Should former trafficked people receive residency in the country they have been trafficked to or should they be returned to their homeland? Were do the fomer trafficked people achieve the best possibility to start a better life?
These were some of the issues raised when the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) held an event on Monday, the 9th of December 2013, that was about the with life after being trafficked.
Isolation from the society
According to both presenters, Denise Brennan and Sine Plambech, the focal point was that it is the isolation which unfortunately characterizes former trafficked people’s lives. Whether they have been identified as trafficked people and have achieved what the U.S. call a T visa, or as it often happens in Denmark, have been deported back to their homeland, the isolation characterizes their lives. The T visa is a visa in the United States that can be granted to people who are identified as trafficked and agree to cooperate with authorities to testify against traffickers.
Without social network
According to Denise Brennan, Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University, there is a big difference between former trafficked people and other groups of illegal immigrants. For example, trafficked people do not have the community that, refugees have based on shared experience. Refugees have experienced war or a natural disaster or some other common experience. Where groups of refugees have a common frame of reference and common identity-building experiences that surroundings are familiar with and understand, former trafficked people’s tragic situation becomes individualized. According to Denise Brennan, this lack of belonging to a group means that former trafficked people do not have access to a social network, which can serve as a foundation for them, to help them on their feet and move forward in their lives. She stressed that what defines their situation, is a lack of access to everything.
According to Denise Brennan, the focus should be extended to the entire group of roughly exploited illegal immigrants, rather than focusing only on the relatively small group that can be defined as trafficked people. She believes that there is a fine line between being an illegal immigrant living in poor conditions and being someone who could be qualified as trafficked. Her point was that there is a need for increased rights for illegal immigrants of all kinds. Without rights, it is all too easy for the abusers of the labor to get away with inhumane working conditions.
Exposed position in the home country
Based on her investigations, Sine Plambech, PhD from DIIS, reported on the isolation Nigerian women experience after being sent back to their home country whether or not they are granted an aid support package that can support them in the beginning of a new life.
One should not expect to find clear cut answers in connection with human trafficking. On one hand, we want to protect trafficked people by, for example, giving them the possibility to obtain a residence permit. We know it is often dangerous for them to go back to their home country because of either their debts to their traffickers, the distinct crime at home, stigma, lack of understanding, and exclusion from the family. On the other hand, studies show that trafficked people who obtain a residence permit often end up at the bottom of society in the country they have been trafficked to.
In HopeNow we know that there are no absolute, universal solutions in the field of human trafficking. Therefore, we always base our work on the individual person’s situation. We have helped many people get back to their home country after being released from the immediate captivity, but in situations where it is too dangerous, we work towards obtaining residency in Denmark for the trafficked person, if (s)he wishes so. However, it is difficult to obtain asylum in Denmark – most often it cannot be legally proven that we are actually sending former trafficked people home to a highly risky environment, even though we know that this is the reality. But in line with Denise Brennan’s studies, we also know that it is not always an advantage to get asylum and therefore, voluntary repatriation is still the best option in some cases. The key to successful repatriation is however that the former trafficked person is offered a tailored and culturally appropriate course of therapy that supports the individual with the return process. A tailored and culturally appropriate course of therapy, which strengthens the individual, is one of HopeNow’s core values. Our experience is that our empowerment process has helped many people after they have returned to their homeland.
The deep trauma as a result of being trafficked does not disappear on its own. A new understanding of oneself and one’s opportunities is vital so that the returnees can make use of the aid that follows with a voluntary repatriation. Therefore, our work at HopeNow is centered around ´empowerment´ of the former trafficked person, to support the ability of individuals to break out of the net and create a new, more independent life.
New documentary about the life after trafficking
Tuesday, the 28th of January 2014, there was a preview of a documentary entitled “Life After Trafficking”, produced by film instructor Anja Dalhoff.
The documentary is about a woman named Joy returning to Nigeria after having been trafficked into prostitution in Europe. Joy was trafficked into prostitution in Denmark in 2006. At the airport, she was caught by the police for possession of a false passport. After 8 months in prison, they deported her back to Nigeria. Joy is filmed again in 2011 and 2012, showing her fight to become an independent woman with support from HopeNow. She starts a small sewing boutique and is a single mother of three children. Despite the massive challenges in Benin City, Joy succeeds in creating a decent life, where she for the first time has control of her own life.
The film will be shown on DR at the beginning of 2015, in connection with the series “Modern Slavery”. Read more at www.danishdoc.dk.