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.

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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."

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  1. UN.GIFT website aims to be an extension of UN GIFT activities worldwide. We would like it to evolve into a vibrant online community where people exchange views, showcase their work, talk about their experiences and strengthen the fight against human trafficking. With your help we can make it a valuable resource and a tool to take this fight forward. The organized crime of human trafficking needs a fitting organized response.

    United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) was formally launched in London on 26 March 2007. It is designed to have a long-term impact to create a turning point in the worldwide fight against human trafficking. 27million people are trafficked each year. UN.GIFT intends to take action against human trafficking in all its manifestations – commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labour, organ trade, camel jockeying, forced marriages, domestic labour, illegal adoption, and other exploitative work – through creating partnerships at a global level with all sectors of society.

    The ultimate goal of the Global Initiative is to contribute to ending human trafficking– estimated to have a total market value of about $32 billion worldwide. UNODC has a two-pronged strategy for achieving this goal – increasing public awareness of the problem and coordinating existing but disparate efforts by international and national groups, governments and non-governmental organizations and by concerned individuals to end the practice.

    Numerous regional GIFT events will culminate in Vienna with a Global Forum against Human Trafficking from 13th to 15th Feb 2008.

    The objective of The Vienna Forum is to raise awareness, facilitate cooperation and partnerships among the various stakeholders. It will bring together representatives from Member States, UN system organizations, other regional and international organizations, the business community, academia, non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society. The Forum will allow for an open environment to enable all parties involved to take concrete steps to fight human trafficking, within their spheres of action.

    The Forum will be a catalyst for solution-seeking ideas and address three overriding themes on human trafficking: 1.Vulnerability: why does human trafficking happen;
    2. Impact: human and social consequences of human trafficking;
    3. Action: innovative approaches to solving complex problems.
    · It is time to join forces to prevent human trafficking.
    · Give this global problem a global solution.
    · Rally under the banner of the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
    · Get involved!
    · Together we can save people and put traffickers behind bars.

    Tushar Sampat

  2. Anonymous10:10 AM

    the first thingthat stands out to me is how 'estimate' numbers can get generated yet no-one knows where these peopl are or if the trafficking even exists.

    All that time and effort in NY, yet no-one seems to actually know if its true...did they assume it? Did someone see it? If so, then go after it...apparently they cant because the only thing they have is rumors and nothing more.

  3. Anonymous11:02 PM

    Hey Anon you think human trafficking on L.I is a rumor maybe you should go down to your basement and let those people go