Friday, February 29, 2008

UN Vienna Forum Part 3: Second Plenary and Role of Religious Communities

The second day of the conference opened up with presentations by three different speakers: Babacar Ndiaye, UNODC-West Africa and Central Africa Regional Office, Professor Claude d'Estree from the University of Denver, and Martin Chungong, Director of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Mr. Ndiaye spoke about the problem of post-conflict situations. Essentially, he opened up with the fact that children and women are extremely vulnerable in post-conflict areas, even in situations where there are peace agreements. He suggested that women need to have a stronger presence during peace negotiations in order to do something about this problem.

Professor d'Estree spoke about the Cape Town Forum in October 2007, which gathered religious leaders to discuss what the religious community is called to do in response to human trafficking/modern-day slavery. The results of this gathering included Cape Town Declaration, Plan of Action, and a series of projects. According to the professor, 84% of the world's population adheres to one of three major religions so the involvement of the institutions will be a tremendous resource in the fight against trafficking. Now, an educational campaign launched to reach religious leadership to then educate their congregation and a website has been created in multi-language for education and dialogue. Professor d'Estree believes, "There is power in the pulpit, but there is even more power in the congregation.”

Last to speak in the morning session was Martin Chungong of Cameroon, Director of
Inter-Parliamentary Union. Mr. Chungong stated that the IPU was working to address some of the root causes of root trafficking: poverty, poor governance, globalization, development, and gender inequality. He feels the role of the IPU should effect cooperation between source and destination countries and stated that in any case, the response should be sensitive to local cultures and religions.

From this, he mentioned the following recommendations:
  • Parliamentarians have legislative role to develop the right atmosphere and ratify relevant
    international instruments
  • They should also take measures to ensure implementation and harmonization occurs
  • Lastly, they need to adopt oversight of these policies
Although this is out of order, I'm going to report on some of the information gathered from the Role of Religious Communities as the session on Communities in Crisis will need a separate post. The session on the Role of Religious Communities brought together representatives from the Christian, Muslim, Judaic, and Buddhist traditions to speak about the faith-based approach to combating human trafficking. Among the panelists were Maria Anshor of Indonesia and Imam Yahya Pallavicini of Italy representing Islam; Rabbi Levi Lauer of Israel representing Judaism; Dr. Claude d’Estree of the United States representing Buddhism; and HR Vasile Ciobanu of Moldova and Sister Colleen Wilkinson of South Africa representing Christianity.

Two basic topics were discussed: the role of religious leadership in the fight against human trafficking and what religious organizations or institutions have already done. The conversation, at times, diverged to a more theoretical level, and thus perhaps points were missed, but I have included some of the important and interesting ones below.

Ms. Anshor spoke of the role of Ulamas as community leaders, preachers, counselors, and school teachers who have the authority to interpret Islamic values and laws. In Indonesia, the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama issued a fatwa that TIP is haram (forbidden) according to Islamic law. Ms. Anshor is the director of Fatayat, a faith-based Islamic organization in Indonesia which provides victims services as well as community activism. The details on the role of her organization's work after the 2005 Tsunami are detailed in the post about Communities in Crisis.

According to Dr. d'Estree, Buddhism in the West and Asia differ on the role of leaders and teachers. There is a type of Engaged Buddhism that exists, which aims to promote Buddhists to work together beyond seeking solely attainment of enlightenment for oneself. This also involves Buddhist leaders discussing these issues amongst one another.

The Christian representatives both cited the Bible, particularly "Love for one's neighbor" as the basis for Christian action against slavery. Both Sister Wilkinson and HR Ciobanu discussed their separate anti-trafficking activities in South Africa and Moldova at length, including providing some victim services, working with national religious leaders to promote awareness, as well as coordinating with non-religious NGOs.

Rabbi Lauer is the Founding Executive Director of
Atzum, an Israeli NGO with a separate task force on human trafficking in Israel. Their current projects include advocacy, research, policy suggestions, and public awareness and education. His thoughts on how to engage Jewish religious figures included a series of questions that addressed the problems of how to present the crime and how to use scripture to call leaders to action.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

UN Vienna Forum Part 2: Private Sector Involvement

On Tuesday, there was a special session focused on engaging the private sector in the fight against human trafficking. According to the background paper, the session was meant to focus on what efforts corporations are putting forth already and what they can do to further the solution to this problem:

Employers are increasingly aware that their supply chain is vulnerable to this crime, which can lead to unlawful practices and consumer discrimination against their brands. Some companies protect their supply chain against human trafficking by adopting codes of conduct that eliminate forced labour, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. On occasion, corporations take the additional step of supporting public awareness campaigns about the horrors of trafficking.

