16.05.2023

A Future Where Call Centres Are Not Exploitative

CONSULTING BRIEF #4

Call centre scamming operations contribute to the trafficking of thousands of migrants across Southeast Asia. The recent convictions of 3 traffickers and successful action taken by law enforcement indicate that it may be gradually becoming more difficult to traffic people in this way. As some of the first successful convictions of these call centre scam traffickers take place, we believe direct action like this can enable a future where call centres are not exploitative.

Call centres are a high-risk workplace for exploitation, with staff working long hours with no breaks and suffering emotional and physical abuse to meet unrealistic targets. This form of exploitation was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with staff shortages increasing pressure to meet demand. Increasingly, call centres in Southeast Asia are running scam operations, where migrant workers are forced to scam foreigners out of money.

Workers across the region are lured to call centres in Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia under the false promise of employment with an attractive wage, only to have their passports confiscated and be trained on how to scam people online. Workers are reportedly trapped in a compound with 70+ people and are forced to work 8am to 8pm with no breaks to scam victims in Australia, Europe, and China out of their money.  The Guardian reports that this is a growing trend, with operations obtaining over $1 million AUD a day in 2022 from Australian scams alone.

At STOP THE TRAFFIK, we have launched a new campaign that dares to imagine a future where human trafficking can be prevented and does not exist. The conviction of 3 traffickers in Indonesia for the illegal movement of workers to scam call operations in Cambodia highlights the possibility of this better future where exploitation does not have to be normal.

Last month, in April, these traffickers were sentenced to 3 to 4 years in prison, some of the first convictions for human trafficking related to scamming in Indonesia. This drive to disrupt exploitation and administer justice is also spurring international cooperation. Cross-sector collaboration aiding these convictions of traffickers under Indonesian law indicates the importance of collective action in disrupting exploitative crime. The Australian federal police are working with their counterparts across Southeast Asia to develop a Cyber Safety Asia Program, which will train law enforcement personnel on cybercrime investigation, so they can successfully identify online scamming operations and support the conviction of traffickers for this crime.

STOP THE TRAFFIK recommends that businesses, financial institutions, and law enforcement continue to collaborate in high-risk regions, through a commitment to actively share intelligence on exploitative crimes and join international working groups to promote the fair treatment of migrant workers. Cooperative efforts such as these will continue to support the successful convictions of traffickers to create safer communities across the world and to bring about a future free from exploitation.

Each month, we provide partners and long-standing clients with further insights and recommendations on recent and upcoming global developments. Email [email protected] to learn how you can receive these monthly updates and how STT can help you address the modern slavery risks your organisation faces.

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