MANILA, Philippines – Since November 2022, the Philippine Senate has been investigating reports of migrant workers being trafficked and forced to work in cryptocurrency scams across Southeast Asia.
Filipinos are among those who have survived the trafficking. Survivors of this trafficking scheme, when asked to testify in public, tell similar stories. They speak of finding a job posting on social media, promising work as call center agents or technical support.
Through coordination with a recruiter, they eventually end up in so-called scam hubs in Cambodia, Myanmar, or even the Philippines. They are told to befriend Caucasian men and con them to invest in cryptocurrency. Failure to scam people means salary cuts or physical abuse.
The survivors have spoken about encountering multiple nationalities of workers. During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Indonesia from May 10 to 11, it was reported that more than 1,000 victims were rescued in a matter of days.
Southeast Asian leaders vowed to crack down on online scams operated by human traffickers to prey on vulnerable job seekers, particularly in the poorest countries of the region.
Rappler multimedia reporter Michelle Abad speaks to Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, to understand the regional trafficking issue and what it says about the human rights situation in Southeast Asia.
Catch the interview on Rappler when it airs on Thursday, May 18, at 10 am. – Rappler.com