While these measures help, some corporations are going beyond mitigation and public awareness. These innovators are at the front lines of the battle, applying their core competencies in creative ways. Notable examples include financial institutions which focus on the flow of money, hotel chains which deny access to their facilities for sex tourism, and IT companies using technology as tools for prevention, enforcement and reintegration.

Yet compared to other issues, few corporations are actively involved in the front lines of the fight against human trafficking. Why is this so and what needs to be done to actively engage the private sector in this battle?

The session participants included Peter Brew, Director of the International Business Leader's Forum; David Arkless, Senior Vice President of Manpower; Dan Henkle, Senior Vice President, Social Responsibility at Gap; Lori Forman, Regional Director for Community Affairs at Microsoft; Rakesh Mathur, CEO of WelcomHeritage Hotels; and Minister of Labor Oscar Fernandes of India, among others.

WelcomHeritage Hotels- The Sardar Samand Palace in Pali

The first question the moderator put forth was about why the private sector has been slow to engage the issue compared to other projects. The panelists pointed out that often the media is slow to report on any of these activities, but also the companies are not campaign or lobby institutions and that organizations need to identify the real business issues connected with trafficking if they want the private sector to engage.

Then the panelists opened up into more of a conversation about current or suggested practices to combat trafficking within or by corporations:
  1. Business-to-business advocacy

  2. Corporations can regulate themselves and their practices

  3. Companies do go into refugee camps and victims' shelters to recruit people for work to give them sustainable jobs and job skills

  4. Rakesh Mathur of WelcomHeritage Hotels explained how the hotel chain has many hotels in rural areas and in an effort to promote local development, hiring local employees has become a priority

  5. One panelist said that there needs to be a values system implemented within the corporation surrounding male employees who travel including the prohibition of purchasing sex while on business-related trips. He said this is very difficult to enforce, but is possible. This reduces the risk of your employees becoming demand factors in trafficking. (From what I have understood from other sessions, traveling males are one of the main demographic populations that sex tourism and brothels advertise to).

  6. Another suggestion was to involve business schools and students in projects related to social responsibility and cooperation with NGOs. One panelist brought up a document produced by Harvard Business School that provides NGOs with some guidelines on how best to partner and approach for-profit businesses for support. I think it may be this document, but it is undoubtedly part of Harvard's Social Enterprise Initiative.

The panelists also made suggestions for how the private sector could become more engaged in the response to human trafficking:

  1. Businesses are especially interested in investing in projects that work towards root causes like poverty reduction as an area they, as part of the global economic engine, can contribute to.

  2. Companies like to donate to results-driven methods and programs such as how many kids were saved as a result of the project.

  3. Someone also mentioned that coordination between private and non-profit would be boosted by a global organizing center point for business involvement like, for example, The Global Fund and (Product) for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Two last points of interest brought up by the panelists were:
  • From a business perspective, the people who fight against human trafficking and the people who commit the crimes have serious differences in terms of money. How can $15 million dollars invested annually against trafficking fight against a $32 billion dollar-a-year industry like human trafficking?

  • Lastly, the panelists differed on whether the government should step up more regulations or businesses should self-govern on this issue. Some raised doubts that companies would go ahead and commit to ridding their supply chains and traveling businessmen from practices that fuel human trafficking.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

UN Vienna Forum Part 1: Opening & Criminal Justice Procedure

The United Nations building in Vienna

VIENNA- I attended the recent UN GIFT Vienna Forum and have much to share. I will break down these posts into separate parts, each post covering either part of a day in the conference or one specific session if there is a lot of material to cover. I will post about the events I was able to attend, however as there were many events, it will only represent a small amount of the knowledge that was shared among the hundreds of experts, academics, NGO representatives, government officials, UN officials, and civic activists that were there over the course of last week. All together, I understood that about 1,500 people attended the conference.

