Partner of the ASEA® Advancing Life Foundation, Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) continues its efforts in Africa to rescue migrant domestic workers who are exploited and trafficked. A recent rescue mission funded by the ASEA foundation led to the release of 30 women who were wrongfully imprisoned in the Middle East. After years in prison, these women finally returned to their homes where O.U.R. is providing aftercare to help them heal from the trauma they experienced.
Migrant Domestic Workers
Domestic workers travel from Africa in search of employment but are exploited by false employment agencies. Forced labor is one of the most predominant forms of human trafficking in Africa. According to the United Nations, close to 80% of victims in the West African region are trafficked for purposes of forced labor. Involuntary servitude is an issue that poses a variety of vulnerabilities for domestic workers, especially migrants.
The victims cannot leave their place of employment, are stripped of fundamental human rights, and have their passports and money taken away. They endure forms of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Many women travel from Africa to the Middle East in search of job opportunities and a better way to provide for their families. They believe they have been hired to be domestic helpers in the homes of the wealthy. While this does happen for many, for some, this is not their reality. When some arrive in the Middle East, they think they will be taken to their new home to be employed, but instead their documents, money, and phones are taken from them.
Many women are forced into slavery, are not paid, work long work hours, have little to eat, and are sexually abused or sold as sex slaves. If a woman becomes pregnant or their owner gets angry with them, they will turn them in to the police for theft or prostitution; both considered severe crimes.
Their situation is further complicated by their illegal residence in the country without any passport or documents. The traffickers will often physically abuse and manipulate the victims, forcing them to comply and travel to other countries or locations against their will. They are told little information about where they are going, who they will work for, and how long.
O.U.R. Rescues Women From Prisons
Women who escape tend to be even more vulnerable because they don’t have any documentation or financial means to survive. Once the migrant women are imprisoned, they have no legal representation or rights in a foreign country. The women often have no way to contact family and no means to pay the fines to be released from the prison system. The living conditions in prison are worse than their place of origin.
“Visiting the prisons where the women end up after they escape the home they’ve been exploited in is truly sobering,” says O.U.R. representative Jessica Mass, Director of Aftercare. “They’re forced to work 18 hours a day with no food. One woman I spoke to had been in prison for four years, another for seven years, and another for 20 years. Not only do Advancing Life funds help them with legal fees, flights home, and aftercare; they are also provided with opportunities to become entrepreneurs through business classes and get help paying for school fees for their kids. These funds and aftercare programs help prevent them from being re-exploited at such a high-risk time after their escape.”
Join the Fight Against Trafficking
If you would like to help Advancing Life continue to fund important rescue missions and other worthy causes worldwide for those in need, consider signing up as a monthly donor in our Monthly Pledge Portal. With your help, the foundation can make a difference for those who need help and have a lasting impact on their lives.