AIM SWAT Team
The AIM SWAT Team is our muscle in the sometimes very physical fight against child sex trafficking. The mission of the AIM SWAT Team is to address human trafficking and sexual violence in Cambodia by working with local police to collect evidence, investigate crimes, arrest perpetrators and rescue victims from situations of violence and exploitation.
Most notably, the AIM SWAT Team orchestrates raids with law enforcement to rescue underaged girls and women trafficked into the sex industry. The victims are provided comprehensive care at the AIM Restoration Home and their cases are handled by AIM’s legal team throughout the trial. Though the majority of cases include sex trafficking and sexual assault, the team also works on others involving labor trafficking and even organ trafficking. In 2016, the team successfully surpassed 40 raids on local brothels, and rescued more than 600 people, including 100 children!
This team was created in 2014 after we faced numerous challenges with gathering evidence, mobilizing the local police, and physically rescuing girls from brothels. In some cases, corruption within the local police force would lead to brothel owners being tipped off before a raid was conducted.
The team is headed by Eric Meldrum, Director of Investigations, who has been involved in anti-human trafficking in Cambodia since 2010. Prior to that, he served as a detective in the UK for 12 years and received his master’s degree in Human Rights from Oxford Brooks University.
Rescuing girls from China is one of the newest initiatives, inspired by calls we’ve received from women and girls trapped in China after being tricked or sold as virgin brides.
Women in Cambodia are the primary work force in garment factories. The average job requires 80-hour work weeks for less than minimum wage, so when a woman is promised a better job in China, she jumps at the opportunity. Oftentimes, however, she is walking into a trap where she’ll be sold as a bride and forced to live a life in slavery.
Other girls are taken by their families to hospitals and issued a Certificate of Virginity. With this, they can be sold as virgin brides to traffickers who take them to China to be auctioned off. These girls are taken away and often don’t know where they are and can’t speak the language. They’re forced to have the man’s children and work in the household.
This is an emerging problem that we see getting worse in the years to come without intervention. China’s disproportionate number of single men who cannot find brides in their own countries only raises concerns further. As of October 2016, AIM has successfully rescued 50 girls from China, bringing them home to receive the counseling, healing and restoration that they need.