Playing the victim – Actors assist police in better identifying victims of human trafficking

An officer from the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) is nervously staring at the young woman in front of him. She has just been rescued from a karaoke bar where she had been forced to have unprotected sex with up to 10 customers a day. She is scantily clad, wearing heavy makeup and shaking violently from drug withdrawal.
“If you have questions, then ask your questions, and do it quickly,” she snaps.
The officer’s job is to determine if the woman is a victim of human trafficking. He soothes and empathizes with her and continues with gentle questions.

Caption: A PNTL officer talks to a young woman to determine if she is a victim of human trafficking.

Her story is shocking. She was lured to a brothel in Dili by a recruiter she met online. Though she had agreed to partake in paid sex work, the conditions she was promised turned out to be far cry from reality. She was locked in a room, raped and injected with crystal meth. She is now addicted to the drug and five-months pregnant.

Caption: A PNTL officer talks with a potential victim of human trafficking.

A short time later, a young boy arrives. He was found unconscious on a street in Dili and taken to the hospital. With obvious signs of physical abuse and malnutrition, the hospital called a local NGO, who alerted the police.
Again, an officer from PNTL begins to carefully extract the boy’s story. He was sent to live with his aunt and uncle, with the promise of attending school. Instead they put him to work as a servant, beating and abusing him when he didn’t meet their standards. In addition to his cleaning duties, they began sending him out to sell eggs. This is what he was doing with he collapsed.

Caption: A PNTL officer speaks with a young boy to determine if he is a victim of human trafficking.

Fortunately, in this case, the woman and the boy are only actors.
They were hired by IOM Timor-Leste as part of its “Making the Case for Human Trafficking in Timor-Leste: Capacity Building and Policy Development” project, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Through the project, IOM Timor-Leste conducted a series of training-of-trainers sessions for the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) and Immigration Services in July 2016.
While traditional training techniques formed the backbone of the capacity development activities, the simulated scenarios tested the participants’ victim identification and interviewing skills.

Caption: The scenarios were filmed in order to be used for future training sessions.

After the interviews were completed, IOM’s experts provided a comprehensive debrief for participants on areas where they excelled and areas where improvements could be made. The practical sessions were recorded so they can be used as teaching and learning aids in the future.
Interviewing potential victims of trafficking is a sensitive process. There are many reasons victims of trafficking do not want to reveal details of their cases to law enforcement, including fear of retribution from their traffickers, or that they will be arrested for revealing illegal activities they were forced to be part of.
To ensure a smooth interview process, these are some of the guidelines IOM follows:

  • Ensure the interview takes place in a closed and private spacewhere no one can overhear or interrupt. The only people in the room should be those who are absolutely necessary – the victim, the interviewer, any qualified support person (i.e. lawyer, child’s guardian/representative) and, if required, an interpreter. Having non-essential people can intimidate the victim and reduce cooperation.
  • It is preferable for the interviewer to be the same sex as the victim. How the interviewer dresses should also be considered. For example, a police uniform can be intimidating.
  • Do not conduct the interview while standing over a person, sitting behind a desk or with lights shining on the victim – consider how the room set up can affect the perceived power dynamicsand willingness of a victim to speak.
  • If there is any doubt that the victim can speak and understand the language being used in the interview – an interpreter must be obtained – and that interpreter must be a neutral partywithout any interests or connections to the victim or suspected trafficker.
  • The legal process needs to be clearly communicated at the start of the interview, and the interviewee needs to understand their rightsas a victim. It needs to be made clear that it is an interview, not an interrogation, and that is it confidential.
  • Determine whether the individual feels secure and comfortable – ask them if they have any questions before you start, reassure them they are safe and can stop the interview at any time. Ask them if they are suffering any pain or discomfort, or have any other problem that would require medical attention (if there is a medical need, the interview should be suspended).
  • Explain to the victim that they are not required to answer any of the questions if they don’t want to– but that the more complete the answers and more information you get, the better you can help and protect them.


Caption: IOM Timor-Leste and officers from the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) and Immigration Services.

For more information, please contact Mr. Andrew Harrington ([email protected] or +670 7846 1585) or Mr. Jacinto Amaral ([email protected] or +670 7701 3825).

IOM X Belarus set to connect with young Belarusians

IOM X Belarus launched today, marking the first IOM X campaign to take foot outside the ASEAN region. You can visit their new website here:
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the new campaign aims to increase awareness of human trafficking among young Belarusians and encourage them to contribute to its prevention.

