Humanity Research Consultancy

HRC to launch online training course for young professionals in Asia

Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC) will be running an online training course together with USAID Asia Countering Trafficking in Persons (CTIP), a regional USAID-funded counter-trafficking project with support from Winrock International, from the 4th July – 29th August 2023.

The 9-week course is designed for early career professionals from the Asia region who would like to work or have just started working in counter trafficking and slavery, in either programming/implementation or research. 

We recognise the gap in capacity in Asia’s counter human trafficking efforts when it comes to local expertise. Organisations often struggle to find qualified local professionals for research projects, resulting in an over representation of international consultants or staff. Our aim is to equip early career professionals in Asia with the knowledge and appropriate skills needed to work directly on research or manage research projects on countering human trafficking in the region.

Individuals who fit the following profiles are welcome to apply for the course:

  • Early career professionals in Asia with backgrounds in human rights, international development, social work or a relative field
  • Early career professionals and staff working in local counter trafficking NGOs

Eligible countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam 

The course will cover a variety of topics including addressing key areas of uncertainty in human trafficking, approaches to research and data collection, victim identification and safeguarding, the wider impacts of human trafficking, and guidance on analysis and professional writing. The courses will be taught by professionals and researchers with extensive experience in the field of human trafficking. 

Participants will work towards a final project in small groups throughout the course. The groups will be tasked with researching and collecting data, using the skills they acquire each week, and will present their findings in a group presentation in the final week.

Applications will be open from the 29th May – 12th June 2023 and will be accepted on a rolling basis. The deadline is subject to change based on the volume of applications (this means apply as early as possible).

Be sure to apply if you are eligible and interested! 

Disclaimer: This course is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of HRC, and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Webinar: Exploring Ways to Respond to Victims of Forced Scam Labour

HRC will be hosting a webinar on “Exploring Ways to Respond to Victims of Forced Scam Labour” following the publication of our latest briefing, Guidance on Responding to Victims of Forced Scam Labour.

Date: Wednesday 17th May

Time: 09:00 BST / 13:30 IST / 16:00 HKT

Duration: 60 minutes

This webinar will bring together key stakeholders including frontline responders and the police to discuss the findings of the briefing and share the latest operational developments and research on this issue.

We will be hearing from Richard Jan, Senior Detective at the National Police Agency in Taiwan and Ling Li, Regional Consultant at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

Our aim is to share how organisations can play a larger role in tackling this ever growing problem and uncover the actions that could be taken to help stop the crime. 

Why you should join:

  • It’s an opportunity to ask questions and strategise how your organisation/government can respond to this emerging pattern of modern slavery
  • It’s an opportunity to listen to both survivors and first responders who want to tell their stories to raise awareness around this crime.

I was once a victim of human trafficking, now I help bring other victims home safely from Cambodia to Bangladesh

I am a survivor of human trafficking and modern slavery. From April-September 2022, I was forced to work in a scamming compound in Sihanoukville, Cambodia and was sold 4 times for as much as $10,000 to different companies that operated within the compound. It was a hell-like experience as the compounds used violence to control us, restricted our freedom, and forced us to be complicit in the scamming of innocent individuals across the US and Europe.

After several months, I was able to leave the compound with the help of both the Global Anti-Scam Organisation (GASO) and Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC), to whom I am very grateful, and on the 8th September 2022 I arrived safely back in Bangladesh.

The lack of food and long working hours I endured during my time in the compound had a big impact on my health, something I struggle with to this day. Despite this, when I returned home, I initially planned to travel abroad again to work in order to earn money. However, I was then given the opportunity to work for HRC as their Survivor Empowerment Officer. I am very excited to work in this role and it is encouraging to see the impact I am able to make, helping my fellow Bangladeshi victims to return home, whilst also being able to stay in Bangladesh with my family. This blog shares an example of how we got in touch with a group of survivors, the challenges we faced, and how we overcame them.