It was an exciting opening day to the UN GIFT Vienna Forum on Wednesday. Lyse Doucet of the BBC served as the moderator for the opening panel of speakers, which included Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the UNODC (you can find his full opening speech here), Ursula Plassnik, the Austrian Minister for European and International Affairs, First Lady Suzanne Mubarak of Egypt, actress and Chair of the Helen Bamber Foundation Emma Thompson, and singer Ricky Martin.

Minister Plassnik touched on an issue that seemed to reoccur throughout the other sessions I attended and that was coordination: coordination between state and non-state actors, coordination on a regional scale, coordination on a global scale. Essentially, that the fight against human trafficking needs an organized center so that the criminals aren't more organized than the people trying to stop it. I do have half of First Lady Mubarak's speech here.

Her second half addressed many issues including the different elements of Egypt's success in anti-trafficking measures and the
International Women's Peace Movement, which Mubarak started in 2003 to promote peace and human security. The Movement also has the End Human Trafficking Now Initiative, which works with the business community. She also highlighted things like the involvement of the private sector, the importance of legally binding international instruments such as the CoE convention, and the steps against trafficking taken by Arab states (especially the Arab League and the Arab Women Organization).

Emma Thompson's speech was especially moving as she told the story of a young woman who was trafficked from Moldova to the massage parlor on the street Ms. Thompson grew up on. This woman became part of the inspiration and a contributor to the exhibit "Journey". The exhibit has been on display throughout the conference outside the Hofburg Palace.

Steve Chalke, the Chair of
Stop the Traffik, delivered a dynamic speech about the power of grassroots action by discussing the end of the gladiator games in Constantinople and the power of a 21 year-old monk that sacrificed himself to end the brutality of the games. Mr. Chalke then explained Stop-the-Traffik's humble roots, and how it grew to where it is today. He then delivered the 1.5 million signatures collected by the campaign and delivered them to Mr. Antonio Maria Costa of UNODC. The delivery was accompanied by a video of the campaign to gather the signatures.

Mr. Costa then delivered his speech that explained the efforts of UNODC and the importance of regional cooperation. He also mentioned that the UN General Assembly will be taking up debate on this issue in May or June of this year.

While the opening session ended, the program rolled right into statements by various government representatives who gave speeches on the activities and commitments of their respective countries including
First Lady Margarita CedeƱo of the Dominican Republic, Chair of the UAE's National Committee to Fight Human Trafficking Dr. Anwar Gargash, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Belarus, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, and Indonesia's Minister for Women's Empowerment Dr. Meutia Hatta. Their speeches encompassed a very wide range of topics, all of which were addressed throughout the sessions of the conference.

That day, I was able to attend two more sessions. The first was "Criminal Justice Responses to Human Trafficking" and it was set up as a mock investigation and trial with the purpose of identifying detrimental and recommended practices especially in relation to the rights of the victim. It was opened with a short performance by Emma Thompson and followed by a series of good/bad scenarios in the police station and court house.

The scenarios that attempted to show detrimental practices or the "bad" scenarios showed the investigator using insensitive language to the victim, an assumption of consensual involvement in prostitution, allowing a translator to apply pressure on the victim using native derogatory phrases, etc. The "bad" court room scenario allowed for the trafficker to have contact with and harass the victim before the trial began, a poorly prepared prosecution, and the judge allowed a purposefully intimidating line of questioning.

The scenarios intended to show the recommended practices when dealing with a trafficking case included an officer that used clear language, but used leading questions that eventually brought out the whole story of the victim without further adding to the trauma. He also asked for consent to allow an NGO representative to sit with the victim while she gave her testimony, and the representative then explain the services they have to offer the victim. The "good" court room scenario provided the victim with protection by bringing in a screen that hid the victim's identity from the public, as well as a well-prepared prosecutor with corroborative evidence, and the judge prevented the victim's personal sexual history from entering into evidence.

The audience discussed their thoughts and experiences after the scenarios were played out, and some concerns were raised with the recommended practices. For example, the NGO representative offered comfort to the victim while she told her story, and a member of the audience said she would never do that as the victim is most likely already traumatized by physical contact. Another objection was raised that the NGO representative was even at the police station as the victim should never feel confused about the role of the police and the role of the NGO. This also led to a debate as to whether police could conduct interviews at the NGO, however an officer in the audience felt that this tends to raise fears among other victims at the NGO and may put the victim at risk as everyone else at the shelter would know who was talking to the police.

