the city to meet with Manoj.
Later, our team contacted the boys’ respective parents and asked about their children's whereabouts. They said they had gone to the city for work. Our staff counseled them about human trafficking and labor exploitation. They informed them that their children were far too young to work and explained that their working conditions would be very hazardous. The parents asked our team to keep their boys safe until they could come pick them up. When they arrived several days later, they thanked our monitors for intervening to keep their sons safe.
Malawi: Minor Boy Seeking Work in Unfamiliar City, Intercepted Prior to Exploitation!
Our monitors recently approached a 15-year-old boy who was sitting alone at the Wenela bus station. During questioning, the boy looked nervous and afraid. He shared that he lived with his grandmother and needed to find work so that he could financially support her. He had traveled from his home in a rural village to look for odd jobs in Wenela. Because he was a minor in a city known for human trafficking, without any resources to stay safe, our staff knew that he was at high risk of being trafficked. Therefore, they intercepted him, educated him about human trafficking and child labor, and then convinced him to return home.
Rwanda: Two 14-Year-Old Girls Traveling for Promised Work, Intercepted
Clementine* and Eugenie* are two 14-year-old girls from a village in Karongi District. Their families were living in poverty, and their parents were unable to meet their basic needs. A neighbor connected the two girls to a broker who promised them good jobs in Kigali. Clementine and Eugenie were excited for the opportunity and eagerly began to prepare for their trip. It was their first time to travel to Kigali, and their broker generously paid for their travel expenses.
When the girls arrived at the bus terminal in Kigali, our monitor noticed them while they were borrowing a phone to call their broker. After interviewing the girls, our monitor also tried calling the broker but was unable to reach him. Our staff educated the girls about human trafficking, provided them with food, and then arranged their safe transportation home. The young girls thanked our team for their assistance and promised to educate their friends about human trafficking.
Uganda: Team Intercepts 17-Year-Old Traveling for Work; Suspect Arrested!
Muyama* is a 17-year-old female who was recently intercepted at Namayiba Bus Terminal. She had been approached by a suspected trafficker named Joseph* who had promised her a job working as a domestic helper in Somalia. She further mentioned that she had been told she would be replacing a girl who had previously run away from the home on suspicions of human sacrifice.
Upon investigation, our staff discovered that “Joseph” uses several different identities. Furthermore, the bus conductors stated that he was notorious for recruiting girls from eastern Uganda on the premise that he would connect them to different job opportunities.
During Joseph’s interview, he stated that he was related to Muyama—a fact that the girl adamantly denied. Faced with several red flags, our team involved the police in the situation. Joseph was arrested and detained at the police station for further investigation. A case of aggravated trafficking in persons was eventually filed against him. Meanwhile, Muyama was intercepted, educated about human trafficking, and then sent back home to be reunited with her parents.
Sierra Leone: Four Teenage Girls Traveling for Promised Work, Intercepted at Border
Four girls ranging in age from 16 to 17 were intercepted by our team at the Guinean border. They were on their way to meet someone in Guinea who had promised them work. The girls were unable to provide any specific details about the promised work, including an address for their destination. Many girls are known to be trafficked in the mining areas as laborers or sex slaves in a particular town called Sigirah, so our team intercepted the teenagers to keep them safe.
South Africa: Monitor Poses As Potential Employee, Uncovers Red Flags, and Redirects Woman
A young South African female was recently profiled on Facebook after she showed interest in a job post seeking apartment cleaners. Our team contacted her, explained their work, and offered to help make sure the job offer was legitimate.
The woman told our team that she was 20 years old and had two young children, a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. She said she was seeking work to provide for her kids and said that she had heard about the job post from a friend. She also mentioned that after she expressed an interest in the job and left her contact information on the Facebook page, she was immediately contacted and interviewed over the phone. Following the brief interview, she was promptly offered the job of cleaning an upscale apartment with a promised salary of R12500 ($720 USD). She was told to come to the mall in Johannesburg as early as 7:30 the next morning to sign the contract and undergo training.
