Thursday, December 27, 2007

Human Trafficking in Long Island, New York

From News Day:

Local authorities are hoping a [Long Island] couple's conviction yesterday on slavery charges will make people more aware of human trafficking - a problem they say is far worse than most people suspect.

Authorities say it is likely that numerous people are brought to Long Island each year to be used as slaves, but that it is nearly impossible to know how many, especially because the victims in such cases are usually terrified of reporting their situations to the police.

"Often, the victims don't speak the language, they are living in very isolated conditions, and they are distrustful of the police," said Nassau Det. Lt. Andrew Fal, who is a member of the Long Island Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes representatives from Nassau and Suffolk counties, New York State and the U.S. attorney's office. "They fear that if they complain, they will be arrested or deported themselves."

Awareness of human trafficking has skyrocketed in the past several years, since Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, according to Andrea Bertone, director of, a Web site funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Since then, many states, including New York just this spring, have passed their own human trafficking laws, making it easier for state and local prosecutors to bring traffickers to justice. The federal government is also funding 42 task forces on trafficking, including the one on Long Island.

Read the full article

Sidebar: Human Trafficking in Long Island

From the New York Times:

For at least three years, the United States Department of Justice has identified Long Island as one of 21 regions across the country where trafficking in human beings — abducting or coercing people, usually illegal immigrants, into a kind of indentured servitude — is rampant. In 2005, the Justice Department awarded more than $1 million in grant money to combat the problem in Nassau and Suffolk.

But more than a year after the Long Island Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force was organized, not one trafficker operating on Long Island has been arrested, and just one victim, a Chinese woman forced to work in a Wantagh brothel that was disguised as a massage parlor, has been freed from traffickers. Officials of the task force offered a variety of explanations for what they acknowledged were scant results on Long Island.

Trafficking investigations are complex and time-consuming, they said, and they depend on testimony from victims who are terrified of the police. That the New York criminal code includes no statute specifically aimed at human trafficking further complicates their efforts, they said (UPDATE: New York has since passed a human trafficking law in June of 2007). So the task force has spent the last year training police officers, sharing intelligence and fine-tuning mechanisms for amassing evidence, the officials said.

"I do expect that there are big cases coming soon," said Demetri M. Jones, an assistant United States attorney and the chairwoman of the task force. In addition to the Justice Department, the task force includes three other federal agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Homeland Security Department, and the Labor Department — and the State Department of Labor, the Nassau and Suffolk police departments and district attorney's offices, and two private organizations, Safe Horizon and Catholic Charities.

Each of the county police departments got $360,000 from the federal government last year for training. Catholic Charities, which helps victims gain legal residency and find jobs and housing, and Safe Horizon, a New York City-based national organization that trains nongovernmental agencies to assist victims, received grants totaling about $400,000 for their efforts. Just how big is the problem they are trying to combat? Florrie Burke, a senior director at Safe Horizon, responded to the question with a deep sigh. "We don't know for sure," she said. "And that's true anywhere."

Read the full article

Former Wrestler Found Guilty on Human Trafficking Charges in Georgia

From the Department of Justice:

A federal jury returned guilty verdicts Wednesday against former professional wrestler Harrison Norris Jr., known in the wrestling world as “Hardbody Harrison,” on multiple charges of sex trafficking and slavery related to a scheme to force women into prostitution, announced Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and David E. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

According to the charging documents and evidence presented at trial, Norris kidnapped some of his victims and lured others to come live with him by promising to train them as professional wrestlers. Once he got the women to his home, however, he instead forced them to work for him as prostitutes. The witnesses at trial described beatings Norris administered and threats he made to bend the women to his will. On one occasion, Norris head-butted a woman and threatened to throw her through a hotel window when she would not engage in sex with two customers.

Witnesses also testified that Norris imposed a strict military structure in his home. The defendant assigned each of his victims to a “squad” overseen by an “enforcer,” a woman conspiring with Norris to keep the victims in servitude. Witnesses also testified that Norris referred to himself as “the General”; sometimes made his victims sleep with him in “the General’s Quarters”; and pierced the victims’ skin with a mark of their “rank” in the operation.

Numerous witnesses also testified about parties at which the women were forced to have sex with numerous men and sometimes with other women. One woman testified that Norris forced her to sexually assault another woman during one of these parties. Evidence at trial established that forced acts of prostitution occurred at Hispanic nightclubs, in apartments, at hotels, in the back of Norris’ truck, and in North Carolina and Northern Georgia. The victims also testified that they were forced to have sex with Norris.

In addition to forcing the victims to work as prostitutes, the defendant made the women work in and around his two homes in Cartersville, Ga. Witnesses testified that Norris required the victims to haul trees, lay sod, and paint. The evidence at trial further established that Norris set strict rules and fined the women for such infractions as talking too much or failing to exercise. In addition, Norris kept the women financially indebted to him by charging them for cigarettes, medicine, and food. Norris then told the victims that they could not leave until their debts were paid, all while continuing to increase the debt he claimed he was owed.

The jury convicted Norris after two days of deliberation. In rendering its verdict, the jury specifically found that Norris’ offenses involved aggravated sexual abuse. Because of this special finding, Norris faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Read the full press release

Dubai Police Crack Prostitution Ring

From the Associated Press:

Dubai police have announced a crackdown on a large prostitution ring, which human rights activists welcomed on Wednesday as a long-awaited move against the human trafficking rampant in this wealthy Gulf city.

Police said that they had conducted a series of simultaneous raids Saturday on suspected brothels, landing 247 suspects in jail in the emirate's biggest anti-prostitution sweep to date.

"The police have been working on this one for a long time," Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim told The Associated Press, describing a year of surveillance on 22 villas licensed as massage parlors in several neighborhoods across this bustling regional business hub.

In a press conference Tuesday, Tamim said that the Dubai government has "declared war on human trafficking." "It's about time we can say the word 'trafficking' out loud," said Sharla Musabih, a human-rights activist who runs a local shelter for abused and trafficked women. "There's still a lot to be learned, but after seven years of trying to convince the police that these (women) are victims of trafficking, my heart sang when I heard the police chief say that," she said. Musabih added she has dealt with 400 victims of trafficking over the last six months.

The raids picked up 170 suspected prostitutes, 12 men believed to be their pimps and 65 alleged customers, all of whom have since been referred to the prosecutor-general to be charged, Tamim said.

Prostitution is illegal in the Emirates, a federation of seven semi autonomous states, but widespread in Dubai and particularly obvious in certain luxury hotels.

Read the full article

FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa may bring trafficking with it

From Independence Online:

Prostitution needs to be legalised in South Africa ahead of the several hundred thousand football fans expected to arrive for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Child and human rights organisations have warned that human trafficking could worsen in the country ahead of the World Cup, with "trafficked" women and children being forced into the sex industry.

The experts say that the only way to prevent this is to decriminalise prostitution and promulgate trafficking laws.

