There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). The US attracts migrants and refugees who are particularly at risk of vulnerability to human trafficking. Trafficking victims often responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the US migrate willingly and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in industries such as forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.
Thanit mortgaged is house, farm and land to pay the recruiter’s fees that would take him to the United States. When he arrived in Hawaii, Thanit was housed in a small building with 22 other workers.
I hoped that I’d be able to build a better future for my family, but I was hung out to dry and can’t get any justice.
I took a big loan, because I wanted my family to have a better quality of life and I thought the monthly income of 2,000 dollars was high. As a farmer, I’d never had that kind of income. It was a great opportunity to be had in America.
When I came here, Global sent me to Hawaii to work on a farm. I worked from six in the morning until five in the evening. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere except from work to our accommodation. I wasn’t allowed to telephone home. Twenty-two of us had to share a house with only one bathroom. We had to sleep on bunk beds. There was no electricity, telephone or TV, we only had one small lantern. We were picked up at 5am and taken to work.
The day I escaped from Global, Mr Motty asked us to pour cement mix in front of his house. That day I found out that he hid our passports in a drawer of his desk. So I pretended to have a stomach ache, went in the house and took back my passport.
I don’t have a visa or legal documents, so I work illegally in restaurants. I have to stay in America to earn money to get back my farmland and house so that my family has somewhere to live. Even now I’m still paying off my debts. I borrowed 17,000 dollars to pay Global and I’m paying five percent interest on that debt.
Thai workers who come here to work only want a better future. A better life. I’d like to see organisations and the authorities help people like us: people who are uneducated, who don’t speak English, and who are unable to take care of themselves. I just want to be able to get my farmland and house back. I don’t want anything more. Thank you.
Narrative and images provided by Al Jazeera