In November 2022, I came across a Facebook post where a Bangladeshi youth, Mr. X, was asking for help to get released from a Cambodian detention centre. Mr. X was previously trapped in a scamming compound in Cambodia, where he grew seriously ill as a result of the beatings he endured, and was admitted to hospital. Whilst he was in hospital he managed to escape to a hotel. However, after calling the police to ask for their help in getting his passport back, which was being withheld by the compound, he was arrested and detained. Through conversation with Mr. X, we were able to confirm the identity of six Bangladeshis who were also trapped in the same detention centre in Cambodia. They had all recently escaped or been released from the scamming compounds in Sihanoukville. Two of the survivors had escaped after the police raided their compound to rescue other countries’ nationals. They begged the police to take them too, but were later detained for not having a passport, which was being withheld by the compound.

Out of the seven victims, two had been in Cambodia for as long as four years, while the others had been there for up to eight months. All seven of the survivors eventually ended up in the same detention centre, where the conditions were deplorable. They were faced with many problems such as a lack of food and unsanitary conditions, all of which made the environment unliveable.

All the victims had been lured into the scamming compounds after being offered jobs as construction workers or computer operators in casinos that promised a high salary of $600-$1200. The fraudulent brokers charged a recruitment fee of $3500-5000 in exchange for arranging the job and the flight tickets. Upon arrival, the brokers took their passports, claiming it was to extend their visas. Following this, they were each sold to Chinese companies which acted as a front for the scamming operations they would be forced to work for. After they were sold to the companies, they faced many problems such as being paid very little, or in some cases not at all. If they didn’t perform well enough, they were forced to work overtime and were not granted any leave. Sometimes they were even beaten and tortured with electric shock batons. They feared their bosses, who they saw as monsters, and just wanted to make it home alive.

The Cambodian authorities have told the survivors to contact the Bangladesh Embassy so they could arrange their release. Bangladesh doesn’t have an embassy in Cambodia so the embassy in Thailand oversees both Thailand and Cambodia. They were all very disheartened when the embassy didn’t initially respond to their request. However, after two months they finally issued letters to Cambodian Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Department, requesting the survivors’ release and return home. 

When I told my colleagues at HRC about the seven Bangladeshi survivors, we decided to gather relevant information and contact our partners to help the survivors get out of the detention situation. After a few days, we started getting responses from Winrock International and other NGO partners, who are able to provide help on the ground in Cambodia and in Bangladesh. Through this, I was introduced to Mark Taylor, the Chief of Party of Cambodia Counter-Trafficking in Persons, and his colleague Bunthan Eang. The biggest difficulty we faced in the process of facilitating these survivors in their safe return home was the lack of embassy cooperation. Winrock International facilitated communication with the embassy in Bangkok and visited the Cambodian General Immigration Department several times to discuss the action needed for the survivors to be released from the detention centre. 

Once all the paperwork for the seven Bangladeshi survivors was complete, the Cambodian Immigration Department told them to purchase a flight ticket home. However, after everything they had been through, some survivors and their families didn’t have the money to cover this cost. These costs were graciously covered by the organisations we had contacted. Thanks to this, the seven survivors were finally able to return home to Bangladesh in November 2022. We are now working for justice to be served and helping the survivors along their reintegration journey through collaboration with survivor support organisations based in Bangladesh, such as Anirban.

We would like to sincerely thank Winrock International, in particular Sara Piazzano, Mark Taylor, and Bunthan Eang, as well as Chab Dai Coalition, and all the other organisations who helped us in this process. 

However, our work here is not done. There are still many victims from Bangladesh and other countries who are trapped in scamming compounds in Cambodia. I hope my example and the example of these seven survivors will help motivate us to urgently take action to rescue and protect those who are still trapped.

HRC to begin new research project in collaboration with Winrock International, funded by USAID Asia CTIP, in order to increase transparency in the tuna fishing supply chain

HRC is starting a new project in collaboration with Winrock International, funded by USAID Asia CTIP, which aims to identify gaps and opportunities to improve the protection of fishermen in the tuna supply chain in the Pacific Ocean. This will be done through scenario mapping of the roles of actors involved from the recruitment of fishermen to their returning home.

