The role of police in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation: An empirical study in Vietnam

Author: Van Oanh Nguyen

Nguyen, Van Oanh, 2019 The role of police in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation: An empirical study in Vietnam, Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law

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In Vietnam, identification of, and assistance for, victims of human trafficking has recently garnered extensive government policy attention due to a perceived increase in the illicit trafficking of persons, particularly trafficking for sexual exploitation. Among anti-trafficking stakeholders, the police force is determined to be pivotal in responding to this crime. The purpose of this research is to investigate ways to achieve a greater understanding of victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation through police perceptions and how they identify and support this population. To reach this level of analysis, a mixed-methods approach was utilised with a sample of police officers in Task Forces or anti-trafficking units from five provincial police departments and at the ministerial level in Vietnam. In total 150 surveys and 25 interviews of officers were completed to evaluate to what extent perceptions of the characteristics of victims of sex trafficking can be understood by notions of ideal and deserving victims, the strategies used for identification of victims, the services provided to them, and the practical challenges faced by police in these respects in Vietnam. This represents an original methodological approach and a first step in addressing the paucity of grounded research in this area.

The data highlights the stereotypes of victims of sex trafficking, such as females, unemployed, low education, or family facing with disruption, debts, and a large number of children. However, the findings of this study also present the non-traditional images of trafficking victims, such as male victims due to sex tourism, sex worker victims and illegal migrant victims are deceived by promises of jobs, or well-educated girls who are sold due to their lack of life skills. This research examines the capacity of Vietnamese anti-trafficking police to identify and assist victims of sex trafficking in efforts to implement the National Anti-trafficking Action Plan. The findings reveal the main reactive strategies used by police in recognising the victims rather than using proactive approaches. Therefore, the services supporting these people remain limited. The research underlines numerous obstacles experienced by police in identifying and assisting the victims. Non-cooperation from victims for various reasons, techniques of traffickers, and organisational and institutional problems of police affect their capacity to effectively undertake these duties. Collectively, these themes demonstrate the need for a different approach to victims of sex trafficking in Vietnamese anti-trafficking policies that take into account the changing nature of this crime, and incorporate lay perspectives and experience in the development of victim-centred strategies. This research confirms that only by the adoption of this broader and more active approach will a more effective, appropriate and situated response to identification and assistance of victims of sex trafficking in Vietnam be possible.

Keywords: Sex trafficking, identification, assistance, victims of sex trafficking, policing, mixed-methods methodology, Vietnam

Subject: Justice and Society thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2019
School: College of Business, Government and Law
Supervisor: Andrew Goldsmith