This comes after a seminar by the Human Sciences Research Council and the International Organisation for Migration in Pretoria this week.

Professor Vasu Reddy, the acting director of the gender and development unit at the HSRC, said that if South Africa did not expedite the decriminalisation of the sex industry, it would have a ripple effect on human trafficking.

Read the full article

*But is legalizing prostitution really the answer? Let's hear what some other experts say...

Sidebar: The Debate Behind the Legalization of Prostitution


Two scholars debate whether or not to legalize prostitution. Professor Janice Raymond is the co-executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the author of 5 books, and Professor Emerita at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Dr. Melissa Ditmore was the principal investigator for Revolving Door, the first report released by the Sex Workers Project, and is currently a research consultant for the organization.

Against Legalization

Professor Janice Raymond - When the question of legalization of prostitution is discussed, many commentators start with the unproven assumption that legalization protects women. Who said so? Let’s look at the evidence in countries that have legalized or decriminalized prostitution.

In the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia, legalization has failed to protect the women in prostitution, control the enormous expansion of the sex industry, decrease child prostitution and trafficking from other countries, and prevent HIV/AIDS -- all arguments used for legalization. And it has transformed these countries into brothels. Legalizing prostitution is legalizing the prostitution industry.

What many people don’t realize is that legalizing prostitution means not only decriminalizing the women in prostitution, but also the pimps, brothels and buyers.

My organization favors decriminalizing the women but not the pimps who promote prostitution and trafficking and exploit the victims. In countries like the Netherlands when legalization took effect, pimps overnight became sex businessmen. One day, they were criminals and the next day legitimate entrepreneurs.

There is no evidence that legalization of prostitution makes things better for women in prostitution. It certainly makes things better for governments who legalize prostitution and of course, for the sex industry, both of whom enjoy increased revenues.

Instead of abandoning women to state-sanctioned brothels, laws should address the demand. Men who use women in prostitution have long been invisible. There is a legal alternative to state sponsorship of the prostitution industry. Rather than cozying up with pimps and traffickers, States could address the demand – as Sweden has done -- by penalizing the men who buy women for the sex of prostitution. And as in Sweden, this would help create a chilly climate for the buyers and the traffickers.

For Decriminalization

Dr. Melissa Ditmore - Prostitution should be decriminalized. This would remove prostitution from the criminal code and thereby render prostitution akin to other businesses. It’d be taxed and subject ot business requirements. Decriminalization of prostitution has been a success in New Zealand and parts of Australia. They cite decriminalization as an advantage over legalization because removing prostitution from the criminal code avoids both the problems of graft and abuse associated with police jurisdiction over prostitution and the sometimes overbearing regulations that accompany legalization. (For example, in Nevada’s brothels, brothel-owners decide whether licensed prostitutes are allowed to leave the brothel during their off hours. Prostitutes can be required to stay on the premises for weeks at a time, no matter their working hours.) Decriminalization would better protect people in the sex industry from violence and abuse.

Legal reform clearly does not solve all problems related to the sex industry. However, advocates and activists would rally behind legal reform that would lead to police addressing violence committed against sex workers.
Police cannot and do not simultaneously seek to arrest prostitutes and protect them from violence. Currently, under New York Criminal Procedure Law, sex workers who have been victims of sex offenses, including assault and rape, face greater obstacles than other victims. Indeed, women describe being told, “What did you expect?” by police officers who refused to investigate acts of violence perpetrated against women whom they knew engaged in prostitution. The consequences of such attitudes are tragic: Gary Ridgway said that he killed prostitutes because he knew he would not be held accountable. The tragedy is that he was right – he confessed to the murders of 48 women, committed over nearly twenty years. That is truly criminal.

Read the full article

Is there a one-size-fits-all solution (continued criminalization or straight decriminalization) when it comes to legalizing prostitution or does the answer lie in a compromise such as Professor Raymond's position to decriminalize sex workers but not pimps and customers? Does legalizing prostitution protect sex workers, opening up access to government protection and services or does it allow traffickers to operate more freely? Or both? If both, is the benefit worth the cost?

Clearly legislation alone doesn't sufficiently address prostitution, but it is integral in setting up the legal precedent from which a holistic, ideally multi-sector effort of governments, businesses and citizens can grow.

What do you think?

Saudis Address Trafficking of Religious Pilgrims

From the United Press International:

The Saudi Human Rights Commission voiced concern over human trafficking gangs exploiting immigrants and foreigners during the pilgrimage season.

Commission spokesmen Dr. Zoheir al-Harethi said people making their pilgrimage to Mecca plan to find employment but instead find themselves exploited by local gangs.

Harethi said immigrants "fall prey to gangs that use them for begging and prostitution" and noted many of the exploited are children, al-Arabiya said Friday.

Read the full article

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trafficking of Men: Last to the response effort, but certainly not least

Very early in my interviews, I heard from multiple organizations that the trafficking of men is a serious problem that lacks considerable research, and that an international effort is underway to acknowledge and combat this problem. Some countries do not even recognize male victims or even labor victims. The State Department included some of these issues in their 2007 TIP Report including adding "servitude on the high seas" and "parity in anti-labor trafficking legislation" to their Topics of Special Interest. This month in the Global Eye on Human Trafficking, a bulletin produced by the IOM with basically the same purpose as this blog (to spread information, news, and analysis on human trafficking) but is created from direct IOM research, the main article is about trafficking of men.

As the article points out, the common approach to combating human trafficking has focused on combating trafficking in women and children. However, the problem is becoming more and more obvious among male victims as well, particularly concerning post-trafficking needs. According to a study done with 685 male trafficking victims from Ukraine and Belarus who were assisted by the IOM in 2004-2006, the study has found the following:
  • the majority of victims are adult (18-44);
  • the majority of these victims were trafficked for labor purposes to Russia; other purposes include sexual exploitation, adoption, criminal activities, and begging;
  • Many had dependent children, and cited this as the need to find better work;
  • Their experiences mostly began with situations that seemed like legal migration- contracts, (seemingly) reliable companies, etc.
Both Ukrainian and Belarusian men face exploitative, often traumatic working and living conditions, which, in many circumstances, compromised their physical and mental well-being. Men worked six to seven days each week, regardless of destination country or form of work, and work days were commonly 12 hours or more. Most men reported severely substandard living conditions while trafficked – living in unheated rooms, cramped together with others in unhygienic situations and being provided with limited and poor quality food. A combination of abuse (or threats of abuse), non-payment of salary, debts and restricted freedom of movement served to keep many men in their trafficking situations.

Most men exited their trafficking situation on their own (77.6% Belarusian men; 46.9% Ukrainian men) and often only when they realized that they would not be paid for their work. However, the ability to exit trafficking differed substantially, with some men physically prevented from leaving, confined, under constant guard and exposed to violence or threats of violence.