HRC has a long track record of producing impactful research related to labour rights for the fishing industry, having previously carried out labour supply chain mapping projects with both Indonesian and Filipino fishermen in collaboration with Plan International (see our blog post). In addition, HRC has also connected the UK-based NGO ‘Human Rights at Sea’ to the Taiwanese government among other international NGOs.

The research for this project aims to increase transparency in the tuna fishing supply chain, including for both human food and pet food. It aims to generate knowledge on how the supply chain is organised, including the profile of the fishermen, the process of recruitment of workers, fishing, transhipping, and processing. Through mapping the supply chain, information related to monitoring, grievance mechanism, and case remediation will be collected and included. The project is also expected to produce knowledge around the baseline information on connectivity at sea, including the use of satellite phones and Wi-Fi, and examples of how it benefits workers’ labour conditions.In addition, the project will also generate recommendations for private sectors (buyer companies) and the wider stakeholders (INGOs and governments).

Research will be carried out with a focus on the Pacific Islands, with the help of local researchers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Marshall Islands, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji. Ethnographic research will be conducted in major ports in Taiwan as well as in selected Pacific Islands. Our researchers will also conduct a social media textual analysis in order to better understand the function of platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and LINE amongst migrant fishermen.

Through increasing transparency within the global tuna supply chain, we expect this project to highlight and reduce the factors that lead to forced labour and human rights abuses onboard distant-water fishing vessels.

HRC to begin new research project in partnership with Winrock International, funded by USAID Asia CTIP in order to better understand and scale up survivors’ networks

Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC) is starting a new project with Winrock International, funded by USAID Asia CTIP, to conduct participatory research with trafficking survivor networks in Bangladesh. 

This research will improve understanding of practices that achieve effective bottom-up systemic change. In previous research projects, HRC identified survivor networks and survivor leaders as key contributors to the processes of victim identification and successful survivor reintegration after the experience of trafficking. We have also seen that survivor networks can be very effective at leading efforts to change local and more widespread systemic conditions that drive vulnerability to trafficking. However, not enough has been documented about the specific kinds of relational practices and strategies that lead to effective change.


In order to learn more about how survivors are building power and having an impact, this project will work with members of the survivor network ANIRBAN in Bangladesh. ANIRBAN is a survivor-led network established with the help of Winrock International that organises in communities facing vulnerabilities to trafficking in order to build power and better protect people. HRC will work closely with the ANIRBAN members in an action research process that will help both sides develop deeper critical understandings of successful organising practices. 

Data will be collected to develop two additional planned outputs. The first will be a social network analysis (SNA), which will provide insights into the nature of ANIRBAN’s work in communities. Using the SNA approach, it will be possible to identify the extent of their reach, how many people they help directly and indirectly, the gaps of their reach, and the relationship between outcomes for those who are helped and outcome relationship to physical proximity and number of interactions.

The second output will be an economic valuation of reintegration/rehabilitation support. We will build a model, using several evidence-based assumptions, of the government of Bangladesh’s economic costs of NOT helping survivors to reintegrate. This model will provide evidence to guide advocacy around victim protection legislation as well as demonstrate the cost effectiveness of survivor centred projects. It will draw links between efforts to support survivors now and long-term economic benefits. 

The ultimate goal of this project is to support survivor networks’ organising efforts and to contribute to strengthening their capacities for understanding, documenting, and sharing their impacts, such as their contributions to creating systemic change. The evidence will be synthesised in order to support counter trafficking policy and practice, establish new networks to effectively support survivors and carry out other activities, such as rescues, identification, reintegration, and training. With this, the project will deepen our understanding regarding the complex systemic conditions in which network building happens, allowing us to get a sense of why it is successful in some places such as Bangladesh, but not in others – such as Cambodia, so far. 

