By Cheryl Lu, Social Media Coordinator
In early August, MCIS hosted a free webinar with the theme of Human Trafficking: The Diasporic Network Approach & the Ethnic Trap. The event was held in collaboration with Talija Koncar, an independent researcher with a Master of Art’s degree from University of Toronto in The Centre of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies.
Funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General, the webinar served as a complementary component to free online trainings on the phenomenon of human trafficking in Canada and to highlight culturally-sensitive approaches to the healing of trafficked persons. The webinar received about 270 registrations.
The webinar consisted of two sections. In the first section, Talija broke down the key terms of Diasporic Network Approach and the human trafficking chain. In the second part of the webinar, key anti-trafficking stakeholders were looked into through 10 different interviews as well as literature.
Talija’s major findings (in her own words)
“Diasporas, culture and society are ever-shifting entities and concepts…Strong correlation does seem to exist between traffickers’ and victims’ nationalities in both transnational and domestic trafficking cases, but this does not necessarily mean that a diaspora role is extremely common within human trafficking operations and vice versa. What is known of the diaspora role and human trafficking can only be assumed from official statistics, and these statistics often fail to clearly state the nationalities or ethnicities of the victims and the traffickers;”
“Research suggests that trafficked persons are often trafficked by their own co-ethnics or co-nationals. While data is scarce and anecdotal, the Diasporic Network Approach shows that there is diasporic involvement and exploitation found at every stage of the human trafficking chain, from recruiting, to transporting, to destination. Traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in order to maximize profits. These vulnerabilities may include or may be exacerbated by factors such as poverty, discrimination, gender inequality, violence against women, lack of (access to) education, ethnic conflict, and so on.”
Having been working on the topic in her spare time and updating the key areas, Talija said it’s important to share the basics as the Diasporic Network Approach should be used by more diaspora and crime researchers. She also encourages further research and analysis to be made to help advance the anti-trafficking movement from awareness to action and from understanding to undertaking.
Below are some highlights of the webinar:
The Diaspora Network Approach: an approach that considers the intersectionality and interrelation between traffickers and diaspora networks.
Intersectionality, according to Talija, refers to the interconnected barriers and complex forms of discrimination that could happen to human trafficking survivors when two or more oppressions overlap. For example, a trans woman of colour who is also a refugee claimant would face challenges and barriers from not only sexism, but also racism, and the impact of the two combined.
Another term, diaspora, is used to describe “a collection of people that have a shared background while residing in other host countries, showing solidarity with their home nation by actively organizing themselves in cultural, social, economic, and political spheres.” It can be applied to many ethnic groups in today’s world that share a same background but are scattered all over the globe due to the absence of a sovereign state or the migration of its people.
According to Talija, the Diasporic Network Approach is a crucial tool to help stopping human trafficking. By mapping further trafficking flows that may not be conventionally thought of, identifying vulnerable populations and providing culturally sensitive support and healing to survivors, it’s especially effective in identifying and highlighting crucial Partnerships between diasporas and their home, their host country, and other diasporas. By examining this approach, Canada would benefit greatly due to its vast geographical scope and diverse population.
Ethnic trap: The misconception that human trafficking was predominated by certain organized criminal groups or ethnicities: “When we use simplistic, circular arguments linking a certain ethnicity to crime, we are endangering a group of people.”
Three aspects of human trafficking chain: recruitment, transit/movement and exploitation.
Features of the movement include:
- Inability to leave
Once transported, victims of human trafficking face different kinds of exploitation:
- Forced marriage
- Forced criminality
- Forced begging
- Child soldiers
- Being sold
- Sexual exploitation
- Organ trafficking
- Domestic servitude
- Debt bondage
- The danger of liking an ethnicity to crime
- Issues with documenting ethnic minorities
- The assumption that the diaspora role would be most prevalent within the recruitment stage and the exploitation stage
- Case study
Research materials Talija examined
Interview with Mitar Djurašković (@djuraskovicm), National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator for the Republic of Serbia;
BAN Human Trafficking app http://banhumantrafficking.com/en/
Arhin, A (2016). A Diaspora Approach to Understanding Human Trafficking for Labor Exploitation. Journal of Human Trafficking, 2:1, 78-98, DOI: 10.1080/23322705.2016.1136538
Bovenkerk, F., Siegel, D. & Zaitch, D. (2003). Organized crime and ethnic reputation manipulation. Crime, Law and Social Change, 39: 23. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022499504945
Cohen, S. (1980). Folk devils and moral panics: The creation of the Mods and Rockers. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Anderson, B. R. O. 1. (2006). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Rev. ed. London ; New York: Verso.