The article also points out serious difficulties in providing assistance. Even when the victim has been identified, even when the needs of the victim to reintegrate are identified, and even if the victim recognizes that he has been exploited (some refuse to say so), they rarely take to the idea that they are a victim. The recommendation, therefore, is to take gender dimensions into formulating a response in every step- prevention, identification, reintegration, prosecution.

Based on the information provided in this study, the IOM will be releasing a paper, "Trafficking of men - a trend less considered" as a part of their CTM Thematic Research Series in 2008.

As an additional resource, this paper focuses mostly on the trafficking of men in and out of Canada, but has background on the global situation and notes to other resources on the topic. Trafficking in Men: an Exploration of an Overlooked Phenomenon

Think it doesn't happen in the US?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Region in the Philippines Needs to Improve Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Source: Corbis

From GMA News:

Authorities on Monday admitted that Caraga region is lagging behind in the campaign against human trafficking and violence against women and children, affirming surveys by non-government organizations that showed the prevalence of trafficking of women and minors in the region.

In a press conference, lawyer Marilyn Pintor, Gender and Development-Regional Development Coordinating Council (GAD-RDCC) chair, some – if not majority – of local government agencies lack awareness on and, thus, fail to give priority to projects aimed at protecting women and children.

In fact, Pintor – who is concurrently the regional director of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) – said that Caraga courts have yet to convict alleged violators of Republic Act 9262 or the Act Defining Violence against Women and their Children as well as the Anti-human Trafficking law.

Edna Hontiveros, vice chair of the Gender and Development-Regional Development Coordinating Council said funds allocated for gender and development programs are not being used by local government units for this purpose. “What is unfortunate was some used these funds as milking cow," Hontiveros said.

Read the full article

Child Trafficking in Africa

This article shows how cultural practices can promote human trafficking.

From Reuters:

The U.N. Children's Fund UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year into what it calls "the modern-day equivalent of slavery".

This trafficking takes many forms in West Africa, encouraged by a tradition of "placing" young children with families of wealthier relatives to receive an education or learn a trade. "It's a high-risk practice," said Serigne Mor Mbaye, a staff member of U.S.-based non-profit development agency Plan International. "Many of those who are placed are victims of abuse. This traditional practice continues to happen, but (social) solidarity does not function like before," he said, adding that many children are placed these days with unrelated strangers.

The Plan research in Togo found most trafficked children went to Nigeria, girls generally as domestic servants and boys working in agriculture, markets or serving food. Different types of child trafficking networks have sprung up in other parts of West Africa.

Police in tiny Guinea-Bissau uncovered a trafficking network last week when they found over 50 young boys headed to Senegal, where hundreds of children sent from neighboring countries to attend Koranic schools end up begging for coins on street corners.

The child trafficking debate has been revived by the arrest last month in Chad of French humanitarian activists on child kidnapping charges over a bid to fly 103 children to Europe. The children were presented as orphans from Darfur, even though most turned out to be from villages in the Chad/Sudan border area and had at least one living parent.

Read the full article

Migraine of Migrant Children

Source: Corbis

From the Decan Herald:

The cases of trafficking in migrant children has been steadily increasing by the year in Bangalore.

Not less than 400 children, mostly girls, migrate to the City every year and ready-made fodder for human trafficking. The cases of trafficking in migrant children has been steadily increasing by the year. Almost 70 per cent of these child migrants are trafficked in one form or another. The bulk of trafficked children are migrant labourers. While most trafficked children are girls, increasingly boys are being recruited in the sex industry, besides for menial labour. According to an NGO working among migrant children, most of the these children who come to the City belong to lower echelons of the society: Lower castes like SC/STs, minority religious and ethnic groups and broken families. “Most children trafficked are from rural areas. But trafficking from other urban centres are also on the rise,” reveals C C Poulose, State Convener, Campaign Against Child Trafficking- Karnataka.

Children are mostly trafficked for labour. “Trafficking children for the purposes of domestic servitude, bonded labour, or work in hazardous industries, factories, restaurants and construction sites has grown. The number is growing as children are perceived as commodities prone to easy manipulation, nimble in work and can be exploited for a longer period,” he says. The mushrooming of unlicensed and unregistered orphanages, faith based welfare/charity homes have opened up a whole new avenue for trafficking of children, avers this social worker. Children are sold and relinquished at these institutions, some are picked up if found abandoned or missing, some are voluntarily handed over by parents.

Read the full article

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Well Intentioned, but Potentially Harmful...

This article has been brought to my attention several times over the last few days and I think it would be good to break it down a bit.

It's entitled, "Escaping El Salvador's sex traffickers" and it's by Linda Pressly who writes for the Crossing Continents program for the BBC. As a matter of principle, I'm not going to copy the information directly from the article, because I believe this is an example of reporting that was intended to bring to light the plight of one young woman from Central America who was trafficked to El Salvador under the guise of a lawful job as a waitress, but was instead thrown into a brothel and suffered from physical and sexual abuse. She finally made it back home and is preparing to tesify against the traffickers who were arrested in the bust by San Salvador police.

Sergeant Jose Ayala of the Police Trafficking Unit was involved in helping rescue this young woman as well as others. He responded to the alarm of the victim's family member who had been contacted by the victim from San Salvador.

The article itself is a stark and realistic description of what a victim of trafficking suffers from and how the process happens. I thought the descriptions of the guilt the victim felt, the extreme depression and loneliness as well as the danger the victim still faces all contribute to a better overall picture of the reality of trafficking.

However, I take major issues with this article for multiple reasons.

1.) It reveals the real names of the victim and her caregiver. At least, there is absolutely no indication otherwise. It reveals specific details about the case, and is to specific about the current location of the victim. This type of reporting could potentially put the victim back in harms way if members of the trafficking network are still at large.

2.) There is not one statement from the victim. Her story is told entirely by her godmother. There is no indication the victim wanted to tell her story, or wanted her trauma to be advertised in a public manner. Consent is not present at all. This quote from the godmother, in particular, infuriated me:
"I am speaking out to you to say to any single mother or any adolescent, 'If you are offered a good job, do not be dazzled by the high salaries, because the price you pay is too heavy'," she says.

"We do not always have the courage to talk about trafficking, but we must be open about these things so this story is not repeated in other families."

It's not necessarily what the godmother said that upsets me. It indicates that she was well-intentioned to help other families prevent this tragedy from happening to someone they love. And I understand she is distraught by the whole event, too.

But the author should have been more responsible! There are ways of writing this kind of story with the same powerful effect on readers without revealing so many details that it runs the risk of putting the victim back in danger or of retraumatizing her by making her story permanently public. Especially if no traffickers have actually been convicted and there is no indication that the victim actually wanted it to be told. The article offers better protection of the traffickers than it does the victim! It even acknowledges that few people have actually been convicted of the crime in Central America. So you release an article with details about a victim before her traffickers have been convicted in a part of the world notorious for not convicting traffickers? This author needs to learn a way to report this problem responsibly. Her writing style is effective, but if she contributes to the victim's suffering, it doesn't mean a damn thing.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Don't Believe the Hype?