From Cambodia to Ethiopia: How media coverage and collaboration saved the life of an Ethiopian human trafficking victim

Through a media report, a cyber scam victim from Ethiopia was evacuated from Cambodia after the family contacted HRC to facilitate her safe return home.

It all began when a worried family in Ethiopia contacted a Germany-based Deutsche Welle (DW) reporter after reading their story on human trafficking in Cambodia published last month. The story reported how foreign nationals were being trafficked to Cambodia through online scams, trapped, and subjected to torture — even death. Since HRC was the primary source of the DW article and supported the safe repatriation of cyber scam victims out of Cambodia, the journalist then asked the family to seek help from HRC.

The family’s close relative, who was a victim of such a scam, managed to escape the compound but was stranded in Cambodia because she had overstayed her visa. Her penalty for overstaying was over $900, and she feared she could be arrested if she approached the Cambodian authorities.

Cambodia’s immigration and police authorities have been in the news for human rights abuses of victims rescued from Cambodia’s scamming compound. Police indulge in systematic corruption and extort money from victims of human trafficking who are detained for overstaying their visas. They are forced to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars in bribes for bedding and food and return home. 

Once the family got in touch with HRC, HRC immediately swung into action. HRC contacted a partner organisation, Global Anti Scam Organisation (GASO), which helped transport the victim to a safer location. HRC then guided the victim to book flight tickets before proceeding to the immigration authorities to pay her fine.

HRC’s founder, Mina Chiang, said, “many rescued victims are already traumatised, and therefore guidance and companionship at every step helps greatly. The system is corrupt, so any slip on the victim’s part might get them in trouble.” 

Chiang also added that from a humanitarian point of view, victims of human trafficking should not have to pay for the overstaying fine when they were being held captive. However, in practice, contesting with the Cambodian immigration department is extremely difficult. Unless the situation changes, HRC suggests survivors pay the overstay fine as soon as possible and leave Cambodia on the earliest possible date. “It’s also important to demonstrate the flight ticket booking evidence before visiting the immigration department to pay the fine. This is to avoid being detained or other potential trouble.”

The survivor is now reunited with her family but is determined to raise awareness of the issue of Ethiopian nationals being trapped in cyber scams. “I’ve heard that many young Ethiopians are now working for a similar company (scamming) in Southeast Asia, with similar job offers. That’s terrible. With your assistance, I hope to be active in raising awareness when I return to my home country.”

The Ethiopian survivor’s case illustrates what HRC has been emphasising – thousands of victims from other nationalities could be trapped in similar conditions. 

Chiang added, “this was one of the successful cases when the victim could leave Cambodia smoothly and was not detained or delayed because of lack of funding. It was also a good example of how media coverage can amplify a pressing human rights issue and how collaboration between various stakeholders at the grassroots can save lives.”

At the moment, several victims, including another Ethiopian victim HRC are assisting, are still searching for financial support to be able to leave Cambodia. Support from international organisations is urgently needed for victims with similar conditions. “The fear of what awaits them back home and a lack of funds for a ticket and a visa fee are why my other friends want to stay here,” said the Ethiopia survivor who has now returned to Addis Ababa.

“What you did for me was also heart-touching. I almost lost trust in people after witnessing how human beings can negatively affect the lives of other human beings for personal gain. You healed my heart and showed me that there are still good people in the world. You inspire me to never lose faith in humanity again.”

HRC-led research released by BIICL finds international reputation and economic growth as the main determinants in Bahrain’s effort to tackle human trafficking 

The findings published by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) and funded by the United States Government identified and sequenced the determinants influencing the Bahrain Government’s anti-trafficking efforts. HRC also conducted a similar study with BIICL in Algeria.


The study found that the government of Bahrain has taken several notable actions to eliminate trafficking. In 2015, it established the Expat Protection Centre (EPC) to identify, support and follow up on the cases of victims of trafficking in Bahrain. In 2016, it set up the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to identify and support victims of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) – or workers in exploitative situations – in the Kingdom of Bahrain and ensure that they receive the appropriate protection and support. 

