Migrant workers isolated from technology and social networks are more vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labor and exploitation, according to a new report released today by the Center for Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
“Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society” includes the story of a young woman from the Philippines who was stranded in Malaysia after being misled by a deceptive labor recruiter.
Despite having a mobile phone, she did not want to call her family and make them worry. While being transported to an unknown destination by her brokers, she was apprehended by police. Interrogated and imprisoned, she hid her phone and called a friend for help. After a month, the Philippine government finally intervened. As it turned out, the woman’s phone served to connect and disconnect her with unscrupulous recruiters.
Researchers also found that the confiscation of cellphones, restriction of Internet use and deception in online recruiting can be indicators of labor trafficking — a form of modern-day slavery. As one of the survivors of labor trafficking interviewed for the report revealed: “The [employment] agencies are very strict on mobile phones. When you reach the agencies … in the country destination overseas, they will get your phone.”
The researchers also found that technology provides a critical infrastructure for positive change.