Social Networking Sites Used for Human Trafficking

A friend pointed out to me:

This article seemed really fishy to me, so i looked into the publication. It turns out the Edmonton Sun is a tabloid, a pretty typical (i.e., trashy) one as far as I can tell except that it also has a blatantly conservative/reactionary ideological bias. I'd be skeptical of anything this paper publishes. In the case of this article, furthermore, the portrayal of online networking sites as dangerous breeding grounds for criminal perversion might as well have come out of Bill O'Reilly.

*Thanks Noah, now read on with a grain of salt...

From the Edmonton Sun:

City cops are investigating two suspected human-trafficking rings believed to be part of an international network that enslaves hundreds of young Albertans each year, many of whom are forced into the sex trade in Las Vegas.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Galvin, head of the Edmonton police organized crime and gang units, said because the investigations are still underway, he wouldn’t give specific details.

He said that while human-trafficking “criminal enterprises” have operated in Western Canada for at least 20 years – and for decades longer in central Canada – they’re more sophisticated than ever before.

They do most of their recruiting on social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace, choosing naïve or vulnerable victims for “grooming” who are right around 18 years old in order to avoid detection by authorities looking for predators after underage kids.

Asked how many young Albertans are caught up in this web each year, Galvin replied simply, “hundreds.” Most are women, he said, but young men are also targets. Galvin said that typically, a man will develop an online relationship with the victim, selling himself as a glamorous high roller.

Once he’s begun to reel in the victim, he makes a date to meet her. A whirlwind romance follows. “She gets the red carpet treatment,” Galvin explained, “Limos, expensive restaurants, VIP rooms at night clubs.

Everything mirrors the pop culture ideal of good times. These guys can read the girls really well. She thinks he’s her boyfriend.” After four or five dizzyingly spectacular dates, the predator will invite her to a private party...

Read the full article

Human Trafficking Film: Holly

From the Press Telegram:

In March 2002, Guy Jacobson, on vacation near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was surrounded by 15 girls, aggressively soliciting him for prostitution. One 5-year-old girl told Jacobson, "I yum yum very good." She begged Jacobson for money and said the madam of her brothel would beat her if she returned empty-handed. Jacobson gave the girl $20, and she left. But Jacobson didn't forget. That encounter is recreated word for word in the new independent film "Holly," about a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl who has been sold by her impoverished family and smuggled into Cambodia where she is forced to work as a prostitute.

"When I realized how much of a global problem it is, a light bulb went off and I decided to write a movie about it," said Jacobson. The numbers are huge and reach into all countries. Every year, more than 1 million children, women and men around the world are sold into sexual slavery, according to UNICEF.

View the trailer

"Holly" was shot on location in Cambodia, including several scenes in actual brothels and Phnom Penh's infamous Svay Pak, also known as K 11 (it's 11 kilometers from Phnom Penh). For years, that notorious red-light village has been the premiere destination for thousands of child molesters and sex tourists coming to Cambodia to prey on children, some as young as 5 years old, for as little as $5.

View interviews with the actors, director and film crew

The 190-day production schedule for "Holly" began in January 2005, and it seemed like no one in Cambodia wanted "Holly" made.

Less than 12 hours before the first day of shooting, director Guy Moshe - with an armed bodyguard - sat in a hotel lobby counting $60,000 in cash to a local gangster - also with an armed bodyguard - to secure the release of the film's sound equipment.

During filming in and around the K 11, which is reported to be owned by the Vietnamese mafia, the cast and crew worked under heavy protection from guards armed with AK-47s.

Moshe, 33, says he knew ahead of time filming would be difficult and potentially dangerous, but "I went out and did it anyway. It was a job that had to get done." No one was hurt during production, he says.

Read the full article

Through the eyes of actor Ron Livingston, who plays a down and out good-hearted poker player, Holly effectively portrays the depravity of sex trafficking and the twisted system in which it operates.

*Visit the
Priority Films website for more information on Holly

Women are the New Coyotes

Source: Corbis

From the New America Media:

Experts, authorities and the smugglers themselves agree that human trafficking networks are entering a new era, in which women have ceased to be the victims – smuggled across the border and often raped along the journey – and have become the ones that pull the strings in smuggling people ("goats," "chickens" or "furniture,” as they call the undocumented). "The old story of the man who runs the ‘coyotaje’ business is now just a myth. It’s finally coming out that the big business of human trafficking is in female hands.

As long as they make it known that they are women, they have lots of business all along the border," explains Marissa Ugarte, a psychologist, lecturer and founder of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition of San Diego, Calif. "The business is a real money-maker," says Ramón Rivera, a DHS spokesperson in Washington, D.C. “These women inspire confidence in the immigrants and when the authorities stop them and take them to court, they give them shorter sentences because they are mothers, daughters, because they are women. But when they get out, they go right back to doing the same thing, or worse – they start going into other areas."

Female coyotes say they run these risks to avoid poverty and for the love of their children.

"We all got into this business out of necessity. Some of us are single mothers, and others have husbands in jail. The fact of the matter is that we’re all on our own. What bastards are gonna blame us for what we do? Who wouldn’t do the same thing if the miserable pay you get in a factory couldn’t be stretched far enough to feed your kids, and you find you can get twice the money for just giving a drink or taking care of a goddamn ‘chicken’ (an undocumented migrant)? Anybody who blames us has never seen their kids cry out of hunger," affirms Esperanza, who smuggles undocumented migrants, money and narcotics in the Nogales, Ariz. region.

But others say drugs and a lust for power are the real forces that drive women to enter the U.S.-Mexico trafficking business. Nearly 90 percent of the women arrested at the Mexican border on smuggling charges are drug addicts, according to the organization Integral Family Development in Nogales.

"No matter how needy you might be, if you are an honest person, you’re not going to get involved in illegal activities. Women like to brag about being more sensitive, more honest and protective (than men) – and that’s not true with these women. Saying they’re doing it for their children is just a pretext. It’s really because they don’t have enough money to feed their addiction," says Susana Padilla Gómez, director of the organization Integral Family Development on the border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

Read the full article

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

GAATW releases new website for people involved in anti-trafficking work

Found this update from the La Strada Ukraine website. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women unveiled it's new website called "Access to Justice for Trafficked Persons: Centring Rights". The website is, in the words of the authors:

"intended to be a tool for those providing legal assistance or advocating for the rights of trafficked persons during the legal process. The site contains legal resources, relevant publications and guides as well as a forum for sharing information, strategies and experiences so that, ultimately, more individuals who have been trafficked or exploited at work or during the migration process have better recourse to justice...

Trafficked persons are often highly vulnerable and, as a general group, are usually marginalised - whether as illegal and/or low-skilled migrants in destination countries, or through social stigma and poverty in countries of origin. Achieving access to justice for victims of the crime of trafficking therefore requires comprehensive social and legal support, as well as constant analysis of the legal structures in place that make it more difficult for trafficked people to enter into and be empowered by the law. This website aims at facilitating this process."