Such measures amplified Bahrain’s commitment in tackling human trafficking, propelling it to become the first and only country in the Middle East and North Africa to attain a Tier 1 on the US TIP Report, a position it has maintained in all subsequent reports. The government of Bahrain is determined to maintain its position as a regional leader in counter-trafficking efforts and has made further efforts to align itself with international legal frameworks such as the Palermo Protocols with the help of international organisations.

Economic compulsions arising from increased public debts were the key negative factor for the government’s limited response to combat forced labour. However, on a positive note owing to the steady flow of migrants into the country, Bahrain has signed bilateral agreements with source countries like India, the Philippines and Nepal.


The government of Bahrain has perused the policy of conflating all human trafficking with sex trafficking and prioritised action against trafficking for sexual exploitation. The report notes that acting against sex work allows Bahrain to align with the broader Islamic regional identity. Research found that these efforts helped Bahrain to enhance its global reputation on the anti-trafficking front.


Regarding perpetrator profiles, the study underlined that Bangladeshi nationals face disproportionate government responses and are penalised more strongly than other nationalities due to racial stereotyping.

During the Covid 19 pandemic, the government of Bahrain took several steps to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers. The government announced schemes like waiving fees for issuing and renewing work permits. The Flexi permit allowed the migrants to live freely in the country in any non-specialised occupation without a sponsor.

The other determinants considered are determinants by type of response such as prosecution, protection, prevention, and partnership; forms of exploitation, kinds of response; trafficked persons’ profile; perpetrators’ profile.

Despite the limitation in securing interviews with government officials and the lack of informative literature, HRC and its researchers took several steps to explore the broad range of possible determinants for anti-trafficking efforts in order to conduct this research.

Read the full report here.

Summary of HRC webinar: Cyber Slavery in the scamming compounds of Cambodia

Survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia, modern slavery activists, academics, journalists, and policymakers were amongst those who participated in the webinar “Tackling the Emerging “Slavery behind Scams” through policies “that was co-hosted by Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC) along with The Mekong Club and Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking (CCARHT) this week.

The webinar was organised against the backdrop of a dangerously emerging global trend in modern slavery where tens and thousands are trafficked and coerced to work in Cambodia’s notorious cyber slavery camps that run sophisticated online scams worldwide.

Speaking from Hong Kong, Matthew Freidman of the Mekong Club — which works with businesses to promote sustainable practices in the fight against modern slavery — said that the emerging nature of cyber slavery as seen in Cambodia is a “concerning phenomenon”  and warned that that could spread to other countries as pressure is mounted on Cambodia by the governments of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand to crack down on online scams that have deep linkages with human trafficking.

Dr Carrie Ford, director of CCARHT, said more efforts need to be made by the technology companies to make their platform more resilient to ward off potential intrusion and sabotage by cyber criminals running “semi industrialised” scamming. Given the complex nature of the crime, she also emphasised that the law and judicial systems must be more vigilant whilst trying cases of such nature as sometimes there are often overlapping lines between the actual criminals and the victims.

Mina Chiang, the founder and director of HRC, presented facts detailing the modus operandi of Cambodia’s online scams, and their precise locations.

Based on the testimonies of survivors she described with evidence from ground investigations the brutality with which the masterminds behind the scams enslave tens of thousands of innocent victims by keeping them in forced captivity, torturing and sexually assaulting them. 

She highlighted that the victims trapped in the scamming compounds that house hundreds of well-fenced tall buildings are trafficked predominately from the southeast and south Asian countries but there are also victims from countries in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and even North America. The victims are mostly 18-30 years old, but there are reports of victims as young as fourteen. 

Chiang also outlined the multipronged steps that HRC has been taking to combat cyber slavery including setting up a survivors support fund, working with Taiwanese police and advocating with the government and NGOs for coordinated rescue efforts and data collection. 

Ah Wei, a survivor, who just escaped from one of the scamming compounds very recently narrated his ordeal. The young airline engineer from Taiwan was promised better opportunities in Cambodia. Once he arrived his passport was confiscated and taken to a scamming compound. He was kept captive for a while and was sold further to another company in Myanmar. Wei escaped by jumping off the car whilst he was being transported to Myanmar from Thailand.

