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This investigative series was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.
MANILA, Philippines – Most stories about human trafficking and labor exploitation end once they are exposed. Once they have caught media attention, the public presumes these cases will be investigated and those responsible will be held accountable.
However, as this investigative series by Ana P. Santos reveals, Filipino migrant truck drivers in Europe are haplessly caught in the middle of uneven implementation of regulations and rigid legislation that make it difficult to prove human trafficking is being carried out to exploit labor.
Rappler follows the story of overseas Filipino workers Randy de Vera in The Netherlands and Jay-ar Santos in the Philippines to show that, whether abroad or in the Philippines, Filipino migrant truck drivers face rough roads.
Part 1 | Rough roads: The exploitation of Filipino truck drivers in Europe
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – Unscrupulous employers are profiteering from the shortage of truck drivers in Europe. They recruit truck drivers from the Philippines and South Asia, and maximize profits by cutting on costs such as salaries and living accommodations for drivers.
Working so far away from home, Filipino migrant truck drivers like Randy de Vera live in their trucks for months at a time. They eat and sleep in their trucks with no proper heating or toilet facilities. They drive excessively long hours and are paid low wages.
Truck drivers in the Netherlands filed a case of human trafficking, but European authorities dismissed it, saying “this isn’t slavery.”
Part 2 | Exploited, displaced: Filipino truck drivers from the European Union come home to uncertainties
QUEZON PROVINCE, Philippines – When the Dutch police responded to their call for rescue and saw Jay-ar Santos and other Filipino migrant drivers camped in their trucks, they said, “Even my dog has a house. You’re humans, but you’re made to live here.”
Now in the Philippines and reunited with this family, Santos speaks about the difficulties migrant workers face both at home and abroad.
A video shot in The Netherlands and the Philippines tells the story of De Vera and Santos and how in the European Union, where they work, they face labor exploitation enabled by vague laws and their varying implementation across European borders. At home, they face unemployment and job insecurity. Wherever they go, they are left looking for ways out of the economic uncertainty they try so hard to escape.
Part 3 | Explainer: What does the truck driver shortage in Europe have to do with the Philippines?
How are European transport companies able to recruit truck drivers from the Philippines to fill in the shortage of truck drivers in Europe? Migrant truck drivers enter Europe through Eastern European countries with lax visa and entry requirements. Once in Europe, they are made to drive long hours to make as many deliveries as possible and live in their trucks.
Gaps in legislation and the rigid definition of human trafficking make these working conditions difficult to prove as exploitative. Authorities in The Netherlands and Denmark have dismissed complaints of trafficking and exploitation by migrant truck drivers.
How are legislators in The Netherlands and corporations in Denmark stepping in to do something about it?