Now, I'm not actually positive how new this site is. They have back issues of their e-bulletin (in English and Spanish) from April onward so it could be that here in Ukraine, we're slow to catch up :-) Nonetheless, the site offers useful information and discussion related to victims' rights, witness protection, the right to information (as it concerns VoTs), etc.

It also provides research material under the "Legal Resouces" section including international legal documents, protocols, conventions, guidelines, principles, resolutions, and agreements, as well as specialized articles related to legal issues in combating trafficking and assisting victims. There is a section on case law and decisions, but nothing is posted yet. Also good for research is their "Country Information" site, which breaks down by region and country (not exhaustive, of course. In fact, I was disappointed to find a lack of Ukraine) national anti-TIP legislation and their list of publications. Finally, if you need to speak to someone directly, they offer a contact list of their member legal partners in various countries.

Also useful is their interactive e-blog where people post about cases they have found to be either successful methods of combating trafficking or vice versa. The section on "Testimonies" is still blank, and it may be for good reason. Often times I've found that people want to hear specific cases of the horror trafficking victims face in order for the problem to become more real to them. However, as you can imagine, victims are very sensitive about their experiences and even anonymous or stories published with false identities put a permanence on their story that their often not comfortable with.

The point being, if you're looking for legal research or information, this site has some. I think it is far from comprehensive or rather exhaustive, but once it reaches that stage, it could prove to be an important information sharing tool.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Follow-up to a comment

A comment was posted by anonymous to my story on the Greek sex trafficking ring that was busted with the following article:

"Sex Trafficking Worker May Be Back With Traffickers"

The article discusses a trafficking victim from China who was brought to the UK under the guise of paying off a debt she owed on a loan to cover her parent's medical expenses. Essentially, she was forced to work without pay, as the debt and interest rate became insurmountable. After being rescued by the police, and the story made headlines in the local area, the victim became fearful for her family's life in China and fled. The police are unsure where she is.

Following the interviews the investigators placed her into safe accommodation. She would inevitably have had to go through a number of immigration checks and more lengthy interviews before eventually being flown home.

Det Con Jones believes the possible delay made Shirley take drastic action.

She said: "She knew she still had the debt to pay off. She knew the raid had been disclosed in the local papers and feared the man who collected the money would read it. She was fearful word would get back to Hong Kong and feared what would happen to her parents."To her, that threat was very real. She was desperate."

"While the victim wasn't shackled or kept in chains she told us her passport was taken from her and she was threatened not to leave. She was made fully aware that they knew exactly where her elderly parents lived. She told us: 'you cannot trust the Chinese police to help. They are not like you'."

"Her number one priority was her parents. There was no other family to care for them, only her. She would rather go back to Hong Kong and face the guy there, face that punishment than it be imposed on her parents."

It is thought Shirley fled the safe accommodation just hours later and disappeared

Investigators are unable to say where she is now, or whether she made it back to her parents.There is even a concern she may have been recaptured by the traffickers. Reports have found trafficked women who escape the clutches of their pimps are often tracked down, often at ports or airports, and threatened back into the trade.

I thought the headline was pretty misleading. When I saw it at first, I thought the article was accusatory that after the help she received, she turned around and went right back to the trade. This story, to me, highlights two important points.

1.) The treatment of victims is a complicated process and just because a victim is out of the immediate situation does not mean they feel safe nor are they completely out of the grasps of their traffickers. Just because the trafficker was caught in the country of destination does not mean those in the country of origin will not try to silence their victims or their families.

2.) The responsibility of the media to be careful about how they report trafficking cases. Due to the multiple layers of running a trafficking ring, breaking up one part of it does not ensure the rest of the organization will not threaten the victim. In Ukraine, some of the organizations I work with even do training for the media on how to provide victim-sensitive reporting on human trafficking. There were many problems with reports that blamed the victim, gave specific names, etc. All of which either re-traumatized the victim or put him/her back in harms way.

Now with all that said, there are cases where victims end up returning to their traffickers and pimps. Either they feel to threatened to continue to talk to the police, or their trafficker has made direct threats to his or her family, or the abuse they suffered puts them in a position that they feel compelled to return to their abuser. It could be they fear returning to their own country and community, either due to the humiliation they will suffer or knowing the economic situation hasn't changed. The situations all need to be considered when providing aid to a victim in order to build the most effective services possible. It also needs to be considered by the governments who want to stop this problem as far as creating effective criminal code and social services.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

When Handouts Keep Coming, the Food Line Never Ends

Rethinking how to make a difference

From the Washington Post:

By Mark Winne, former director of Connecticut's Hartford Food System

How can anyone not get caught up in the annual Thanksgiving turkey frenzy? At the food bank I co-founded in Hartford, Conn., November always meant cheering the caravans of fowl-laden trucks that roared into our parking lot. They came on the heels of the public appeals for "A bird in every pot," "No family left without a turkey" and our bank's own version -- "A turkey and a 20 [dollar bill]."

Like pompom girls leading a high school pep rally, we revved up the community's charitable impulse to a fever pitch with radio interviews, newspaper stories and dramatic television footage to extract the last gobbler from the stingiest citizen. After all, our nation's one great day of social equity was upon us. In skid row soup kitchens and the gated communities of hedge-fund billionaires alike, everyone was entitled, indeed expected, to sit down to a meal of turkey with all the fixings.

And here we are, putting on the same play again this year. But come Friday, as most of us stuff more leftovers into our bulging refrigerators, 35 million Americans will take their place in line again at soup kitchens, food banks and food stamp offices nationwide.

The good souls who staff America's tens of thousands of emergency food sites will renew their pleas to donors fatigued by their burst of holiday philanthropy. Food stamp workers will return to their desks and try to convince mothers that they can feed their families on the $3 per person per day that the government allots them. The cycle of need -- always present, rarely sated, never resolved -- will continue. Unless we rethink our devotion to food donation.

Read the full article

The author discusses several key points that are relevant to the larger discussion of addressing socioeconomic issues in general, beyond hunger and poverty.

As sociologist Janet Poppendieck made clear in her book "Sweet Charity," there is something in the food-banking culture and its relationship with donors that dampens the desire to empower the poor and take a more muscular, public stand against hunger... It may have been that a donor-recipient co-dependency had developed. Both parties were trapped in an ever-expanding web of immediate gratification that offered the recipients no long-term hope of eventually achieving independence and self-reliance. As the food bank's director told me later, "The more you provide, the more demand there is."

True we can donate and hand out food to alleviate hunger, but doesn't the Chinese proverb "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" also apply here? What is the risk of the food bank approach? Does it create a form of dependency, whether it be emotional dependency and fulfillment on the part of the donors and volunteers or nourishment for the hungry?