Overall, I would say the presentations were a little overdone and unlikely, however, at the same time, court and investigation procedures are an important part of combating the crime, yet have been one of the slowest elements worldwide to be brought up to speed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Trafficking Tough to Tame in Rich Gulf States

From Reuters:

DUBAI (Reuters) - Aysha sold her wedding gold to pay traffickers $200 (100 pounds) to find her and a cousin jobs in Dubai.

A world away from her village in Uzbekistan, she was forced to work in a disco and expected to offer sex. Beaten by her Uzbek boss when she shooed prospective clients away, she and her cousin fled and hid in airport toilets for two days, surviving on tap water.

Aysha's story reveals the dark underbelly of glitzy, fast-paced Dubai, the Gulf Arab trade and tourism hub. It also highlights a problem that bedevils many states in the region and is a bone of contention with their close ally the United States.

The 26-year-old, who only identified herself as Aysha for fear the traffickers would hurt her family, supports her son and sick mother back home. "Some girls like going to discos but I am Muslim, I cannot go to places where people dance and drink let alone work there," she said at the shelter in Dubai where she now lives.

Tens of thousands of people arrive in Dubai and neighbouring states each year, seeking a better life in a region booming on record oil revenues. But the wealth on show in Dubai's sprawling shopping malls, skyscrapers and smart restaurants attracts traffickers too.

Foreign workers and expatriates with different lifestyles and cultures make up over 80 percent of the more than 4 million population in the United Arab Emirates, a Muslim country. Prostitution, even adultery, are illegal yet bars abound where women are available for sex.

In a 2007 report, the U.S. State Department accused its Gulf Arab allies of being among the worst offenders in failing to prevent people from being sold into sex and servitude. It put the UAE on "Tier 2 Watch List" for not doing enough but Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar joined Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan on a list of 16 states subject to possible sanctions.

In 2006, the UAE -- a wealthy seven-member federation including Abu Dhabi and Dubai -- passed the Arab world's first law aimed specifically at combating the trade in humans, with penalties ranging from five years to life in jail. Last month, the nearby Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, which has a free trade pact with the United States, issued its own law.

"It is not a stigma on the UAE that human trafficking takes place because many prosperous, attractive places to live have this problem," said Anwar Gargash, a minister who heads a committee set up to coordinate efforts to implement the law. "The stigma is if we do nothing about it," he said. "We have done a lot ... but we have a long way to go."

Read the full article

Human Trafficking in Wisconsin, USA


MADISON — Human trafficking is happening in Wisconsin, but most law enforcement agencies haven’t received any training to recognize the crime and don’t consider it a problem, a new state report says.

The Office of Justice Assistance’s study marks the first attempt to gauge trafficking in the state. It concluded international and domestic trafficking involving dozens of victims is taking place in urban and rural areas across much of the southern two-thirds of the state.

But three-quarters of the justice agencies and more than a third of social services providers surveyed in the study said trafficking is not a serious problem or isn’t a problem at all.

“This is an indication of the lack of awareness,’’ the report said. “At the very least, the results indicate a need for training and education.’’

Tim Dewane is the director of the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s Office for Global Justice and Peace in Elm Grove and a member of the Milwaukee Rescue and Restore Coalition, which was launched by the federal government to raise human trafficking awareness. He said the report’s findings aren’t surprising.

“When Wisconsin or anywhere else has taken a closer look at human trafficking, they realize for most law enforcement it hasn’t been on their radar screen,’’ Dewane said. “This isn’t just a global issue but has local ramifications as well. Hopefully (the report) will open up some eyes.’’

The state Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a bill that would outlaw human trafficking. Anyone caught trafficking a person for sex or labor would face up to $100,000 in fines and 25 years in prison. Anyone caught trafficking a minor could get 40 years.

Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, the author of the bill, said the report may drive him to amend it to include police training.

The report calls human trafficking the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Federal justice and immigration officials estimate as many as 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the U.S. for sex and forced labor, the report said.

The highest profile case in Wisconsin involved a pair Brookfield doctors who forced a Philippine woman to work as their maid for nearly two decades. The couple was convicted in 2006.

But hard data on victims in the state is nonexistent. The Office of Justice Assistance sent out a survey to police, sheriffs and prosecutors as well as social service providers early last year hoping for more information.

