Regional Reintegration Initiative: Challenges in Reintegration in the GMS Region
Implementing Agencies: COMMIT governments, UNIAP, NEXUS Institute, IOM, World Vision, UNICEF and Save the Children
Geographic Scope: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam
Project Summary: In late 2009, the six COMMIT Governments (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) convened and identified improving reintegration assistance as one of their agreed highest priorities for the Mekong region. Following this, in 2010, UNIAP as COMMIT Secretariat convened a regional working group of IOM, NEXUS Institute, Save the Children, UNIAP, UNICEF, and World Vision to provide united support to the governments to (a) map out existing reintegration assistance mechanisms in the region, and (b) get perspectives from actual victims of trafficking regarding their post-trafficking life and needs, whether they received assistance or not. The COMMIT PPC5 Regional reintegration initiative aims to analyze the effectiveness of reintegration processes and structures; to learn whether current services are meeting reintegration needs and what can be done to ensure that trafficked person’s needs are met through existing programs and policies.
This initiative was comprised of three phases:
Phase 1. Desk review/state of the art on reintegration services in the region. UNIAP, in 2010, conducted a review of all existing information and research about reintegration in the region. This information was made available to all stakeholders in the region through the UNIAP website.
Phase 2. National practitioner forums. National Practitioner Forums were held in the six countries through late 2010 to map out and analyze existing reintegration assistance mechanisms in the region. National practitioner forums facilitated the collection of information on existing services and procedures for reintegration in the Mekong region, as well as the perspectives of service providers in terms of what was working well and where issues and challenges lay. The summary results of the national practitioner forums were prepared for the COMMIT Governments by UNIAP, World Vision, and NEXUS Institute, with translation into the six Mekong languages (Chinese, Burmese, Thai, Khmer, Laotian, and Vietnamese).
Phase 3. Primary research on trafficked persons’ experiences of reintegration in the Mekong region, conducted by NEXUS. Well-designed reintegration and assistance programs may assist trafficked persons with the challenging task of recovery and reintegration following a trafficking experience. But ensuring that reintegration efforts are responsive to the needs of trafficked persons requires a constant process of reflection and evaluation – to learn what services are (and are not) effective, to identify any gaps in service provision and to consider the specific factors that support (or inhibit) trafficked persons’ return and integration into families and communities. Moreover, many trafficked persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) are never identified or assisted, which necessitates a better understanding of the reasons for this and what can be done to meet the reintegration needs of these unserved trafficked persons. This study explores the experiences of 252 trafficked persons (including 107 trafficked children) who received assistance as well as those who, for various reasons, did not or chose not to. Findings focus on: 1) Challenges in the reintegration process; 2) Issues in the provision of individualized reintegration services, 3) Issues in the philosophies, capacities and behaviors of practitioners and authorities working on reintegration, and 4) Critical issues in the reintegration of trafficked children. Phase three, commissioned by the COMMIT governments, was carried out by NEXUS Institute, in cooperation with UNIAP.
The study was funded by ANESVAD Foundation, Australian Agency for International Development, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and US Department of State. Other partner agencies include International Organization for Migration, Save the Children, Somaly Mam Foundation, United Nations Children Fund, World Vision and NEXUS Institute.
Project Publications and Studies: This reintegration initiative had three main outputs as outlined below.
Supporting the reintegration of trafficked persons. A guidebook for the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (2017) (available in Khmer; forthcoming in Burmese, Chinese, Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai)
This guidebook is based on findings from the ground-breaking study: After trafficking: Experiences and challenges in the (re)integration of trafficked persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, which is based on interviews with 252 trafficking victims in the GMS about their experiences of reintegration. The guidebook highlights positive examples and successes in the reintegration of trafficked persons in different settings and countries throughout the region. It also presents challenges faced by trafficked persons as they sought to move on from their exploitation, including what they suggested could be done in the future to better support the recovery and reintegration of trafficked persons. As critically, the guidebook offers a set of checklists which point to ways forward to improve work in the field of reintegration programming and policy. The guidebook is a practical resource for service providers in the GMS region (and further afield), to assist in improving reintegration programs and policies for trafficking victims. It may also be useful for donors and policymakers in terms of identifying and funding good practice in the field of reintegration of trafficking victims. The April 2017 Press Release regarding the guidebook is available here.
Reintegration is a process that involves many steps after the individual’s exit from trafficking. Trafficked persons should be afforded the full range of rights and protections they are entitled to and which are guaranteed under law. While many trafficked persons interviewed for this study were assisted and supported in these ways; many others went unidentified and unassisted as trafficking victims, which meant not receiving support to aid in their recovery and sustainable reintegration. Still others received some forms of assistance but not the full range of services that they required (and were entitled to) to move on from trafficking experience and successfully reintegrate. Some trafficked persons chose to decline some or all of the support offered to them. This research aims to understand the individual and diverse reintegration experiences of trafficked persons – what was positive, what was less successful and what might be done in the future to either replicate good practices or avoid problematic ones. A blog post drawing from this publication is available here.
Throughout 2010, victim service practitioners and other anti-trafficking responders providing support to victims of human trafficking gathered in a series of National Practitioner Forums in each of the GMS countries (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) to discuss existing reintegration assistance systems, lessons learned, successes and challenges. This document summarizes the key findings of these national practitioner forums, drawing out key themes, lessons learned, and common challenges facing victim service agencies in the process of reintegrating trafficked persons. The perspectives contained within this publication are the voices, ideas, feedback, lessons and concerns of the victim service agencies and other anti-trafficking practitioners across the GMS.