Thursday, April 28, 2011

[pima.nius] Tongan women's group fights human trafficking

3:03 PM |

Tongan women's group fights human trafficking


Updated April 28, 2011 16:46:57

A Tongan women's centre is printing pamphlets in Mandarin in an effort to reach out to victims of human trafficking.

This follows a court case in which a Chinese woman was found guilty of trafficking, brothel keeping and trading in prostitution.

She will be sentenced next month.

The Tonga Women's and Children's Crisis Centre, says it is looking after several Chinese girls who were victims of the scheme.

Presenter: Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Director of the Tonga Women's and Children's Crisis Centre

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: The first the Women and Children's Crisis Centre heard of this case was through a third party. And the third party was an Asian woman who's currently working in the private sector in Tonga. And fortunately enough these girls found this third party reliable enough and honest enough for them to share with her what was happening to them in the kingdom. And so this third party had contacted the Women and Children's Crisis Centre, and because she could speak both Chinese and English it was a big help, because she helped us tremendously in documenting the case studies of these young women. Now unfortunately when the case was first brought to us we were alerted about three or four victims at the time. But unfortunately as we went on and continued documenting the case studies and following through what was happening with their court cases, we only ended up with one who was confident enough to go all the way, even to the point of documenting pictures of some physical abuse that had occurred to her.

HILL: Well what was that these women were actually going through? What was the predicament they found themselves in in Tonga?

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: Well in a nutshell their stories were all similar in the sense that they were brought over on false pretenses. They'd come from very poor families in China, different parts of rural China, they were told that they could come to Tonga and work in the hospitality and tourism industries, i.e., hotel, housekeeping, in the restaurant, waitressing, and that through this agent that brought them over they would have to of course pay a commission to the agent, and the rest of the money would be used to sent home however they preferred spend their income. Unfortunately upon arriving into Tonga the similarities in their stories was that passports were taken off at the airport and they were taken in and told that they were going to do something completely different.

HILL: They found themselves working in a completely different branch of the hospitality industry than the one that they expected, yes?

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: That's right, and according to some of the earlier stories that we were taken account of, some of the girls were too frightened to speak up or they couldn't speak the Tongan language, their English, basic language skills were very poor. And so just being able to communicate with anybody at all for help or for some services was just a far cry for them.

HILL: Now just to clarify that, they themselves were working as prostitutes didn't they?

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: Yes, sex for money. And the majority of the money that they earned was given to the agent that brought them over to Tonga.

HILL: Now the clients for these women were they other members of the Chinese community or were they Tongan men?

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: No surprisingly what they shared with us is that their biggest clientele were Korean men, Korean businessmen in Tonga, and a few Indians, but they said that at that stage when we were documenting their stories, none of them had ever had sex with any of the Tongan local men.

HILL: What kind of a predicament did those girls find themselves in now?

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: What we are trying to do with this third party that had contacted us about the earlier cases, we are trying to put together a small brochure in Mandarin that we can distribute throughout Tonga in the hope that these women and these young girls will be alerted about the services of the Crisis Centre. I think that's our first step. And hopefully through that process we will be able to get some more women coming to us. We've had a few in the last month or so who have contacted us by phone. Some have even invited us to a place of refuge where they're in hiding. And we know that it's quite a difficult situation because despite the fact that we want to reach out and help them and given them all the assistance we can, at the end of the day they are the ones who tell us how much and how far we can go and how much help we can given them.

HILL: So what happens to them, do they get deported back to China as a result of this, what's their status?

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: Well the ones that we've been dealing with they're telling us that they want to go back to China but the thing is their passports, the agents who have brought them over are refusing to hand their passports back to them.

HILL: How big a problem is this in Tonga?

GUTTENBEIL-LIKILIKI: I thinks this is the tip of the iceberg. I think there's more going on, but because of the lack of skills from all service sectors to be able to pick up on these types of cases. I mean we've heard there are a lot of Asian restaurants that have been setup throughout the country as a front face to the public, but what's going on behind the walls of the restaurant is completely something different. Some brothels are being operated, but that's what I mean, we need the skills and the expertise in Tonga to be able to pickup on these cases. I've just come back from the Pacific where I've travelled through a few different island countries, and it's the same stories we're hearing on the ground. Asian restaurants being setup all over the Pacific with this, something else completely different going on behind the walls.


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pacific islands media association
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pacific islands media association
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aotearoa, new zealand
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