The campaign will be driven by a robust social media presence – with a focus on platforms relevant to the Belarusian audience, such as Ddnoklassiniki and Vkontakte, and complemented by IOM X’s already strong presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In addition, the campaign will roll out a series of on-the-ground activities organized in cooperation with educational organizations and NGOs in Belarus in order to drive on the ground engagement.
Visit to learn more about IOM X Belarus.



IOM X Roadshow model rolls out in Cotabato

As a Communication for Development (C4D) campaign, IOM X designs its communication activities in close consultation with its target audience.
The IOM X Roadshow model is a great example of how this works. The model comprises of three parts. First there is a Participatory Planning and Capacity Building workshop (yes, we know that’s a mouthful, let’s just call it a PPCD). This is where we bring together a diverse group of people from a community to discuss and prioritize which local human trafficking trend they think should be addressed, and which media content and/or activity would be best to address it.
The second part of the IOM X Roadshow model is a Media Camp. This happens a few months after the PPCD so that there is enough time to do baseline research on the community’s knowledge of the trafficking trend identified and develop messaging to address it. At this time, a creative agency is brought on board to work with the original PPCD group to develop the piece of content and/or activity.

The third (and final) part of the IOM X Roadshow model is the Showcase Event. This is the public launch of the content or activity.
IOM X put this model into practice this month, holding its first ever Roadshow PPCD in the Philippines. The PPCD took place in Cotabato – a town of almost 300,000 people, located on the island of Mindanao. It’s a fairly remote place, with just two daily flights from Manila, and faces trafficking challenges such as relatives acting as illegal recruiters, victims being recruited online through social media platforms and the falsification of identification documents.
Twenty people participated in the PPCD. The group comprised of local university students, counter-trafficking experts, government representatives, police and media.

Cotabato PPCD participants

We spent the first day looking at human trafficking trends in Cotabato, and had a discussion around the trafficking of women and children into domestic work, the trafficking of men and boys into the fishing industry and the trafficking of men and women onto palm oil plantations.

Workshop participants discussing local trafficking trends in Cotabato and surrounding areas.


By day two, the group had identified the trafficking of women abroad for domestic work as the trend that needed urgently to be addressed in the Maguindanao province.

Workshop participants discuss which local trafficking trend in Cotabato should be prioritized for the IOM X Roadshow

With this trend in mind, we looked at how different types of media content and activities could help prevent this.
The group decided that 3-5 radio spots, posters and a social media campaign would be the most suitable mediums because of the high penetration of community radio and social media in Cotabato. Posters would be visible in areas where the community congregates, such as outside mosques and community centers.

A group presents its short role play, where the rest of the groups have to guess what behaviour change they were promoting.

IOM X and its research partner, RapidAsia, are now conducting baseline research in Cotabato. This research will assess what the community’s knowledge, attitude and intended-behaviour is towards the trafficking of women for domestic work. This research will help us develop a very targeted and localized media campaign for Cotabato.
IOM X is also in the process of sourcing a creative agency in the Philippines to work with the PPCD group on the development of the radio spots, posters and social media campaign.
Stay tuned for updates on part two of the IOM X Cotabato Roadshow!

Thiri’s 23-year Journey as a Domestic Worker

In late 2015, IOM X sat down with Thiri*, a Myanmar domestic worker working abroad. Her remarkable story is below.
After her father died in 1992, Thiri left her village in Myanmar’s Kachin state on a meandering journey that would take her through military checkpoints; a hidden forest border crossing and secret late-night truck rides to the capital city of a nearby country. Twenty-three years later, she reflects on a domestic worker career that included three months for a wealthy gem dealer; five years at the house of an underworld gambling magnate; and ten years at the condo of a white-collar professional.
“As a domestic worker, you pass through many people – some treat you well, others treat you badly… Some respect domestic workers as people, others do not,” said Thiri.
After arriving in her destination country penniless, Thiri’s brother who was working as a gardener, introduced her to her first employer – a wealthy gem importer. Just 17 years old, Thiri had no experience negotiating wages or working conditions as a domestic worker.
“I had to sleep under the kitchen table – not a big square one, but a little circular one. And the house was half empty – there were so many empty bedrooms upstairs… The worst was when they had dinner parties – I would have to wait until they were finished, and clean up and go to sleep. Then I was up at 5am washing the car.”
When the family left her alone in the house, they locked the doors from the outside. “I didn’t have a work visa, and they told me that they locked me in for my own safety because the police would catch me. At the time, I believed them, so in a way, they used my inexperience and fear of arrest against me.”
She had no days off, but managed to make friends by speaking to other Myanmar domestic workers through the windows and shut gates of her employer’s house. “We made due – if I needed something from the market, I would get someone to pass it through the gate.”

