LONDON - A friend lured Tin Kyaw Aung from his home in Myanmar to work as a well-paid fisherman in Thailand, but the 28-year-old farmer ended up enslaved on a fishing boat in Indonesia.
He was eventually rescued, and now he is waiting for people to read about his case online at 6degree.org and donate money towards a US$3,200 (S$4,250) goal to help him get home.
Funds for the reintegration of human trafficking victims like Tin Kyaw Aung are limited, so the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Microsoft on Tuesday launched 6degree.org, a crowdfunding portal that allows people to directly support survivors through online donations.
One hundred percent of the money raised through 6degree.org, which is billed as the first portal of its kind, will be spent on helping survivors to return home and reintegrate into society, said the IOM and Microsoft. "There are so many people who have said, 'I'd love to help, what can I do?' So this is an easy way to get involved and have a significant impact on a trafficking survivor's life," said Jonathan Martens, regional migrant assistant specialist at the IOM.
The Asia-Pacific region hosts an estimated 11.7 million human trafficking victims, more than half of the global total, according to the International Labour Organization.
Named after the "six degrees of separation" theory that each individual is connected to every person through just six other people, the portal allows users to follow the journey of each trafficking victim through an interactive map.
Significant milestones are illustrated by clickable icons to give potential donors an insight into each trafficking victim's personal journey. "This is the first solution based on individual victims,"said Stefan Sjoestroem, vice president for public sector at Microsoft Asia. "We hope that by establishing an emotional connection between victims and donors that this technology-based solution can help victims of human trafficking." The funding goal for each victim is assessed by the IOM, based on the person's needs.
It may cover costs of safe accommodation, medical or legal assistance, the return journey home, education or skills development, job placement, or help establishing a small business.
With permission of the survivor, the IOM then makes the case available on 6degree.org.
The portal does not use photographs of victims' faces and modifies information, such as names and exact details of the journey, that could compromise the victims' safety or chances of a normal life.
The IOM assists between 6,000 and 7,000 trafficking survivors per year globally.