Human Trafficking: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” (United Nations)

This blog is an online resource created by Boat People SOS (BPSOS), a US-based nonprofit, for exposing human rights abuses inflicted on Vietnamese guest workers and human trafficking victims.

This role in fighting trafficking and mistreatment of workers has a history going back to 2000, when BPSOS played a crucial role in rescuing more than 200 Vietnamese and Chinese held under conditions of involuntary servitude by the American Samoa Daewoosa sweatshop.

Boat People SOS (BPSOS) is a national community-based organization with 15 branches across the US and a mission “to assist Vietnamese refugees and immigrants in their search for a life in liberty and dignity.” Since 1980, one in 10 Vietnamese Americans has received assistance from BPSOS while still in Vietnam, on the high seas, in a refugee camp, or after arriving in the United States. BPSOS provides a web of services to support individuals, families, and communities.

As of October 2008, we are investigating new cases of trafficking in Vietnamese workers. You can find more information about the latest case we’re tackling, that of Polar Twin Advance, in the blog posts.

Until recently, we were focusing on W&D Apparel in Jordan, where 170+ Vietnamese workers, nearly all young women, were striking for the wages and working conditions stipulated in their contract. They were subjected to beatings, 16-hour shifts, and other abusive conditions by W&D, a Taiwanese firm operating in Jordan. The good news is that, thanks to pressure brought to bear through US lawmakers, the Jordanian government, and retailers who bought from the factory in question, the company finally agreed to let the strikers go home. That return, which was a key demand of the strikers, took place in stages over the course of several weeks.

In a matter currently resolved to all side’s satisfaction, in the face of BPSOS criticism of its guest-worker operations in Malaysia, Hong Kong-based clothing manufacturer Esquel on March 19, 2008 pledged to adjust wages, improve training programs, strengthen mechanisms for employees to air grievances, and compensate Vietnamese workers who were repatriated against their will.

In the summer and fall of 2008, Boat People SOS built on past successes by working with NGOs in Malaysia to bring about a just resolution to the bitter labor-management dispute at Polar Twin Advance, an manufacturer of electronic health equipment.  As a result of pressure mounted from within Malaysia and abroad, using diplomatic, political, and economic levers, the Vietnamese workers in that case were granted their wish to return home and received financial assistance to compensate for their hardships.

For more information, call Boat People SOS at (703) 538-2190, or write to thang.nguyen@bpsos.org.

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