2) Food banks are a dominant institution in this country, and they assert their power at the local and state levels by commanding the attention of people of good will who want to address hunger. Their ability to attract volunteers and to raise money approaches that of major hospitals and universities. While none of this is inherently wrong, it does distract the public and policymakers from the task of harnessing the political will needed to end hunger in the United States. The risk is that the multibillion-dollar system of food banking has become such a pervasive force in the anti-hunger world, and so tied to its donors and its volunteers, that it cannot step back and ask if this is the best way to end hunger, food insecurity and their root cause, poverty.

One theme rings true from my experience in the non-profit world: it is not only about having the ambition and heart to make a positive difference in the world, but knowing how to do so that counts. It is amazing to see the support and resources offered to address issues like hunger and human trafficking, but at the same time it behooves us to take a step back and understand the forces that create the problem so we know that our efforts are truly making a difference and empowering people to improve their lives.

For example, it is great to see that many countries have adopted anti-human trafficking laws in the past few years, but what type of legislation will most effectively support trafficking victims and put offenders behind bars? Do we offer victims services only if they cooperate with law enforcement to pursue a case against the trafficker? If we tighten immigration, does this decrease the flow of migrants or simply increase the number of those who migrate illegally because of the scarce economic opportunities that exist at home (Latin America, Asia, Africa, take your pick...) and are thus susceptible to exploitation? These are questions that need to be addressed. Creating an anti-trafficking law is a good start, but considering the issues involved in trafficking so that the law can best support survivors and prosecute traffickers is something that still needs work.

My point is, simply because something is being done, doesn't necessarily mean that that something will ultimately help defeat the problem. Whether discussing hunger or human trafficking, if it doesn't focus on empowering the vulnerable, we run the risk of
perpetuating a dependence on hand outs and not truly putting an end to the issue.

3) The author comments on watching a food bank van unload cereal and fresh produce in a poor neighborhood: No one made any attempt to determine whether the recipients actually needed the food, nor to encourage the recipients to seek other forms of assistance, such as food stamps. The food distribution was an unequivocal act of faith based on generally accepted knowledge that this was a known area of need. The recipients seemed reasonably grateful, but the staff members and volunteers seemed even happier, having been fortified by the belief that their act of benevolence was at least mildly appreciated.

The author responds:

I often wondered what would happen if the collective energy that went into soliciting and distributing food were put into ending hunger and poverty instead. Surely it would have a sizable impact if 3,000 Hartford-area volunteers, led by some of Connecticut's most privileged and respected citizens, showed up one day at the state legislature, demanding enough resources to end hunger and poverty. Multiply those volunteers by three or four -- the number of volunteers in the state's other food banks and hundreds of emergency food sites -- and you would have enough people to dismantle the Connecticut state capitol brick by brick.

But what we have done instead is to continue down a road that never comes to an end. Like transportation planners who add more lanes to already clogged highways, we add more space to our food banks in the futile hope of relieving the congestion.

My thoughts:

This is a critical point in the context of human trafficking. Trafficking is an issue that touches on economics, politics and culture. It is a product of under achieving economies and the criminal elements that move in to monopolize on the desperation of the vulnerable. It is a product of governments whose laws formerly arrested trafficking victims on charges such as illegal immigration and prostitution. It is the product of a culture of corruption that results from low pay and tempting bribes. It is the product of gender bias and the feminization of migration as a result of the growing demand from industries like domestic work and entertaining where the risk of exploitation runs high.

Anti-trafficking laws are good, but it cannot stop there. Law enforcement task forces are good, but it cannot stop there. Non-governmental organizations' efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate survivors are good, but it cannot stop there. Trafficking is ultimately an issue of poverty and the lack of opportunities to provide a stable livelihood. People need jobs. This is where the private sector can step in. This is where development of local, stagnant economies becomes key. The presence of human trafficking in a country that is a source for victims is really an indication of economic under achievement.

At the end of the day, I am grateful to have worked with organizations that support survivors of trafficking. Without them, so many victims would be worse off and never have received the help or support they deserve. At the same time, serious consideration needs to be given to the economic situations that create trafficking. In the words of the author Mark Winne, without addressing poverty and unemployment we will ultimately be creating more lanes on an already clogged highway.

It is in our best interests to once in a while take a step back and analyze where our efforts are leading us. The need to understand the context and act accordingly with issues such as poverty and human trafficking is critical. Otherwise we run the risk of acting without truly addressing the issue. Otherwise people will still go hungry. Otherwise people will still be enslaved.

It is not only about having the ambition and heart to make a difference in the world, but knowing how to do so that counts.

The Art of Trafficking?

Human Rights Watch questions Guggenheim museum labor

From the International Herald Tribune:

Guggenheim museum officials have not addressed concerns about how workers would be treated during construction of a Frank Gehry-designed art museum in the United Arab Emirates, a human rights organization said.

Construction has not started, but the Persian Gulf nation has a "systemic" worker abuse problem at other construction sites in the booming region, Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Sarah Leah Whitson said Tuesday. "We know how construction workers are used and abused in the U.A.E.," she said. "We know with confidence that workers are going to be subjected to these conditions unless the museum does something to insist otherwise."

Whitson said the museum foundation had failed to respond to numerous requests for meetings to discuss how to ensure that workers are not exploited. "If they ignore the abuse of construction workers so common in the U.A.E., they will put the Guggenheim's reputation at risk, as well as the laborers."

Last year, Human Rights Watch issued a report on labor conditions in the Middle East, saying the United Arab Emirates had "abdicated almost entirely from its responsibility to protect workers' rights." Labor Minister Ali Al Kaabi said the United Arab Emirates was increasing its enforcement of already strict laws on labor rights and human trafficking and was increasing the number of labor inspectors. While acknowledging the United Arab Emirates still had a long way to go, Al Kaabi disputed many of the report's findings, including allegations that the government was not penalizing companies for violations.

The United Arab Emirates already has issued laws addressing many of the abuses in the Human Rights Watch report: workers' salaries and passports held back by companies, dangerous working conditions, shady labor agents whose fees keep workers locked in debt and labor law enforcers beholden to connected companies, not to workers.

Read the full article

Making a Difference One Word at a Time

A friend told me about this ingenious website the other day.

It's called Free Rice.

It does two things:

1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the sponsors who advertise on the site.

Fun. Simple. Effective.


I love how a game can be utilized to a) feed the hungry, b) entertain you and c) benefit corporations through advertising.

Although not the Achilles heal to end world hunger, efforts like Free Rice are effective, tangible methods of supporting those who address the world's socioeconomic issues (in this case the rice is donated to the United Nations World Food Program).

How can this creative, out-of-the-box thinking be used to address human trafficking?

Any ideas?

I'm all ears.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Large International Sex Trafficking Ring Broken Up in Greece

Received a notice today about this break in Greece:
Greek police on Thursday said they had broken a major European sex trafficking network by arresting 30 people in Athens and Salonika after tracking the group's activities for nearly a year. In a swoop operation code-named New Life carried out with Interpol and Europol assistance, police on Wednesday night arrested seven men and two women suspected of working for the trafficking ring. Another 21 people were arrested during raids on stripclubs, bars and brothels for breaking laws on prostitution, which is strictly controlled here.