Of the 261 justice agencies that responded, only 6 percent said they had run across a case they considered slavery or human trafficking.

Thirteen percent said they didn’t know if they’d ever encountered a case, and 7 percent said they’d had any training on human trafficking.

Read the full article

Monday, February 25, 2008

Human Trafficking to Be a Felony Crime in New Mexico

From the Alamogordo Daily News:

SANTA FE- Human trafficking will be a felony crime in New Mexico under a new law taking effect in July. Governor Bill Richardson signed the crime legislation into law on Friday in Las Cruces. New Mexico was the only border state without a separate crime against human trafficking.

''Human trafficking must be outlawed, human beings should not be treated as property and detained against their will,'' Richardson said in a statement. Attorney General Gary King pushed for the human trafficking legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana.

Proponents said the new law was needed to prevent New Mexico from becoming a corridor for what often is described as modern-day slavery, in which victims are lured into exploitative jobs or the sex trade and held against their will.

Under the new law, human trafficking will be a third-degree felony, which is punishable by three years in prison. If the victim is under 13, it will be a first-degree felony, which can be punished by a prison term of up to 18 years. If the victim is 13 to 15 years-old, it will be a second-degree felony, which has a basic sentence of up to nine years in prison.

Read the full article

3 Arrested for Human Trafficking in Delhi

Ajay Shukla, allegedly involved in human trafficking, was arrested by the Crime Branch, Delhi Police

From the Times of India:

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police on Saturday claimed to have cracked a human trafficking racket, which sent over 100 people to the United States using forged documents in the past three years, with the arrests of three persons in the Capital.

The racket used to allegedly target "innocent looking" people who used to queue up at the US embassy for applying for visas, offering the vulnerables their help in rectifying mistakes in supporting documents.

This is one of the three biggest human trafficking racket cracked in the Capital in the last one year.

Following a tip off, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Satyendra Garg told reporters, the arrests were made from various parts of Delhi on February 20.

Ajay Shukla, the alleged kingpin who runs his office from a Safdarjung Hospital staff quarters, his associate Pawan Mishra and Gursahib Singh, a visa applicant, were caught by the special team of Delhi Police's Crime Branch, Garg said.
Mishra was caught by the sleuths from Rohini in north-west Delhi and fake bank statements, authority letters, visa deposit slips, visa interview letters besides two original passports were allegedly recovered from him.

His interrogation revealed Shukla's alleged involvement in the racket and based on the information provided by Mishra, Shukla was arrested from near American embassy in Chanakyapuri.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nigeria: Media Tasked on Human Trafficking


The media has great roles to play in the fight against the trafficking in persons (TIP), the president of Economic Community in West African States (ECOWAS) said yesterday in Abuja.Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, made the statement yesterday at a sensitization workshop organized for the media by the Department of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, ECOWAS. Chambers said trafficking in person is a crime that is pervasive and growing in the West Africa region and to avert this, there is the need for "networking and dialogue with the media."

The ECOWAS president who was represented by the Acting Director of Humanitarian and social affairs, Mrs H.U.Didigu, said the crime which primarily involves women, children, the poorest and the least educated is so serious and pervasive that only a coordinated and vigorous effort of all stakeholders will be able to address it successfully.

"We have always regarded the media as partners in the fight against human traffic especially in the area of prevention and awareness rising. Our expectation from you as key stakeholders is indeed high. Your role as a watchdog in keeping human trafficking on the front burner of societal issues can not be over emphasized. We expect that the media cooperates with us and other stakeholders to give due publicity to counter Trafficking in persons initiatives."

Read the full article

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Washington D.C. Couple Charged with Sex Trafficking

Adams Morgan, Washington D.C.

From the Examiner:

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - A D.C. couple was arrested on charges of human trafficking and prostituting young females from Mexico and Honduras, according to charging documents filed in federal court.

The arrests of Franklin Yasir Mejia-Macedo and Yaneth Martinez grew out of an investigation centered in North Carolina, according to court documents.

“These arrest were made out of an ongoing investigation, that is really all I can say,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Richard Rocha. Mejia and Martinez had business cards printed up for services such as “Hair Cuts for Men Only” and “Flowers Home Delivery,” and handed them to men on the streets of D.C.’s predominately Hispanic neighborhood such as Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, authorities said. The business cards are commonly used to advertise prostitution, according to an ICE special agent who signed the charging document filed in U.S. District Court.