After three months, she couldn’t bare her working conditions. She worked briefly for a wealthy garment-importer, before finding a job as a maid for an underground casino magnate. As an ethnic Nepalese with who speaks Hindi, her language skills were a bonus for the employer. She laughs when she recalls hearing her employer talking late into the night on his telephone, barking out orders to his subordinates. “That’s how I learned numbers so well – he was always yelling about odds, money and winnings.” Despite the man’s nefarious business, the working conditions were better. “I got to sleep in a room at least; it was with three other people, but it was an improvement. I had holidays too, which allowed me to leave the house.”
With the ability to share experiences with fellow domestic workers, Thiri began to learn that she had more rights that she originally thought, motivating her to leave her job. In 2000, she was hired by a couple for US$250 per month, including holidays and some benefits. In addition to the financial benefits, Thiri said that her employer taught her to value her role as a domestic worker. “She told me – ‘you are making the same money as everyone else, you need to respect yourself and the contribution you are making’. I had never thought of it that way,” said Thiri.
Now 40 years old, and a registered migrant worker, Thiri spends her free time helping other domestic workers – a role that is as much about teaching legal rights as instilling a sense of self-respect. “Domestic workers are often looked down upon – seen as sub-human. It’s easy to exploit someone who doesn’t value themselves, so I teach people to respect themselves and understand that they have rights.”
To learn more about the exploitation of domestic workers, visit
*Name changed to protect identity

Hoops for Sansa Rani

On a rainy Saturday morning this month, Hindson Her, founder of GOAT Basketball, Seoul’s largest amateur basketball troupe, met with Dustin Kerns and Eunjin Jeong, both employees of IOM Seoul, at Jamwon Han River Courts. They set up tents, hung posters and prepared for the arrival of23 teams and more than 100 spectators. This year’s GOAT Basketball 3rd Summer 3V3 Tournament was different, dedicated to one special person: a survivor of human trafficking, known as Sansa Rani. With the tournament, they would help a young woman in Indonesia start a new life. The rain, cultural, social and geographical distances didn’t matter.
At the age of 28, Sansa was a domestic worker from Indonesia who went through a whirlwind of abuse before being rescued on the side of a road in Malaysia. Sansa’s story came to GOAT through the International Organization of Migration’s (IOM) initiative, a humanitarian crowdfunding portal that enables the public to donate and support the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of former victims of human trafficking. You can check out her case here:

“With GOAT we built a strong community of people who are not only passionate about basketball, but about social causes too” said Hindson. “Pointing our passion for the game towards good causes has always been a way to connect with the sport in a more meaningful way and with IOM in Seoul we have found a partner who can help us direct our dedication to helping an individual get back on her feet.”

As the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, with 162 member states and 480 field locations around the world, IOM has provided more than 70,000 people with humanitarian, medical, legal and migration support. This support includes helping individual trafficking survivors achieve social and economic self-sufficiency. While the organization has the expertise, human resources, processes and facilities to help these victims, the cost of shelter, medical or legal assistance, support with their journey home, education or skills development, job placements and/or help with establishing a small business to prevent re-trafficking, preclude it from expanding its efforts in this area.

“With, IOM is bridging a divide between those individuals who have fallen victim to ruthless greed and those who are committed, generous and willing to reach out and help.  I believe it is a testimony to the global awareness of this generation to see how this group of young, dedicated individuals have answered this call, rallied around their passion for basketball and are now helping a young lady halfway around the world overcome her trauma and return to self-sufficiency,” said Miah Park, Head of Office at IOM Seoul.
“When GOAT Basketball Korea approached IOM, we were immediately taken by how motivated and driven they were. They really wanted to help, so naturally we asked ourselves ‘How can we direct such a drive towards having the most significant impact’? seemed to be the perfect match,” Park added.


The portal is focused on channeling individual contributions to individual survivors. IOM’s Case Officers who identify victims of human trafficking also work with the survivors on the ground and conduct a needs assessment to determine the specific amount of funding required to finance the implementation of support services, preparation and required follow-up for the survivor’s assistance.. With the consent of the survivor, IOM’s Case Officers then provide anonymous information about each victim’s case to’s public users, who can choose to financially support the funding goal towards the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of the individual’s case.

