Rescue is not enough

Many of Blue Dragon’s rescues end with a beautiful reunion of family members. Some, however, end with a tragic discovery.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of rescue operations to combat human trafficking.

Today I want to share another perspective: that as important as they are, rescues alone are simply not enough.

One of the joys of my job is receiving photos from staff out in the field who have accompanied home one of the people we have rescued from slavery. I get these photos almost every day.

Often, they are photos of pure joy. The beaming faces of mother and daughter with their arms wrapped around each other. The tears of a father holding his teenage child who he feared he would never see again.

I usually can’t share these images because I need to protect the privacy of these families. So I try to emulate that joy here on the blog.

But sometimes the moment of returning home is not an occasion for joy at all. Sometimes it is a moment of devastation.

This week was one of those occasions.

Blue Dragon rescued 34-year Tuyen just a week ago. She had been tricked by a distant relative into traveling to China – all the way from southern Vietnam, close to Ho Chi Minh City – thinking that she was on her way to a job where she could earn a decent living.

That was in 2019. Instead of being offered a job, Tuyen was sold as a bride and held against her will for four years. Blue Dragon found her location last month and sent a team to rescue her. Tuyen crossed back into Vietnam on March 31.

After receiving some treatment and support at our emergency shelter, Blue Dragon staff traveled with Tuyen back to her home town. And that was when the full tragedy of Tuyen’s situation became clear.

Instead of a joyful family reunion, Tuyen arrived home to the news that her much-loved mother had died just a month ago.

Instead of a chance to hold her mother, Tuyen went to the family altar to burn incense in her memory.

Tuyen at her mother’s altar.

In time Tuyen will learn to live with her grief, comforted only by the knowledge of how much her mother loved her. Family members report that the mother’s final words were: Please keep looking for my daughter.

At last Tuyen is home; but feels that she has lost everything.

This is why rescue is not enough. It’s vital and it might always be needed; but we must do so much more.

Most importantly, we must do all we can to stop trafficking from happening in the first place. Not just ‘awareness raising’ and telling people to be careful; but actively addressing the causes of human trafficking to keep people safe and put traffickers out of business.

And for people like Tuyen who fall victim to trafficking? Beyond rescue, it’s essential to provide services and support for recovery. Tuyen will need years of assistance and counselling if she is to truly ever heal from this terrible experience.

Human trafficking is happening every day… in many different forms… in every part of the world. It’s a sinister crime and there are many important reasons that we must end it.

Above all is the very human cost it exacts on its victims. For Tuyen’s sake, and in the memory of her mother, we must do everything we can to stop this cruel trade of innocent people.

Blue Dragon is committed to ending human trafficking. Join us on April 12 and 13 for an online discussion about how this is possible and what we can do to achieve it. For details and registration, click this link.

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