“Because if we talk about health issues first, it is easier to talk about human trafficking”; findings from a mixed methods study on health needs and service provision among migrant and trafficked fishermen in the Mekong

Human trafficking in the fishing industry or “sea slavery” in the Greater Mekong Subregion is reported to involve some of the most extreme forms of exploitation and abuse. A largely unregulated sector, commercial fishing boats operate in international waters far from shore and outside of national jurisdiction, where workers are commonly subjected to life-threatening risks. Yet, research on the health needs of trafficked fishermen is sparse.

This paper describes abuses, occupational hazards, physical and mental health and post-trafficking well-being among a systematic consecutive sample of 275 trafficked fishermen using post-trafficking services in Thailand and Cambodia. These findings are complemented by qualitative interview data collected with 20 key informants working with fishermen or on issues related to their welfare in Thailand.