“Based on my experience in investigating human trafficking, interstate transportation for prostitution and related offenses, I know that such language [is] commonly used as code language to advertise prostitution,” the special agent wrote.

The human trafficking and prostitution operation came to the attention of federal law enforcement when Martinez, 33, unwittingly handed one of her cards to a federal source, according to documents. On Monday, federal agents arrested her and Mejia at their Petworth residence. A 24-year-old woman at the residence told agents she served as a prostitute and shared her earnings with Martinez, according to documents.

Mejia admitted that he was a native of Honduras and living illegally in the United States. Mejia was charged with unlawful transportation of an alien. Martinez was picked up on arrest warrant out of North Carolina on charges of sex trafficking.

Read the full article

Friday, February 22, 2008

Corrupt Immigration Officials Facilitate Trafficking at Airports

From Xpress:

To help curb human trafficking, a visiting senior Philippine official wants Manila to implement stiff regulations that prohibit airport personnel from escorting departing passengers.

Surveillance cameras need to be installed in major international airports in the Philippines to monitor and catch erring immigration and airport personnel, said Dante Ang, chairman of Philippine Presidential Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force.

He said these are part of sweeping changes that his team has proposed following a dialogue in the UAE with Filipino workers that included about about 40 women who claimed they were forced into prostitution by syndicates between 2006 and 2007.

Ang said his team appreciated the cooperation of the UAE authorities and noted the work of Dubai Police in pursuing human trafficking crimes.

Airport ushers, also called “escorts”, are men or women employed by various government agencies at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

They guide passengers through the maze of exit procedures, but they have been targeted by migrant workers groups and politicians for their alleged abuse of duty, including extortion.

Ushers are blamed for squirreling away undocumented overseas workers all the way to the aircraft knowing they don’t have pertinent papers and may end up at the mercy of abusive employers or handlers abroad.

The team’s recommendations will be submitted to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.

“We recommend the termination of the so-called ‘escort services’, other than for the diplomatic passport holders,” Ang said.

Another solution, he said, is to randomise the queue, and retrofitting all immigration counters with cameras.

“This may not totally eliminate, but it can minimise the problem,” said Ang.

Visit visas have allegedly been used to lure Filipino women who end up being forced into prostitution.

In 2006, 30 Filipinas sought protection from the Philippines Consulate in Dubai against pimps who they claimed forced them into prostitution and 10 more came forward last year. The age of the 40 alleged victims were between 16 and 24.

The official said some of the victims go through Singapore, Hong Kong or Malaysia, before they arrive in Dubai. Filipinos do not require visas to travel to other countries in South East Asia.

“We’ve learnt that in several cases, the syndicate uses a ribbon marker for pre-selected Filipina human trafficking victims so they slip through the airport without any questions being asked.

“The Mama Sangs [handlers] deal with a few bad eggs at immigration. That’s what the victims are saying. Apparently, these syndicates have people both inside and outside the airports,” Ang said.

An official from the Philippine consulate told XPRESS on condition of anonymity they had gathered statements from several victims last year that bribe money changed hands at immigration counters before the girls ended up in the UAE.

“The bad guys [there] never go to jail because the evidence is weak, and testimonial evidence against them have no value, especially when complainants are overseas. They are just reassigned to other posts and recycled.”

Read the full article

'Dr Kidney' Arrest Exposes Indian Organ Traffic

From the Asia Times:

MUMBAI - The arrest of "Doctor Kidney" Amit Kumar for running a sizeable racket in live kidneys has highlighted the role that South Asia plays as the hub of an international trade in human organs.

A sophisticated but unregulated healthcare industry, a "donor pool" of desperately poor people ready to sell a kidney, and a corrupt monitoring system have combined to create a special brand of "medical tourism" in the region, especially in India and neighboring Pakistan.

While India's 1994 Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) is observed mostly in the breach, the impact of Pakistan's Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Ordinance passed in 2007 is yet to be gauged. Until last year, the organ trade was legal and flourished openly in that country.

Top transplant surgeons are collaborating with criminal organ trafficking networks to target the desperate, noted Nancy Scheper-Hughes, founding director of Organs Watch, an academic research project at the University of California, Berkeley, while speaking at the Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking this month.

