Please find below projects funded by IPA's Human Trafficking Research Initiative (HTRI).

Understanding the Impact of Offering Loans on Labor Trafficking

Researchers: Manisha Shah 
Country: India 
Partners: Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS), Sattva Consulting, LabourNet, Kois, Gromor Finance, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Type of Project: Partial Funding, Randomized Control Trial

Construction is India's second largest source of employment. It is also one of the highest risk industries for forced labor. About a third (30 million) of India's internal migrants are employed in construction (Deshingkar and Akter 2009). Nonprofit organizations estimate that 3-5 million of these migrants are victims of forced labor every year. In the sector, the responsibility for ethical business practices often falls on independent and informal contractors, who are usually subcontracted by larger construction companies. These micro-contractors (MCs) accept subcontracts from larger construction firms and then provide limited-term jobs to small crews of construction workers. When a worker experiences exploitation on a construction site, it is likely because of decisions made by MCs. Complicating matters, MCs are often workers themselves and face many of the same economic pressures. Researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of providing low-cost loans to construction MCs, testing the extent to which forced labor may be motivated by MCs’ own economic insecurity and credit constraints. These microloans are offered at lower interest rates than unsecured loans typically offered by formal or informal lenders and are part of a larger suite of interventions offered by GFEMS, Sattva Consulting, LabourNet, and Kois, which includes ethical entrepreneurship training, access to work orders, and ethical recruitment of workers. IPA will support the costs of the final survey, which will be completed in early 2023.


Irregular migration, trafficking, and misinformation in Nigeria

Researchers: Alexandra Scacco, Bernd Beber, Macarten Humphreys, Pheliciah Mwachofi, Dean Yang
Country: Nigeria
Partners: IPA Nigeria
Type of Project: Partial Funding, Randomized Control Trial

Irregular migration and human trafficking have reached crisis proportions in many fragile states. Yet we lack answers to basic questions about how individuals weigh the risks and benefits of migration, and whether exposure to stressors and information on the dangers posed by traffickers along specific migration corridors, such as the Mediterranean route from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, shape potential migrants’ decision-making processes. These answers matter for migration-related programs and policies: Do information campaigns highlighting risks change people’s decisions to migrate? Does information about economic opportunities at home affect these decisions? Where and how is information most effectively transmitted? The study’s researchers have been exploring these questions through a randomized evaluation that assesses the impact of door-to-door campaigns on migration-related beliefs, interest in attempting the migration journey and actual migration attempts. The information campaign has been delivered to treatment households in Nigeria’s Edo and Delta states via an in-person script, a video message with testimonials from returnees, and a motivated reasoning exercise. Funding from HTRI will support in-person endline interviews with 3,200 individuals and dissemination of the human trafficking-related findings of the study. 


Protecting Against Exploitation for Asylum and Refugees: The Impact of Information Provision in Greece

Researchers: Alexandra Hartman, Dominik Hangartner, Marine Casalis
Country:  Greece (working with displacement-affected populations from various countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Partners: University College London (UCL), ETH Zurich - Immigration Policy Lab (IPL), International Rescue Committee (IRC) Hellas/Greece, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Greece
Type of Project: Full Randomized Control Trial

People who flee their place of habitual residence are at high risk of human trafficking and abuse, particularly while they seek legal status in their country of asylum (ICMPD 2018). There are currently 95,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, where traffickers conduct transit and in-country operations (A21 2020). How does raising awareness about access to services and information reduce refugees' and asylum seekers' vulnerability to exploitation? What factors shape whether improving access to information can reduce vulnerability? Researchers will study the nexus between forcible displacement and trafficking in Greece by evaluating the impact of a two-way information counseling program on reducing trafficking risk. This study, which is building off an ongoing collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Greece, will establish a representative sample of 3,000 forced migrants residing in Greece to identify the relationship between legal status and trafficking and exploitation. The research team will randomly evaluate the effects of providing one-way, static information via a website link compared with providing two-way information counseling, where participants can ask questions and receive guidance from partners of International Rescue Committee (IRC) Hellas via social media and mobile messaging apps. Results from this analysis will have wide implications for determining optimal and cost-efficient mechanisms to provide information to support and protect vulnerable and mobile populations.


Evaluating the Effects of the Crescer Sem Violência (Growing Up Without Violence) Curricula in Tackling Commercial Child Sexual Exploitation of Children

Researchers: Ligia Kiss, Elizabeth Anderson, Yuki Lo, Ana Paula Portella, Marina Barros, and Dario Brito
Country: Brazil
Partners: The Freedom Fund, University College London (UCL), Catholic University of Pernambuco (UNICAP), Canal Futura, Municipal Government of Cabo de Santo Agostinho
Type of project: Full Randomized Control Trial

