Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

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Slavery in the Home - Domestics


Cameroon to USA

Beatings, Isolation and Fear: The Life of a Slave in the U.S.

Pierre Thomas, Jack Date and Theresa Cook, ABC News, May 21, 2007

[accessed 26 January 2011]

Evelyn Chumbow was once a slave, but not in some distant country. She worked right here in the United States.  Chumbow, now 21, was brought to suburban Maryland in 1996 from her native Cameroon by Theresa Mubang. Mubang promised Chumbow's family that if 11-year-old Evelyn came to America, she would have the prospect of a bright future and a first-rate education, as she had been a top student in her native country.  Instead, after she arrived, Mubang enslaved the child in her home, forcing her to work long hours and depriving her of the education she was promised, and never paid her a dime.




Haiti: Socio-Political Crisis OCHA Situation Report No. 14

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA,  19 Jul 2004

[accessed 13 June 2013]


9. Child domestic workers are perhaps amongst the most exploited sectors in Haiti. A child who stays with and works for another family is called a "restavec" (rester avec), in Creole. According to the Restavec Children Foundation, these children are often given away or sold by poor families in order to survive. Frequently the children's most basic rights to health and education are denied. They are not paid for their work and often abused. For instance, the restavecs have to return to their duties in the house, after having escorted the house owner's children to school. The restavec boys and the girls often flee at the age of 12-13, joining one of the many street gangs or ending up as prostitutes.




Embassies urge greater policing of agencies that traffic migrant workers

Jordan Times, Amman Jordan, January 22, 2001

[accessed 16 February 2011]

Since 1996, the Philippine government limits employment of nationals within Jordan to specific employers; members of the Royal family, senior government employees, members of diplomatic missions and UN personnel.  However, workers circumvent these restrictions by falsifying their travel status and end up working in private homes without regulation or protection.  Because so many choose or are tricked into unregulated work environments, they are subject to abuse and exploitation.




Part 1: Some foreign household workers enslaved

Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY, 11/21/2001

[accessed 17 February 2011]

MEDIAN HOURLY WAGE: $2.14 - But according to a June study on domestic workers by Human Rights Watch, problems persist. A review of more than 40 cases found immigrants on special visas received a median hourly wage of $2.14, which is 42% of the $5.15 federal minimum wage. The median workday was 14 hours.

AMONG RECENT CASES - • Alice Benjo and Mary Chumo, both from Kenya, were "kept as virtual slaves" at the home of their employer, an employee at the Kenyan Embassy in Washington, according to legal documents. They worked for Elizabeth Belsoi, a citizen of Kenya, in the suburb of Bowie, Md. According to a lawsuit filed last year, they generally worked more than 18 hours a day, couldn't use the phone and were unable to freely leave the home.  Belsoi denied the charges through her lawyer, who says she fully complied with the employment agreement. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.




Forced Labor and Debt Bondage

Human Rights Watch Global Report on Women's Human Rights, 1995

[accessed 13 June 2013]

[scroll down]

KUWAIT - Nearly 2,000 women domestic workers every year since the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 have fled the homes of abusive employers. These women are mainly from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and India. They report patterns of rape and physical assault, with debt bondage and illegal confinement being common. Kuwait has long depended on foreign workers to be the backbone on its labor. Unfortunately, Kuwait's law excludes domestic workers from their labor law protections. The maids' exclusion from the labor law creates isolation and denies them even minimal protection against unfair practices. Because of the isolation and the stigma of sexual assault, most domestic workers face many obstacles and are deterred from reporting employer abuse to the authorities.




Seeking Hemalatha - Letter from Lebanon - Sri Lankan domestic missing in Lebanon

Reem Haddad, New Internationalist, Nov, 2002

[accessed 17 August 2012]

'Her name is Hemalatha Mendis,' explained one official. 'We received these photographs this morning. We don't know for sure where she is but we believe she is being held at the agency which brought her to the country.  Hundreds of such agencies have sprung up in Lebanon over the past few years. They bring in women from Sri Lanka, the Philippines or Ethiopia to work as maids and are notorious for abusing the women.

Later that day I met with Hemalatha. Her employer had described her as 'a problem' and had wanted to return her to the agency. This prompted the agency owner to 'take out a big stick and start beating my back, my arms and my legs,' she said. 'I tried to cover my body but I couldn't. I was crying and my head began to throb with pain.  Once finished, the owner turned to the employer and said: 'If you have any more problems with her just bring her to me.'



Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and contemporary slavery

Pat Roush, March 15, 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

American women who have married Saudi nationals and are inside the kingdom along with their female children – some of whom have now reached adult age – are subjected to a situation in which another person or persons have complete control over their lives, with all rights and attributes of "ownership." They were forcibly abducted or kidnapped in clear violation of the laws of other countries and court orders issued by other countries. They were removed from their country to a country beyond the reach of law enforcement and court orders.

These women – which include my adult, American-born daughters – have been hidden away in family compounds for years, deprived of all the choices of basic living, including religion, choice of spouse or age of marriage. They have been denied freedom of movement, freedom of torture, equal rights of women relating to all issues of family rights, the right to education, the right to remedies. Many of them are subjected to wide abuse other than slavery – mental and physical torture, including rape. Their basic human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other instruments of international human rights law are being sacrificed.

They are kept captive with no hope of ever escaping. Some are told that they can leave, but their children must stay. They must choose between freedom and their children – a "Sophie's Choice" no mother should ever have to make. I have met women who have done just that, and others who hunger for the breath of freedom so badly that they are contemplating doing it – such a high price to pay.