Police also freed two Russian women anda Romanian woman held captive by the traffickers. They are still seeking another 15 Greeks, four Russians, three Germans and a Turk believed to be part of the network.

The traffickers lured Eastern European women into prostitution through bogus job-hunting agencies and travel agencies they ran in Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, the Greek police department said in a statement.The women were furnished with fake Lithuanian passports and sent to Austria, Britain, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, depending on local demand, the police said.(AFP)
IHT also added:
About 200 police officers raided houses and businesses in Athens and Thessaloniki in an operation overseen by the international police organizations Europol and Interpol. Thirty suspects were arrested — nine gang members and 21 associates, police said...

Police said in a statement that the police action had "broken up one of the biggest criminal gangs active in the sexual exploitation of immigrant women in our country." The gang operated in at least four European Union countries as well as several nations outside the EU.

The raid, which had been planned for a year, targeted 15 apartments, offices and other properties in the two cities. Police confiscated five cars used for transporting women along with mobile telephones, cash and around two dozen passports.
This is important news, especially as the response to human trafficking by the Greek government attracted criticism from international groups like Human Rights Watch in the recent past. According to IOM Mission statistics, Greece is among the higher destinations of Ukrainian victims of trafficking.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sex trafficking in Israel

This is from a recent BBC article on the problem of trafficking in women to Israel:

During the height of the phenomenon, from the beginning of the 1990s to the early years of 2000, an estimated 3,000 women a year were brought to Israel on the false promise of jobs and a better way of life.

Last year, the United Nations named Israel as one of the main destinations in the world for trafficked women; it has also consistently appeared as an offender in the annual US State Department's Trafficking in Persons (Tip) report. [Tier Two Watchlist- the same as Ukraine]

In all cases, the traffickers - as many as 20 in the chain from recruitment to sale - take away the women's passports before selling them on to pimps. Sometimes the women are subjected to degrading human auctions, where they are stripped, examined and sold for $8,000-$10,000.

Rinat Davidovych, the director of the Maagan Shelter in Tel-Aviv, is someone who travels the world in the effort to fight human traffiking. She was interviewed for this BBC article:

For years, Israel treated trafficked women as criminals"When they come here they are in a bad condition," said Rinat Davidovich, the shelter's director.

"Most have sexual diseases and some have hepatitis and even tuberculosis. They also have problems going to sleep because they remember what used to happen to them at night," she said. "It's very hard and it's a long procedure to start to help and treat them."

I was lucky enough to have her as a guest in my family's home last year in Buffalo. This year, I bumped into her at a conference in Kyiv where she presented a host of information about trafficking in Israel. Rinat broke down the statistics of origin for Israel's sex trafficking victims- Ukraine 21.45%, Moldova 11.24%, Russia 9.2%, and Uzbekistan 5.11%, and now recently, victims are coming from China as well. She also did a thorough review of Israel's anti-trafficking laws. Up until 2006, the law only included women sex victims and protection was only offered to victims if they agreed to testify against their traffickers and pimps. Now, following the threat of sanctions against Israel by the United States, Israel has stepped up their efforts and has included a broader range of trafficking victims under national law. Rinat says that soon, the same protection given to victims of sex trafficking will be provided for those of labor trafficking.

The shelter she directs is a state shelter, and at the moment, only provides assistance to female victims of sex trafficking. Victims must be brought to the shelter by police, or if an ngo refers a victim, they must do so through the police. The shelter provides additional rights to the victim including full medical services, weekly allowances, temporary residence visas, and work placement. Rinat was overloaded with questions about why the state response was so weak, some of which seemed like they were more questions about why she works for the state shelter as opposed to the ngos. Rinat seemed more hopeful though that through her position, she is able to keep in contact with both ngos and the government, and that she is able to facilitate communication between both.

One of the things she mentioned has changed though, is that because of the crackdown on sex trafficking in Israel, more of the prostitution and, by extent, the trafficking victims have been moved underground. Now, instead of a place quite obviously being a brothel, it is hidden either as a massage parlor or sauna, forcing ngos to find more creative ways of reaching victims.

For more information on human trafficking in Israel, click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Scotland Provides Support to Trafficking Victims to Encourage Pursuit of Legal Cases

Source: Corbis

A month ago I wrote a post on Australia's anti-trafficking law and the lack of support it provides to victims. I'm glad to see Scotland taking the opposite approach and offering temporary residence, stipends, etc to victims if they cooperate with the police on their investigations. The law is beneficial for both parties: victims receive the counseling, housing and support they deserve and law enforcement gets assistance putting traffickers behind bars.


Four human trafficking victims who were forced to work as "sex slaves" in Edinburgh have vanished before their tormentors could be caught and prosecuted.

The women all disappeared within days of being freed from their ordeals. The move is a blow to police efforts to bring the criminal gangs behind the trade to justice. But steps have now been taken to encourage future victims to stay in Edinburgh and give evidence against the human trafficking gangs.

The victims, usually poverty-stricken immigrants forced to work as prostitutes, are to be offered free housing and other benefits in return for helping the authorities with their investigations. They will be offered basic living expenses of £50-a-week, legal advice, psychological counselling and health care, as well as accommodation, for up to a year.

Previously, if they were illegal immigrants, they faced the threat of immediate deportation.

Last year, Lothian and Borders Police was involved in a national initiative - Operation Pentameter - to tackle human trafficking. More than 70 potential victims in towns and cities across the UK were rescued in the three-month operation. The true extent of the problem in Edinburgh is unknown, but police chiefs have previously stated their belief that people-smuggling gangs are active in the city.

Read the full article

Human Trafficking Conference in India Reveals a Work in Progress

India's bonded child laborers (Source: Corbis)

From the Telegraph:

“Trafficking is about completely reducing accidents,” the smug, paunchy constable on the screen was saying, causing much amusement among the audience. Only seven per cent of Indian police personnel are known to have received any training in the subject

Anti-human trafficking efforts have netted only three convictions so far in India. Three is also the number of states — Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Goa — where anti-human trafficking units have been formed within the police force.

It will be unfair to say, however, that any of the three states mentioned has a weak officer handling human trafficking, and the success of decoy-based raid-cum-rescue operations proves that law-enforcement agencies are waking up to the seriousness of the crime. But the problem here is that the anti-human trafficking units are located in the police headquarters in the state capitals, while the thanas in the districts and villages — from where most trafficked persons are sourced — are still largely oblivious to the threat.

More important, in the balance of power, the beneficiaries of trafficking — from the local dalals to the higher criminals who have the money both to buy human beings and to hush up investigations — have far too much advantage over those they buy, sell or exploit. In south Asian countries, where corruption is endemic to the system, how realistic is it to expect that the victims — raped, battered and psychologically wrecked — will be able to fight the unequal battle?

