Objectives

* To determine the conditions for safe return to family
* To facilitate reunification with family, if safe

Target

* All SAW Shelter residents who request this service

In some cases, survivors of trafficking want to return to Burma and be reunified with their immediate or extended family. In conjunction with the Green Hope Shelter project, SAW initiated the Family Reunification project in 2008, to support survivors of trafficking to return to their families. However, SAW has built some protections into this program to ensure that the individual (adult or child) is returning to a safe and stable situation and that the family is ready and open to their return. For example, in the case of women or children who have managed to escape from the sex trade, there is the risk that their family might reject them due to social stigma. In some other cases, individuals have been in Thailand a long time or were quite young when they left. In these situations, they are unlikely to know where exactly their families are. In yet other cases, families might be in Thailand but the individual might not know exactly where.

For these reasons, the first step SAW undertakes in the Family Reunification process is to locate and identify the family. SAW’s field workers in Burma and staff in Thailand undertake this work. Once the family has been located, the second step for SAW staff is to update the family on their family member’s whereabouts and experiences in the time they have been away. SAW staff also carry out a family assessment to determine whether the family is able to care for their missing family member, if the conditions for reunification are secure for SAW’s client, and if there is any risk that the family might be implicated in trafficking the client. Once this assessment is complete, it is submitted to SAW, where the organization’s Executive Committee reviews the information and makes a decision about whether the conditions for family reunification have been met. If they determine that they have, the SAW client will be given the information and a schedule for departure will be determined. SAW covers all costs related to return travel, including travel stipends and a small reunification allowance. SAW’s field staff checks in on the families at regular intervals to ensure that the SAW client is reintegrating and their situation is stable.

There are some cases where reunification is not deemed possible for various reasons: safety, risk of re-trafficking, family unable to care for the individual, social stigma attached to return is too high, and family cannot be found. In the case of children, they are integrated into SAW’s Child Protection Program (one of 3 shelters) and attend school through SAW. In the case of adults, SAW supports them with vocational training and eventually, if possible, job placement.

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