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Colombian "Chained Trafficking Victims" Video

IOM Fri, Sep-05-2014   Colombia

Three cities, nine cameras and a team of professional actors have joined forces to alert Colombians to the growing scourge of people trafficking in their country.

Human trafficking - principally for the sex trade - is second only to narcotics and arms-dealing among profitable illegal activities in the South American nation, according to the Colombian authorities.

"Working together in a chain reaction against trafficking in persons" is the name of the new campaign developed by IOM, in partnership with Colombia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

" Chain Reaction" is designed to challenge pedestrians at busy intersections in the cities of Bogotá, Cali and Pereira with the specter of a fellow Colombian in danger.

"What we did was to chain up a person in various public spaces across the country, to see how the people around would react. Would they help? Would they ignore it? Would they form a chain reaction of assistance to free the person?" explains Ambassador Javier Higuera, the Foreign Ministry's director of Migration, Consular and Citizen Service division.

The results were surprising and poignant, he says. Chained to their spots, as if "captured" on an imaginary journey under the control of criminal traffickers, actors were trained to sit silently until passers-by intervened. In others they, pulled at their chains and expressed anguish.

"We didn't know what was going to happen," said programme manager Ana Maria Caldas. "We had the cooperation of the police, but the situation was pretty uncertain. Once an actress or actor was chained up in public, they were at the mercy of peoples' reactions."

Cameras recording those reactions showed indifference was an all-too-common response. But the longer the "victims" remained chained to their spots, the more citizens stepped up to offer assistance.

Recordings also revealed that sympathy was contagious. "As soon as one person reacted positively, other people nearby came forward and asked if they could help too," said Ambassador Higuera.

Colombian nationals who are trafficking victims overwhelmingly are bound for foreign destinations - 96 per cent according to data gathered by IOM Colombia's Combatting Trafficking in Persons programme - with the rest trafficked within the county. Ecuador, Argentina and China are the main destination countries for Colombian victims.

Since 2003, IOM Colombia has collaborated with several publicity campaigns to prevent, inform and provide assistance to victims. In the last three years, it has helped 133 Colombians trafficked abroad to return from different parts of the world.

According to IOM Colombia Chief of Mission Alejandro Guidi, most trafficking victims are women - the majority victims of sexual exploitation. Others are victims of exploitative forced labour. Under-reporting of the crime means that many more victims remain hidden and do not receive the help they deserve, he explains.

"The scope of the deception of the networks is so credible that the victims who travel with the traffickers are usually blind to it," agrees María Angela Holguín of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The campaign launched on August 27 th and the video quickly went viral, drawing 13,000 viewers in the first two days. "This is a new experiment and it makes us reflect on how to create these chains or connections to be able to react together and prevent those close to us from falling into a trafficking network," says Guidi.