A silent walk on October 18th reminded us it was Anti-Human-Trafficking day.

The walk, organized by CMMA asked the public to sign up, and only targeted about 100 protestors, in respect of the virus. The Prime Minister participated, also the UN related aid organization, UNHCR, HIAS and IOM.

CMMA means Commissie Mensenhandel en Mensensmokkel Aruba, a local commission that has both an educational and operation mission to combat human trafficking.

The walk was supposed to take place last year already, with money received from the EU, earmarked to change public perceptions about the subject.

Apparently, most people simply don’t understand what human trafficking means, let alone recognize how human trafficking works. It sounds very criminal and remote thus CMMA came up with the #HabriBoWowo campaign, Open Your Yes, because the phenomenon of human trafficking is unfortunately happening right under our noses. Perhaps even at the construction site on my street, or at my neighbor’s home.

According to the minister of Justice, three vulnerable sectors are frequent victims of that kind of exploitation: sex workers, construction workers and housekeepers.

In order to make an impact beyond flyers, Freeway Creative Agency helped shoot a movie, almost 20 minutes long, not always easy to watch, following an ordinary, married Venezuelans couple desperate for work, who talk themselves into making the sea voyage to Aruba in order to find opportunity.

The film depicts their insufferable reality with great accuracy, and highlights their misery and humanity, in the quest for survival.

Imagine, they get thrown off the boat in the dark, into the cold water off shore, hunted by the coast guard, their passports and phones removed by their new Mafioso boss, they are humiliated by the threats and their lost freedom, sentenced to hard work in construction, and housekeeping while the local contractor, their Mafioso boss, makes money off their backs, with total disregard of their rights, he keeps them as his hostage-workers.

The story is moving. The protagonists very sympathetic. You will never look at a construction site, or sex-worker the same way, after seeing the film.

I often want to ask my readers how they feel when they see one of those rickety boats crammed with barefoot, nameless migrants, with wet shirts clung to their back, hauled into a van, with tie wraps on their hands. Do locals feel the agony, or do they just hate the intrusion, and the illegal arrival on the island?

#Habri bo Wowo wants us to put the shoe on the other foot, and look at things from the migrant point of view. It is painful.

In October, CMMA will be in different places on the island, Friday in San Nicolas and mid-next week in Santa Cruz, with a display, a life size human doll in a box, to represent the helpless, exploited migrant, taken advantage of, doing manual labor, his dignity trampled.

Freeway Creative Agency reports it was an interesting project, that took about two months, with 20 plus crew and 20 plus cast members. They conducted casting calls in search of credible Pedro & Camille and came up with excellent actors. The exploiting boss, plays his role convincingly.

The film was short at Roger’s Beach, and in St Nicolas, in four days, during the pandemic, they got a special permit, and that night a boat came ashore, with migrants, like life imitating art.

Martin Buitenweg and two cast members composed the two songs on the sound track, writing about human trafficking. The sound track frames the story very well.

We should all open our eyes, and protest against despicable practices of exploiting migrants and in general HAVE A HEART. We have a reputation of being charitable and sweet, but sometimes we forget becoming mean and xenophobic.

Watch the film AND open your eyes.

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October 21, 2021
Rona Coster