Anti-Slavery Organization International Justice Mission Announces Grant from Walmart Foundation to Address Human Trafficking in Thai Fishing Industry

BANGKOK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today International Justice Mission (IJM), the world’s largest
international anti-slavery organization, announced support from the
Walmart Foundation to address human trafficking, also known as modern
slavery, in the Thai fishing industry.

News reports of modern slavery in supply chains in Southeast Asia are
making international headlines. While these reports have shown how
migrant workers are being forced to work in the Thai seafood industry,
there has not yet been a comprehensive study documenting the prevalence
of forced labor and exploitation of fishermen on Thai fishing vessels.
With funding from the Walmart Foundation, IJM commissioned Issara
Institute to conduct groundbreaking research in Thailand documenting the
prevalence of forced labor.

The study surveyed migrant fishermen who worked on Thai fishing boats
from 2011 – 2016. The findings1 show that labor trafficking
of migrant fishermen has been widespread (37.9% were identified
as victims of trafficking), and there are common patterns of abuse in
the industry (14.1% were physically abused; 31.5%
witnessed a crewmate’s abuse at sea; 76.2% accrued debt prior to
even beginning work). A summary of key findings, as well as the full
report can be found here
.

The Walmart Foundation grant to IJM builds upon funding from the U.S.
Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in
Persons (TIP Office), which helped open the IJM Bangkok office to work
alongside the Royal Thai Government as it combats human trafficking in
the fishing industry. The funds will also help ensure strong casework
development, improved law enforcement efforts against human trafficking,
and criminal deterrence to help stem impunity for criminal actors and to
ensure stronger victim protection. This coming together of public and
private foundation resources to co-support a single initiative is the
first-of-its-kind and an innovative approach to ending modern slavery in
a region where many seafood global supply chains begin.

“Many of the greatest risks to worker dignity are complex, systemic and
industry-wide issues that no single organization can solve. By working
with industry stakeholders, nonprofit organizations, governments and
others, we are striving to improve transparency, empower workers and
create positive change throughout supply chains,” said Kathleen
McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation.
“We believe IJM’s
work will help strengthen the systems in Thailand, and, with the
information from the prevalence study, create real and sustainable
change for the workers in the seafood supply chain.”

“No person should have to live under the oppression or ownership of
another, and, as consumers, we shouldn’t have to wonder if the products
we’re purchasing are the result of violent injustice,” said Gary
Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission
. “IJM is grateful for
the partnership of the Walmart Foundation, as well as the Department of
State’s TIP Office, as we support the Thai Government’s efforts to stop
the horrific crime of human trafficking in the fishing industry.”

IJM’s experience over the past 20 years has demonstrated the importance
of strengthening a criminal justice response so would-be perpetrators
are deterred from committing human trafficking crimes. Unless the Thai
justice system routinely and effectively holds traffickers accountable,
boat captains, brokers, recruiters, local business owners and complicit
officials will continue to abuse vulnerable migrant laborers at sea and
on shore with impunity.

The Thai Government has made significant efforts to combat human
trafficking. In fact, the Thai Government has strengthened its 2008
anti-trafficking in persons act by amending it in 2015 and 2017. More
specifically, in 2015 the Thai Government operationalized specialized
anti-trafficking units within each sector of the criminal justice system
and issued a human trafficking criminal procedure act. IJM’s work will
continue to support those efforts to fight the complex, cross-border
crime.

Progress against human trafficking is being made, but there is still
more work to do. Bolstered by this new research and with the
public-private investment from the U.S. Department of State’s TIP Office
and Walmart Foundation, IJM’s office in Bangkok is positioned to support
the Thai Government’s efforts to combat human trafficking in the fishing
industry.

About IJM: International Justice Mission is the world’s largest
international anti-slavery organization working in 17 communities across
the developing world to combat slavery, trafficking, and other forms of
violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, holding
perpetrators accountable, and transforming broken public justice systems.

1 http://www.ijm.org/thai-fishing-study

Contacts

International Justice Mission (IJM)
Maggie Cutrell
U.S. Media
Manager
mcutrell@ijm.org
or
Walmart
Media Relations
1-800-331-0085
news.walmart.com/reporter