The webinar ended with a question-and-answer session with a consensus that more actors, especially financial institutions and technology experts need to play a larger role to tackle the menace of online scams. Several stakeholders participating in the webinar expressed interest to collaborate to tackle the issue more strongly on the ground.

“An utterly shocking presentation, brilliant research and brave testimony.” “Thanks for sharing this. It is very informative and very very brave for all speakers here.” – participants’ feedback.

HRC-led research project report on the determinants of anti-trafficking efforts in Algeria released by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law

The British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) published its findings on the determinants of anti-trafficking efforts in Algeria. Funded by the United States Government, the research was part of a wider project that seeks to improve the anti-trafficking efforts of various national governments.

The project analysed the specific factors that may have influenced the political will of the national government (in this case Algeria) to take comprehensive anti-trafficking efforts. Beyond looking at existing indicators and how they correlate with State’s anti-trafficking efforts, the research sourced and captured the views of experts and stakeholders working in counter-trafficking at the national level, including legislators, policymakers, and service providers. 

In Algeria— which was ranked as a tier 3 country by the US Department of State 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report —the project identified and developed 15 new determinants to capture Algeria’s specific experience of anti-trafficking efforts. 

The most important determinant has been by far Algeria’s policy of securitisation which is strongly supported by the political and military elite. The study noted that the determinant was triggered by several factors such as regional instability and a downward economic situation. The study further underlined that in its effort to combat external threats the government of Algeria has conflated human trafficking with terrorism, smuggling, the arms trade, and the drugs trade. In 2017, efforts to reform its anti-trafficking policies regarding migrant workers were strongly opposed.

In relation to victim profiles, the government has prioritised issues of child begging against other forms of trafficking. The study noted that Algeria’s domestic legal framework requires proof of compulsion to establish trafficking while the lack of expertise around victim identification meant that unaccompanied begging children are easily ‘provable’ as victims.

In relation to the Covid 19 pandemic, the research found that t pandemic made no impact on Algeria’s anti-trafficking policy and the government did not take any measures to protect victims of trafficking.

The other determinants considered are political will; acknowledgement and framing of trafficking; data and research; culture, victimhood, and discrimination; religion and morality; levels of migration; governance, politics, and corruption; partnerships; international law; external monitoring, State reputation and (threat of) sanctions; case law; the role of civil society organisations including survivors’ groups; external conditions and external funding; training and level of expertise.

Despite the severe limitation in securing interviews with government officials and the lack of informative literature, HRC and its researchers took several steps to explore the broad range of possible determinants for anti-trafficking efforts including (but not limited to): public awareness of the issues; the adoption of international instruments; decisions of courts and tribunals; rankings in international indices; pressure by donors; civil society engagement; events or occurrences; and responses to broader migration issues.

It was HRC’s second research project with BIICL. In 2021, HRC conducted a similar study in Bahrain.

Read the full report here.

Webinar co-host by Humanity Research Consultancy, The Mekong Club, and Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking (CCARHT)

Topic: Tackling the Emerging “Slavery behind Scams” through Policies

Date: 6th of Sep (Tuesday) 
Time: 09:00 EST / 14:00 UK / 21:00 HK
Duration: 60 minutes


  • To respond to the unprecedented, emerging type of modern slavery/human trafficking in Cambodia, Myanmar, and several countries where victims are being forced to conduct online scams. 
  • To inspire actions from the policy-maker, financial institutions, and other relevant stakeholders.

Why you should join:

  • It’s an opportunity to ask questions and strategise how your organisation can respond to this emerging pattern of modern slavery/human trafficking
  • It’s an opportunity to listen to survivors who want to tell their stories to raise awareness and stop the crime. 

Webinar registration link: HTBYVct2MgZIM

Related reports:
Al Jazeera “Forced to Scam: Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves | 101 East