Saudi Arabia  -  USA

Saudis Import Slaves to America

Daniel Pipes, New York Sun, June 16, 2005

[accessed 21 December 2010]

It's shocking, especially for a graduate student and owner of a religious bookstore - but not particularly rare. Here are other examples of enslavement, all involving Saudi royals or diplomats living in America.




50 Year Old Anti-Slavery Law Used in Thailand to Combat Human Trafficking, News & Updates, 17 May 2007 -- Adapted from: "Of human bondage: After 50 years, the anti-slavery law is finally being enforced." Bangkok Post. Outlook, 8 May 2007

[accessed 29 December 2010]

[accessed 19 February 2018]

Chand was forced to work from 4am to midnight every day, serving 50-year-old Wipaporn Songmeesap and her family of six. Instructed never to leave the house or contact her parents, fear-stricken Chand was only allowed to eat once or twice a day, unless her boss was angry with her, in which case she went hungry.  When unhappy with her work, Wipaporn would violently beat her with an iron rod or a belt with a metal buckle, said Chand. She was never sent to the doctor, and repeated beatings kept opening old wounds, leading to a severe infection.

The legal efforts to take Chand's employer to court for the crime of slavery began two years ago. In a landmark verdict last month, the Criminal Court sentenced Wipaporn to more than 10 years in jail for abusing Chand as a slave. The mother of four was also ordered to pay Chand 200,000 baht in compensation. Despite an appeal by the defendant, history was made. The country's 51-year-old anti-slavery law had been enforced for the first time, paving the way for future cases to tackle human trafficking and slavery.




Children rescued from trafficking wait with their nightmares to go home

U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Lome, 8 March 2005

[accessed 8 March 2015]

The wisp of a girl sits silently to one side, staring at the scarred tips of her fingers. Probably no more than five years old, Enyonam has just arrived at a center for trafficked children in the Togolese capital, Lome  She doesn't remember the day her parents handed her over to work for her "patron". But she does recall the moment when her new master accused her of stealing eggs and burnt the ends of her fingers with a match as punishment.




Migrant Women in the United Arab Emirates - The case of female domestic workers [PDF]

Rima Sabban, Gender Promotion Programme, International Labour Office Geneva, 2002 (est)

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 12 September 2011]

[page 18]  3.1. GENERAL CONDITIONS - Isolation is a dominant feature of foreign female domestic worker work environment in the United Arab Emirates. Foreign female domestic workers are isolated physically,  psychologically, socially, culturally and in all aspects of human existence. However, they differ in their level of isolation. Some foreign female domestic workers live in an abusive environment of isolation. Others are able to interact socially and break through some of the physical and psychological barriers they face.

Legally, once a foreign female domestic worker enters her employer’s house, she is totally under his/her control, since the employer is usually her visa sponsor. Even today, United Arab Emirates labour laws do not recognize domestics as part of the labour force.  The employer bears total responsibility for his/her domestic workers and has total control over them. However, during the first three months of the contract, both the employer and the employee have the right to contact the recruiting agency in order to report problems or to seek change in the status or employment of the foreign female domestic worker. Most recruiting agencies, however, do not encourage this practice, and often hide information from the foreign female domestic worker about their rights. The immigration regulations governing the status of domestic workers and the social practices towards foreign female domestic worker in the United Arab Emirates enslave them to their employers until the duration of their contract ends. Whether one is placed with a desirable or an undesirable employer is a matter of luck.




Child Labour : Various Forms of Child Labour

UNICEF Report 1997 – The State of World’s children SACCS

[accessed 7 January 2011]

Domestic Service - Children in domestic servitude may well be the most vulnerable and exploited children of all, as well as the most difficult to protect. They are often extremely poorly paid or not paid at all, terms and conditions depend on whims and fancies of their employees and take no account of their legal rights; they are deprived of schooling, play and social activity, and emotional support from friends and family. They are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.

The isolationism makes it difficult to discuss exact numbers. Local surveys have however reflected on the gravity of the problem.

A survey of domestic workers in Uruguay found that 34% had begun working before they were 14.




Sexual Slavery in Southern California Today?  Epidemic, say officials

C.S.I. , February 9, 2004 -- Source:

[accessed 8 January 2011]

She was a teenage girl from an impoverished village in Bangladesh. The American couple offered her transport to America and a better life: a nice job as their nanny and housekeeper, wages and opportunity. The dream offer dissolved into a nightmare as soon as she reached sunny Southern California. The couple informed her she owed them a huge sum for bringing her into the country and forced her to work without wages for years in their home, where she was repeatedly raped and beaten by the husband and abused by the wife. After three failed attempts, and with the help of good Samaritans, she finally escaped.




Child maids now being exported to US

Associated Press AP, Dec-28-2008

[accessed 12  August 2014]

Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family's crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.

Once behind the walls of gated communities like this one, these children never go to school. Unbeknownst to their neighbors, they live as modern-day slaves, just like Shyima, whose story is pieced together through court records, police transcripts and interviews.

Shyima cried when she found out she was going to America in 2000. Her father, a bricklayer, had fallen ill a few years earlier, so her mother found a maid recruiter, signed a contract effectively leasing her daughter to the couple for 10 years and told Shyima to be strong.

She arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Aug. 3, 2000, according to court documents. The family brought her back to their spacious five-bedroom, two-story home, decorated in the style of a Tuscan villa with a fountain of two angels spouting water through a conch. She was told to sleep in the garage.   It had no windows and was neither heated nor air-conditioned. Soon after she arrived, the garage's only light bulb went out. The Ibrahims didn't replace it. From then on, Shyima lived in the dark.   She was told to call them Madame Amal and Hajj Nasser, terms of respect. They called her "shaghala," or servant. Their five children called her "stupid."

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