The rate of men rescued from slavery at Not For Sale Romania is on the rise. In 2012, the number of males supported has almost doubled from 2011, reaching just under 30% of all individuals supported at the project in the last twelve months.
Over half of male victims supported came from within Romania itself, others from nearby Moldova, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Unsurprisingly, the common factor in almost all cases is poverty. Mariana Petersel, Director at the project, explained that in Romania and in the countries where other victims originate, the expectation on men to provide for their families is very high and so more often men will accept riskier options for work. What has been shocking, however, was the number of older victims recruited by traffickers, with almost a third over the age of 25; a much higher incidence than in the case of women, who are most vulnerable at a young age. “Many of those we see are in fact the head of their family, who have the most pressure on them”.
What is equally worrying is the financial pressure that is driving even younger victims into the hands of those who will exploit them. Tragically, the people sending them into slavery are oftentimes their own family members.
“Many times we see minors whose parents have agreed to send them with people who offer work, a different life, and a better chance” Mariana explained. “It seems like the only alternative not only for the child, but for the entire family. They do not know the crude reality”.
Ian was a victim of forced labour in the “black labour market”, which, alongside forced begging is the most common form of exploitation endured by male victims rehabilitated at NFS Romania. He grew up in a poor area of Romania where there are very few options for young people and fell victim to an advertisement for a job he found online as an unqualified construction worker. The offer had looked particularly attractive because of the additional lodgings included in the package. “He told us that the living conditions were those of animals. Yet in his situation, he still felt he had no option but to stay there”, explained Mariana. Ian’s boss had taken away all of his legal papers from him in return for a fake workers contract and had refused to give him anything other than food in return for his labour.
Fortunately for Ian, a client who had observed the abuse finally alerted the Police who conducted a rescue to release him. Ian was brought to NFS Romania for rehabilitation and most significantly, was offered the chance to train as a chef. “One of the biggest things for Ian was getting over the feeling of shame for what happened to him”, Mariana recalled. With the assistance of NFS Romania, Ian was even able to find a new job in a restaurant in his hometown where he can now help support his own family.
“Where we can make a difference is bringing opportunities that enable individuals and families to really rebuild their lives for the long term, through work that offers them honest and dignified income”.
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