“I got married at the age of 17. After a week from my marriage, my husband left to Thailand for work, because we were very poor. I have not seen him in many years. People in my village told me, that he certainly has another wife in Thailand already, but I knew that he would come back. What I did not know is that he has been trafficked”.

Mrs Touch shared her testimony during the opening of HUMAN COST, photography exhibition by George Nickels in cooperation with GVC at Mirage, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

HUMAN COST is a selection of photographs and testimonials that were captured by the photographer George Nickels during the course of several visits throughout 2016, whilst accompanying GVC field workers in different locations in Cambodia, as part of the European Union funded project. Nickels took part in several Self-Help Groups run by GVC and met with returned migrants and their families.

“The Self-Help Groups, that we run in Cambodia along with our partners: Legal Support for Children and Women and Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center are conducted on monthly basis in remote areas of provinces with the highest migration rates, with a special focus on migration to Thailand”, said Enza di Iorio, GVC Country Representative in Cambodia, during the opening of the event. “These meetings give the returned men and women a rare chance to talk about the migration process they went through, as well as they raise awareness of the risks linked to irregular migration among potential migrants and their families”, she added.

At the exhibition venue, the GVC workers have recreated a Self-Help session, explained the rationale behind them and the way they are conducted. During the meeting Mr Touch and his wife, both portrayed by Nickels, shared their testimonies. The couple crossed the border with Thailand several times. Mr Touch was trafficked and enslaved on a fishing boat. Mrs Touch was arrested during an attempt of crossing the border undocumented and was incarcerated for nine long days and nights in a very small cell together with other women. When released, she had no alternative but to go back to Thailand. She was still in debt with the broker who smuggled her in the first place. Today the family is reunited in Cambodia and Mr Touch is one of GVC’s Social Ambassadors.

“How can we help to prevent what happened to you from happening again?”, asked one of the participants of the exhibition-Self-Help Group. “Continue to draw attention to the fate of the migrants. For many of us, migration is the only choice to guarantee a better future for our kids”– responded Mr Touch.

Unfortunately, such cases are not a thing of the past. “The Cambodian Government, through the N.C.C.T. (National Committee for Counter Trafficking) and other relevant ministries, have taken significant steps to combat human trafficking: regular exchange visits and international agreements with the destination countries, trainings of officials, communication and awareness campaigns and many more”, added Ms. Di Iorio. “However there is still work to be done.Through our Local Facilitators we want to ensure that people have access to the correct information. We want also to understand what needs to be improved in the migration cycle. We hope to give voice and dignity to those men and women whose social or educational barriers impede them”.

“Migration has always been part of the human history. Cross-border dialogue and interactions within the countries and regions, as well as sharing experiences and creating opportunities of collaboration are all important instruments to protect vulnerable citizens from abuse. We must not stop in these efforts”, concluded Ms. Di Iorio.

“I am hoping that my images will bring light to this on-going issue”, said George Nickels, the author of the photographs.

The exhibition, opened to mark the International Migrants Day, is open to everyone until 29th of December, and will close with a screening of documentary feature entitled “Homeward” by Mario Piredda, produced by GVC and Elephant Film.

HUMAN COST

George Nickels
In cooperation with GVC. Project co-funded by the European Union.

Inauguration: 18th of December, 18:00
Closing: 29th of December, 18:00

Screening of the documentary “Homeward” by Mario Piredda, produced by GVC and Elephant Film.

Venue: Street. 27, Wat Bo Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Opening hours December 18-29. Monday – Sunday, 10:00 – 18:00
Free Admission