Humanity Research Consultancy

Thematic Focus

Improving human rights in the fishing industry​

We have built a strong expertise in countering human trafficking and modern slavery in the commercial fishing industry for several years. The fishing industry is vulnerable to human rights abuses, with fishers on distant water fishing vessels being subjected to forced labour, violence, lack of drinking water and food, and even facing death – the latest research has estimated that over 100,000 fishers die annually. A lack of transparency across the fishing supply chain has revealed a lack of regulations with regard to the labour standards for fishers at sea, resulting in persistent cases of human trafficking and forced labour amongst fishers. This is an issue that largely affects migrant fishers, who often work on board foreign fishing vessels as a way to make ends meet. We are working to increase transparency in the fishing supply chain and improve the livelihoods of fishers.

Projects and publications

Our Work with Global Labour Justice - International Labour Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)

Wi-Fi Now for Fishers at Sea Campaign

The Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea campaign is in collaboration with Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLF-ILRF), Stella Maris Kaohsiung, FOSPI and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights. The campaign urges the Taiwanese government to make access to Wi-Fi a legal requirement on board all distant water fishing vessels in order to provide migrant fishers with better access to grievance mechanisms, and allow them to stay connected with their family and friends.

Allies pledge

As part of the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea campaign, an Allies pledge has been put together demanding the Taiwanese government take action to ensure access to Wi-Fi is mandatory on board all fishing vessels. 

Wi-Fi for Fishers at Sea

Many migrant fishers from Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam working in Taiwan’s distant water fleet are facing numerous human rights abuses. The majority of these fishers don’t have access to Wi-Fi and so are unable to reach out for help or contact their family, leaving them isolated at sea.

 

HRC has worked in collaboration with the Taiwan Association of Human Rights, Stella Maris Kaohsiung, and Fospi Donggang Pingtung for Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum to create this report, “Wi-Fi for Fishers at Sea”. The report addresses how access to Wi-Fi will enable fishers to access grievance mechanisms and report any forms of abuse, allowing them to receive the appropriate support. This briefing constitutes one of the first pieces of literature exploring international standards, laws and practices with regard to Wi-Fi onboard commercial fishing vessels.

 

We are presenting this briefing to relevant governments and stakeholders in the hopes that access to Wi-Fi will be made a legal requirement onboard all fishing vessels. It is vital that governments work with the fishing industry to put an end to the human rights abuses fishers face, ensuring this change is implemented accordingly.

Our work with Plan International

Labour Supply Chain Mapping of Indonesian and the Filippino fishermen

Plan International, under the SAFE Seas (The Safeguarding Against and Addressing Fishers’ Exploitation at Sea) project, commissioned HRC to map the labour supply chain for commercial fishing vessels operating in international waters. The project primarily looked at cases of forced labour and trafficking on fishing vessels in Indonesia and the Philippines. In this project, the HRC team mapped the labour supply chain of Filipino fishers in Taiwan, China, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon islands.


Based on the analysis of the collected data, the HRC team have developed policies to support the advancement of fishers’ management and placement regulations, policies for fair recruitment, and remuneration schemes. These recommendations are expected to help inform the decision makers of policy options to improve the current private sector policy, procedures for responsible recruitment, and remuneration schemes that benefit the fishers.

Our work with IDS and Winrock International

Impact of COVID-19 Responses on Survivors of Human Trafficking – The Story of a Fisherman

This video was released as part of our COVID Collective research project, looking at the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities. The video presents the story of a Filipino fisherman who endured inhumane working conditions and witnessed fatal abuses against his fellow fishermen whilst working on a distant water fishing vessel in Taiwan, highlighting the exasperating impact COVID-19 had on his situation. This video won the 2022 Golden Pin Design Award.

Allies Taiwanese tuna longline vessel owner demonstrating e-logbook and VMS system

In this video, a Taiwanese tuna longline vessel owner shows us the e-logbook provided to fishers by the Taiwanese Fisheries Agencies, which keeps track of the number of tuna caught. He also demonstrates the VMS system that is used to keep track of all the fishing vessels’ location.

We also have numerous shorts on our youtube channel that give you an inside look into the lives of migrant fishers on tuna longline fishing vessels, revealing their living and working conditions and the way in which tuna is processed on land.

