Fighting human trafficking in Asia

by Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 5 May 2016 13:15 GMT
Foundation hosted Trust Forum Asia in Singapore, the regional event dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

On April 28, Monique Villa and Kimberley Cole kicked off Trust Forum Asia, the regional event dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

A spin off of the Foundation’s Trust Women Conference, Trust Forum Asia attracted to Singapore more than 200 business and thought leaders: high-impact NGOs, finance and legal professionals together with government representatives.

“Our goal is simple: we want to put the business of slavery out of business,” said Foundation CEO Monique Villa opening the Forum and highlighting how slavery generates $150 billion in yearly profits. “If we want to stand a chance to succeed in the fight against slavery, we need to get businesses on board, and that is why I launched the Stop Slavery Award, and initiative to reward those companies that have gone above and beyond to ensure their revenue is not tainted by forced labour.”

Of the 36 million people currently enslaved across the globe, it is estimated that 60% are or come from the Asia Pacific region. 

“Asia needs a strategy to fight this crime,” said Kimberley Cole, Head of Sales Specialists, Asia, Financial & Risk, Thomson Reuters. "Blocking access to the financial system, using data and looking deep into supply chains is needed to end the exploitation of people for profit”.

Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner; Andrew Goledzinowski, Australia’s Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking; andChristopher De Souza, a member of Singapore’s Parliament and a practising litigator at Lee & Lee provided keynote remarks. Each speaker highlighted the legislative steps taken by their respective countries to fight slavery.

Last November, Singapore passed the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act. The new law punishes traffickers with up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $150,000.

In the UK, the Anti-Slavery Act came into force, which requires for companies with a turnover above £36 million to publically disclose the measures taken to eradicate forced labour from their supply chains.

Trust Forum Asia also gave voice the voiceless, hearing the heart-breaking story of Longdy Chhap, a survivor of human trafficking kept in slavery for over a decade as a child beggar in Thailand.

A dedicated panel explored effective solutions to prevent slavery from entering the supply chain and featured: Sridevi Kalavakolanu, Senior Director, Responsible Sourcing,Walmart; Darian Mcbain, Group Director of Sustainable Development, Thai Union Group; Andy Hall, International Affairs Advisor, Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN); and Jolovan Wham, Executive Director, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics. The panel stressed the need for companies to absorb the recruiting costs for migrant workers as these fees are often the vehicle to trap them in bonded labour.

Through dedicated "Action to Impact" circles, Trust Forum delegates were encouraged to forge tangible commitments to stop human trafficking across the Asia-Pacific region. Monique Villa unveiled plans to launch TrustLaw litigation, an international pro bono service providing free legal representation for the victims of human trafficking and slavery. Scott Stiles, General Manager, Fair Employment Agency (FEA) committed to scale up his company’s fair employment initiatives aimed at domestic workers from Hong Kong to Singapore.

You can read Monique Villa’s opinion piece on the need to enlist business in the fight against slavery and watch her interview on CNA’s First Look Asia.