One of our female monitors contacted the recruiter, pretending to be looking for a cleaning job advertised on Facebook. She said she was willing to take anything available because she was desperate for work. The alleged recruiter was not pleased that the monitor had called him with a private number, and he started yelling at her. The monitor apologized and begged for a job, and she mentioned that she had seen a post on Facebook looking for cleaners. The recruiter paused and seemed to be unsure about which job the monitor was referring to. He told her to wait a moment while he checked on something.
When he returned to the phone, he told our monitor that he was hiring young females to clean upscale apartments. He then asked her age, level of education, and place of residence. Our monitor said she was 23 years old, had passed grade 11, and was living in Tembisa with one child. The recruiter immediately told her she was hired and then asked her to come to the mall in Johannesburg to receive training and sign her contract. He said she would be paid a salary of R15000 ($878 USD). He further mentioned that she would be given lunch each day and have access to free transportation to and from her place of employment. He told her to come to the mall as early as 7:30 the next morning because she would be taken to Khayalami for her training.
Our monitor thanked the recruiter and promised to attend the training. Before hanging up the phone, the recruiter asked her to recruit more young females for the job, but he warned her not to tell anyone about it until after she had signed the contract.
Our monitor spent considerable time counseling the young woman who had been pursuing the suspicious cleaning job. She explained all the red flags associated with the promised work and advised her to not attend the training. The young woman thanked our monitor for helping her and promised to stop pursuing the questionable job offer.
Tanzania: 15-Year-Old Girl Traveling for Promised Work, Intercepted
Awisi*, a 15-year-old girl, traveled from her village to Zanzibar for promised work. Her fare was paid for by her employer. When she arrived in Zanzibar, our staff noticed her and stopped her for questioning. When they found out her age and reason for traveling, they immediately intercepted her to keep her safe. They took Awisi to a safe house for temporary lodging until they could arrange her transportation home.
Zambia and South Africa Teams Investigate Recruitment Agency and Intercept Nine Women
This case involved a group of nine women who were preparing to fly to Doha, Qatar, for employment. One of the women contacted our staff in Zambia after receiving an informational pamphlet from Love Justice. She asked if they would check out the recruitment agency that they were using to pursue their foreign employment.
The woman shared that they were being recruited in the hospitality industry and would be away for three months. The organization had paid all their travel expenses including airline tickets, work permits, visas, etc. However, the recruitment agency was trying to avoid paying the required security deposit to the Zambian government through the Ministry of Labor. So far, they had made three unsuccessful attempts to evade payment. This security deposit of $1,000 per person is a prerequisite for any Zambian who is traveling abroad for a job opportunity, and it is used to repatriate someone if they get stranded in a foreign country. Previously, the recruitment agency had evaded paying other security deposits by flying women out of airports in other cities.
After talking to the woman, our monitors in Zambia immediately asked for assistance from our team in South Africa. Together, they launched an investigation and found out that the organization was legitimate. However, our staff found it concerning that the agency was deliberately disobeying government protocols that had been established to protect young women working in the Middle East. Furthermore, they discovered that the organization was making subtle threats against the women.
Our staff made a call to the government labor office to find out if the organization had submitted applications for the security deposits to be waived. The labor office had no knowledge of such an application or even of the organization itself. The labor office immediately contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which contacted the Zambian consulate in Saudi Arabia.
The Anti-Human Trafficking Secretariat was also contacted and spelled out the risk of the females traveling without a security deposit. The secretariat also pointed out that there has been a sudden influx of young girls traveling to Qatar and being recruited in the hospitality industry because of the soccer World Cup being held there. The secretariat warned that if the females were not stopped, they could end up "entertaining visitors” instead of working at a front office. Because of the information our team shared about the women’s flight details, the Department of Immigration did not waste time. Officials forced the women to stop traveling and confiscated their passports until further notice.
We step in during the critical moments between freedom and slavery. Our system of transit monitoring dares to believe that together we can prevent the next victim from being trafficked and that the knowledge gained can—and does—lead to arrests and convictions of those who seek to make people into victims. Visit here to take a closer look at the work we do to stop human trafficking.
*All data and statistics current at the date and time of publishing. Names changed and some specific locations excluded for privacy and security purposes.