Our work within the fishing industry has touched various countries across Southeast Asia. We have examined fishing supply chains in Taiwan, China, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands; conducted field work in Fiji, and worked with migrant fishers from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Ending slavery in scamming compounds​

In July 2022, HRC got word of a 24-year-old Taiwanese girl being sold four times and being forced to conduct online scams in a compound in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Since then, thousands of similar cases have come to light, revealing cyber slavery as an emerging form of organised crime of unprecedented severity and scale. We have already witnessed its impact on victims from 20 different countries across the globe, from Brazil, to Uganda, to Taiwan. A concrete number of victims is difficult to finalise due to a lack of data. However, with one compound having the capacity to hold an estimated 25,000 people, and there being numerous compounds across various countries, it can be assumed that there are hundreds of thousands of victims at present. HRC has emerged as a key actor in the field, forming and working with a network of organisations and individuals across the globe to assist victims and gather much needed information to counter this form of human trafficking.

Publications

HRC Briefing: Cyber Slavery in the Scamming Compounds

This briefing is the first of its kind on the cyber slavery occuring in scamming compounds across Southeast Asia, revealing information on the estimation of victims, the common recruitment methods used by the traffickers, and the playbook and websites used by those being forced to scam people from around the world.

Action

Webinar

Following the release of our briefing a webinar was held on the issue; 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)

Assisting with Rescues

HRC has been directly involved in the rescue of victims from the scamming compounds, assisting them to return home safely. Since the emergence of cyber slavery in July 2021, we have assisted over 60 victims in their return home and their reintegration journey. This includes providing guidance, connecting them to law enforcement bodies or social workers, and emergency grants to cover their flight tickets, medical fees, accommodation, etc.

Knowledge Generation On Survivor Experience And Survivor Agencies​​

Background

We recognise the importance of generating knowledge on the lived experience of survivors and amplifying their agency. Through their lived experience, survivors are experts in counter human trafficking and slavery, yet can often be overlooked by professionals in the field. Approaches to counter trafficking should be survivor led and centred. Over the years, HRC has worked on many projects to better understand survivors’ experience, learning from them to generate knowledge on how trafficking happens, responses to trafficking and appropriate means of reintegration.

Publications

Survivors’ Perspectives on Successful Reintegration after Trafficking

Resilience and Reintegration: Our Stories and Trafficking Survivors

Covid Collective project with IDS – The impact of Covid-19 on trafficking and child labour in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam

Barriers and Opportunities for more Effective Identification of Victims of Human Trafficking: Insights from Bangladesh, Cambodia and Taiwan

The Invisible – The fate of female survivors of sex trafficking in Argentina

Projects

Winrock International and HRC – Illuminating the nature of vulnerability to trafficking by exploring the systemic response to policy interventions in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Kyrgyzstan

This multi-country research project examines how structural factors such as policies and system-level practices shape vulnerabilities to trafficking in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Kyrgyzstan. Our research team have examined existing policies aiming to mitigate human trafficking by exploring three broad research questions:

 

  1. The preventative measures in place that ensure labour rights.
  2. The policies that enable accessible routes for legal and regular migration for all migrants
  3. The legal system for identifying and punishing illicit practices of the brokers

 

The project investigates how policies beyond those traditionally associated with trafficking in persons (e.g. policies addressing climate change) exacerbate or ameliorate trafficking vulnerabilities. This includes the evaluation of the role of economic climate change and private sector policies that foster an environment that allows or discourages trafficking in the target countries. With a particular interest in examining the global supply chains, the team also investigated how low-cost production in the private sector increases vulnerability.

 

Local Advocacy and Negotiation on Protection: Case Studies from Ethiopia, Lebanon, Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic

Funded by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and in partnership with Oxfam, HRC led a project that aims to build stakeholders’ capacity at local, national, and international levels for collective protection advocacy for a more equitable, inclusive, and effective humanitarian protection system. The project identifies the gap and explores ways to strengthen coordination amongst various actors to make community-based protection activities more effective. We developed critical recommendations for international humanitarian actors. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions (FGD) were also carried out in each target country, as well as six case studies on community-based protection groups and other relevant local stakeholders. Our work on the project covered various areas, one such being the documentation of the threats and challenges faced by the LGBTQ community in Yemen and how they build their resilience to counter threats and stigma.

On-going Projects

Participatory Action Research Project with Winrock International, funded by USAID Asia CTIP

Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC) has started 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.