Rehabilitation and repatriation continue to be a sticky area in the discourse on trafficking in developing countries. For the State is unable to offer viable livelihoods to the rescued individuals, who often go back to sex work simply to ensure a steady income. If the State and the NGOs were better equipped with an infrastructure of shelter homes and self-employment schemes, most stories of trafficking could have had happy endings.

The Union minister for women and child development was heard promising changes in the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, so that trafficked girls are not doubly victimized by being charged with soliciting customers for sexual services. Bureaucrats and ministers from the labour and home affairs ministries seemed equally committed, but the NGO workers seemed to know better. They preferred taking a break for tea while the ministers waxed eloquent on the many challenges ahead.

Read the full article

From reading the article, here is the sense I get of what India needs to address to improve its anti-trafficking efforts:
  • Lack of coordinated government efforts and resources
  • Lack of police training to understand and recognize trafficking
  • Low public awareness of trafficking
  • Corruption in the government, law enforcement and criminal justice system
  • Lack of collaboration between non-governmental organizations and the government to provide livelihood opportunities for trafficking survivors
  • Cultural values
  • Widespread poverty
If only to identify problem areas; however, this conference is a good first step towards shoring up the main weaknesses amongst the efforts of anti-trafficking stakeholders.

Let's see if their findings translate to meaningful action.

Stay tuned...

USAID-backed Trafficking Awareness Program in Jamiaca Makes an Impact

Awareness: a key element in combating trafficking. As I've mentioned before, there is no one method that will single-handedly eliminate trafficking; a holistic approach is needed.

Other integral elements include:
  • A government that provides resources for anti-trafficking efforts as well as national and state level coordination
  • Legislation that protects victims and prosecutes traffickers and those who use the services provided by victims (i.e. prostitution, forced labor, domestic slavery)
  • Law enforcement that is trained to recognize and report trafficking situations
  • An efficient criminal justice system that is not hampered by corruption
  • An active civil sector that can assist with rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficking survivors
From the Jamaica Observer:

Testimonies from young participants in the recent Anti-Trafficking in Persons Project in Kingston were a poignant reminder of the value of education in Jamaica's fight against human trafficking. "It was an eye-opening adventure," said Shana-Kay Campbell, 14, a student at Children First. "Personally, I have been able to make informed choices, and understand the dangers of trafficking in persons."

The project, the second of its kind, was implemented by People's Action for Community Transformation, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development. The first was implemented in 2004, and ran for one year.

The initiative was geared at educating people identified as the most vulnerable in the society to recognize the various elements of trafficking, and to mobilize strategies to counteract the phenomenon. The project also sought to mobilize at-risk youths to identify alternative careers and lifestyles by providing them with the necessary education and skills to pursue their future goals.

Jamaica received a tier two ranking in June, which was an improvement over the country's earlier ranking, which put it on the tier two watch list. The island, the permanent secretary said, is now working towards a tier one ranking. "As we work towards tier one, the focus is on effective investigation and prosecution," she said, adding that ongoing education campaigns, a data collection system, and the training of state agents were also key.

Read the full article

We have moved past the age of public service announcements. Although still informative, nowadays there are more innovative ways to get people to connect to and learn about modern day slavery. Emerging technologies like Youtube and Facebook present interesting possibilities.

Do you know of successful trafficking awareness programs around the world? If so please share: the more creative, effective modes of raising awareness we can discover the better! Ending trafficking starts with awareness.

What else are people doing?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Council of Europe Convention to enter into force February 2008

The Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings of the Council of Europe, a pan-European organization with 47 member states (and 1 applicant country, Belarus), is set to come into force on February 1, 2008. The Convention was actually opened for signature in 2005 by the Committee of Ministers and has been signed by 37 member countries. Only ten countries, however, have ratified the document. Ukraine is not one of them. Yet.

According to Darina Malko of the Ministry of Justice during a conference last week in Kyiv entitled "New challenges in providing social assistance to trafficked persons in the countries of origin, transit, and destination," there is a hold-up within the Ministry of Transportation regarding the articles and subsections related to the obligation of commercial carriers to check travel documents:
Article 7, subsection 3: Where appropriate, and without prejudice to
applicable international conventions, such measures shall include establishing
the obligation of commercial carriers, including any transportation company or
the owner or operator of any means of transport, to ascertain that all
passengers are in possession of the travel documents required for entry into the
receiving State.
Of course, a representative of a relevant Rada committee also complained the text is quite complicated, and they want to ensure correct translation of the document as well as understand the potential consequences of ratifying it. This individual claimed that some parts of the Convention actually overlap or contradict the Palermo Protocol (which Ukraine has ratified), making The CoE Convention difficult to ratify. Actually, the Palermo Protocol has the exact same clause related to carrier obligations. In fact, one of the final chapters of the CoE Convention is about its "Relationship with other international instruments" and the first article deals with Palermo. It states that the Convention shall not affect the rights and obligations of member states to the Palermo Protocol, but is in fact "intended to enhance the protection afforded by it and develop the standards contained therein."

The CoE basically states that the difference between this convention and other existing international protocol and framework is that it is more specific in regards to the protection of victims.

The Council of Europe considered that it was necessary to draft a legally binding instrument which goes beyond recommendations or specific actions.
While other international instruments already exist in this field , the Council of Europe Convention (Warsaw, 16 May 2005) is a comprehensive treaty mainly focussed on protection of victims of trafficking and the safeguard of their rights. It also aims at preventing trafficking as well prosecuting traffickers. In addition, the Convention provides for the setting up of an effective and independent monitoring mechanism capable of controlling the implementation of the obligations contained in the Convention.

The enhanced protection of victims' rights is one of the more important contributions of the CoE Convention as it provides for victims' rights during the identification process (so that one will not be removed before the identification process is complete). It also requires (destination) States to provide for a "Recovery and Reflection Period" at a minimum of 30 days so the victim may contemplate whether to stay and testify, and requires provisions to be taken during the repatriation process so that the programmes avoid re-victimisation.

The Convention is especially protective of children's rights and calls for measures to be taken to provide child victims with appropriate housing, education, counseling, and legal representation, and also requires that child victims shall not be returned to their state of origin if it is determined by a risk and security assessment that the return would put the child in a dangerous situation.

Other unique features of the Convention provide for measures to discourage the demand for TIP, as well as the punishment and sanctioning of traffickers, witness protection, and a monitoring mechanism that has specific protocol to observe the implementation of the Convention (known as GRETA). The articles provide for everything from the creation of the group to the steps that will be taken in order for GRETA to complete it's monitoring program efficiently and transparently.

You can view the State-by-State signature and ratification process and involvement here. Even if a state, such as Ukraine, signed it now, the Convention requires three months in between the submission of the ratification instrument and its entry into force within the state so the earliest it would start would be March. Nonetheless, a country bound to this document is committing to a major leap forward in the protection of the human rights of TIP victims. It has been said that Ukraine will jump on board by early next year so we will have to wait and see.