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is an enormous problem in Brazil, compounded by rising income inequality and gender issues. Government and civil society coordination are often lacking, and social norms contribute to a low-level tolerance of sexual exploitation of minors. Since 2008, the TV network Canal Futura has been operating the Crescer Sem Violência (CSV, or Growing Up Without Violence) multimedia curricula to improve children’s and frontline professionals’ knowledge, skills, and behaviors to reduce children’s exposure to CSEC. The curriculum centers on three television series that introduce concepts such as sexual abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, safe approaches for online dating, signs of online grooming, and self-protection to children in Brazil. The CSV materials have already been implemented in over 4,300 schools throughout Brazil but the intervention has never undergone a rigorous evaluation. This research project will randomly assign schools to receive CSV as it expands to the municipality of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, part of the Recife Metropolitan Area, where rates of sex workers who entered the sex industry below age 18 are estimated to be the highest in Brazil (Bragaet et al. 2020). The results of the research will be used to inform the Freedom Fund, Canal Futura, and other project partners as to changes needed in the curriculum and methodology and to inform the potential for scale-up of the CSV curricula in other parts of Brazil. It will also serve as the first randomized evaluation to take place of a school-based sex trafficking prevention education program.


Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices on Trafficking in Persons in Haiti
Researchers: Nicola Pocock, Carl Stephan St-Louis, Chris Cuthbert
Country: Haiti
Partners: Lumos Foundation & London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Type of Project: Existing Data Analysis / Project Idea Building ​/ Literature Review

Internal and cross-border trafficking of people in Haiti remains an important challenge, with an estimated 59,000 Haitians living in situations of modern slavery. Children are regularly trafficked to residential institutions as well as for child domestic servitude (CDS), a socially normative practice known as restavek. Researchers will analyze previously gathered project survey data and conduct interviews with the general population, vulnerable families, and police officers and judges to understand practices around child domestic servitude. The research team will examine the attitudes and practices of people who place children in residential institutions, place children in child domestic work, or employ child domestic workers in their homes. The findings from this research will be used to provide conceptually-grounded insights to inform an anti-trafficking Behaviour Change Campaign scheduled to take place in late 2021 through mid-2022.


Trafficking Prevention Research Development
Project Coordinators: Veerawit Tianchainan, Lucy McCray
Country: Thailand
Partner: The Freedom Story
Type of Project: Travel/ Exploratory Grant

The Freedom Story has been working to prevent child trafficking in Northern Thailand for 13 years, with projects in Chiang Rai and Nan provinces in Thailand, both rural trafficking hotspots with high rates of poverty, low levels of education, and social isolation (including issues such as family breakdown, child abuse, and statelessness). The goal of this grant is to identify and develop relationships with researchers who can support the development of studies, impact evaluations, or other rigorous research designs to measure the impact of The Freedom Story’s programs and help them replicate and scale their programs in new locations and with new populations. These efforts will build on annual surveys implemented for the past three years by The Freedom Story to monitor knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to trafficking and the risk of trafficking among the organization’s target populations.


A Community-led Livelihood Intervention to Overcome Human Sex Trafficking in India
Researchers: Meredith Dank, Sheldon Zhang
Country: India
Partners: Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices
Type of Project: Travel/Exploratory Grant

Almost 20 percent of victims of human trafficking globally are sexually exploited (ILO and Walk Free Foundation 2017). In India’s sex industry, many young women and girls come from impoverished, low-caste communities, including Nomadic, Semi-Nomadic, and Denotified tribes. They can be often trafficked at a young age, making it difficult for them to choose to leave the sex industry and find different livelihood options. The Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices, a social development organization based in India, has enrolled young women into an intervention program to build their skills and confidence, promote agency and decision making, and provide them with educational and skills-building opportunities to expand their choices of livelihood options. Researchers are collaborating with the Praxis Institute to explore and design a rigorous randomized evaluation to measure the effectiveness of the Institute’s interventions.


Using Social Media to Provide Information and Support for Migrant Workers about Illegal Recruitment Practices in Hong Kong and the Philippines
Researcher: Lucy Jordan
Country: Hong Kong, the Philippines
Partners: Migrasia Global Solutions
Type of Project: Pilot Research Project

Migration intermediaries play a legitimate role in the efficient matching of labor supply and demand across borders. However, exploitation and forced labor can occur when unethical intermediaries, such as employment agencies, training centers, and medical clinics take advantage of information asymmetries to charge exorbitant fees to migrant workers for their services, who often take on substantial debt and risks to finance recruitment related costs. Migrasia, a think tank devoted to migration in Asia, has used social media to overcome information barriers and improve the identification, protection, and empowerment of migrant workers and increase accountability of malicious recruitment agencies and other migration intermediaries. Building on past research that indicates that social media can be useful in spreading awareness where information barriers exist (Özdemir 2012), researchers are assessing the feasibility and suitability of conducting a randomized evaluation to determine the effectiveness of Migrasia’s social media campaigns in reducing the incidence of migrant worker exploitation. The campaigns aim to prevent workers from being overcharged on recruitment fees and related costs and provide support and access to redress for those who have been financially exploited by recruitment agencies and other intermediaries across Asia, with a focus on the Hong Kong-Philippines migration corridor.