Developed based on a partnership between Microsoft and IOM X, adheres to IOM’s proven victim protection standards. Since a survivor’s anonymity is his or her most important form of protection, does not use photographs of faces and modifies information that could compromise their safety or chances of a normal life. Each survivor’s story is told through interactive story maps, which strikes a balance between protecting the victim’s’ identity and telling a compelling and relatable story to potential funders. The interactive map, built on top of Bing Maps, allows users to follow the journey of each former victim, with significant milestones illustrated by bold, clickable icons. When clicked, the user is presented with a narrative elaborating on the survivor’s experience at that point in in their journey.

“When you go to you can actually read individual stories of survivors. I clicked on Sansa’s case first because its funding goal was the furthest off from being achieved. The portal doesn’t use any photos or identifiable information. Instead, you read about her story through clickable milestones on a map. I like that. Sansa really had to go through a lot and I don’t need to see her photograph in order to want to help her. Her story helped me empathize with the challenges she faced but also allowed me to get a sense of her incredible resilience. When I read that she has since been reunited with her family and hopes to establish a small bakery business to support herself and her son, I thought that we at GOAT should definitely try and help her!” said Hindson Her.

Since its launch last year, has received donations from users all around the world.

“GOAT’s benefit tournament is a good example of what we are trying to accomplish,” said Mike Nedelko, Digital Engagement Manager for IOM X and 6Degree’s Project Lead. “ is not just another way to donate money. We are ultimately connecting individual users with individual human stories. This allows users to learn about the stories that survivors of trafficking rarely get to tell. As such not only provides dedicated individuals with a new opportunity to ensure their charitable contributions go directly towards changing the life of another individual, it also helps to develop awareness, build understanding and nurture conviction towards stopping human trafficking through the many actions of a united collective.”

And it worked! GOAT Basketball and IOM Seoul raised enough money, not only to complete funding for Sansa Rani’s case, but also to fund another case whilst making a significant contribution to a third.


Caption: International students from Malaysia and Indonesia share written notes of encouragement to Sansa.


Caption: IOM Indonesia shows their support for the GOAT event on 11 June 2016.

Knowing Before You Go is Critical

Samnang*, a 33-year old from Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia, learned the hard way that working abroad without the right documents is not worth it. Thai authorities deported him after working illegally in the construction sector in Prachinburi Province.
“Do not trust anyone who promises to help you cross a border without the right documentation,” said Samnang.
In order to better prepare migrants like Samnang, USAID and IOM X released Know Before You Go in February 2016. The six-minute animated video, available in Khmer and Lao with English subtitles, provides guidance on how to migrate safely and legally. Since its release, the video has been a mainstay at the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Migrant Resource Center in Poi Pet, on the Cambodia-Thailand border. The video has been screened for an estimated 12,000 returned migrants.
“We screen Know Before You Go for every group of returned Cambodian migrants that arrives,” said Brett Dickson, a program officer at IOM Cambodia. “It’s important for returned migrants to understand the reasons they have to leave Thailand, and the video enables them to be better prepared migrants in the future.”
“After watching the video, I now know what documentation is required to work legally in another country,” said Samnang. “If I migrate again for work, I will get a passport and a visa first.”
Authorities also deported Chan Dara*, a 43-year-old from Tbung Khmum province in Cambodia, who had been working illegally in Thailand’s Prachinburi Province.
“I wasted a lot of time and money by making the decision to migrate for work without being prepared,” he said. “Next time, I will do it differently, with all the required documents. I hope all irregular migrants have a chance to watch Know Before You Go, and will decide, like me, to become regular migrants.”
“If all aspirant migrants watch this video, they will think about the complications that can be caused by traveling without a passport, from unemployment to becoming a victim of human trafficking,” said Sopheap*, an 18-year-old from Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia who worked illegally as a waiter in Bangkok. “If you don’t have a passport, don’t cross the border.”

A crowd gathers to watch Know Before You Go at IOM’s Migrant Resource Center in Poi Pet, Cambodia.
It is estimated that 12 percent of Cambodia’s working population has migrated to Thailand for work, and 80 percent of these migrants went through irregular channels. Every month, approximately 3,500 Cambodians are sent home through the Poi Pet border after working illegally in Thailand.
Know Before You Go provides guidance on many aspects related to migration, including how to safeguard identification, why you should stay in regular communication with family at home, and, for those going abroad, the importance of a valid passport, visa and work permit.
Other tips included leaving copies of personal identification at home and memorizing important phone numbers, such as a friend who lives in the country or a non-governmental organization. The video was produced in partnership with USAID by IOM X following extensive research and consultation with target groups.
View the video at
*Name changed to protect identity.