"The latest arrests reveal a global network larger in scale than any other one," said Dr Samiran Nundy, gastroenterological surgeon at the prestigious Sir Gangaram Hospital in New Delhi. Nundy was one of the architects of India's transplantation laws that should have put an end to paid transplants in this country. The THOA was the result of activism by a small group of conscientious medical professionals appalled by the trade.

Kumar is accused of luring poor laborers to his "hospital" in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon with promises of job offers or large sums of money. Typically, they were promised 300,000 rupees (US$7,500) but paid only 30,000 ($750) after the surgery, police said.

He is alleged to have conducted more than 500 transplants over an unspecified period, charging up to $50,000 dollars for each operation. Investigators say his patients came from Britain, the United States, Turkey, Nepal, Dubai, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The racket first came to light on January 24 when police raided Kumar's hospital following a complaint by a "donor" who had been paid less than the amount promised. At his hospital police found recipients recovering from surgery and arrested a number of doctors, nurses and support staff.

Read the full article

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New York Detective Accused of Forcing a 13-Year Old Girl into Prostitution

The accused- Detective Wayne Taylor

From the New York Times:

By Bob Herbet
- A New York City police detective and his girlfriend have been accused of kidnapping and forcing a 13-year-old girl into prostitution.

According to the Queens district attorney’s office, the detective, Wayne Taylor, and the girlfriend, Zalika Brown, would parade the girl at parties and other places where adult men had gathered and force her to have sex with them for money — $40 for oral sex, $80 for intercourse.

The child was an investment. The couple allegedly told her that she had been purchased for $500 — purchased, like the slaves of old, only this time for use as a prostitute. Other than the fact that one of the accused in this case is a police detective, there was nothing unusual about this tale of trafficking in young female flesh.

Our perspective is twisted. It was a big story when a television newsman was crude and thoughtless enough to use the term “pimped out” in a reference to Chelsea Clinton. The comment generated outrage — as it should have — and the newsman was suspended. But if someone actually pimps out a 13-year-old child, and even if that someone is alleged to be a police detective, it generates a collective yawn.

Across the country, young girls by the many thousands — children — are being drawn into the hellishly dangerous world of prostitution. They are raped, beaten and exploited in every way imaginable.

As part of the staggeringly lucrative commercial sex trade, the role of these children is to satisfy the sexual demands of johns who in most cases do not fit the stereotype of a pedophile.

“Many of the guys who buy sex with children would never consider themselves pedophiles,” said Rachel Lloyd, founder of an organization in New York called GEMS that offers help to under-age girls in the sex trade. “They’re not necessarily out there looking for 12-year-olds or teenagers. They just kind of don’t care. They feel like they have the right to buy sex from someone, and they prefer it to be someone who looks younger and cleaner and less drug-addicted.”

In the case of the accused New York City detective, the authorities acted promptly and effectively. The girl managed to escape and notified the police, who investigated immediately. Detective Taylor and Ms. Brown were arrested and the case has been turned over to the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Both are in custody.

But law enforcement does not always respond in a positive or constructive way. It is common across the country for under-age girls engaged in prostitution to be arrested, which is bizarre when you consider that it is a serious crime — statutory rape — for an adult to have sex with a minor.

If no money is involved, the youngster is considered a victim. But if the man pays for the sex — even if the money is going to the pimp, which is so often the case — the child is considered a prostitute and thus subject in many venues to arrest and incarceration.

“We often see the girls arrested and the pimps and the johns go free,” said Carol Smolenski, the head of Ecpat-USA, a group that fights the sexual exploitation of children. “One of the big problems is that there is this whole set of child sex exploiters who are not targeted as exceptionally bad guys.”

What’s needed is a paradigm shift. Society (and thus law enforcement) needs to view any adult who sexually exploits a child as a villain, and the exploited child as a victim of that villainy. If a 35-year-old pimp puts a 16-year-old girl on the street and a 30-year-old john pays to have sex with her, how is it reasonable that the girl is most often the point in that triangle that is targeted by law enforcement?

Read the full article

The Age of Ambition

From the New York Times:

By Nicholas Kristof
- With the American presidential campaign in full swing, the obvious way to change the world might seem to be through politics.But growing numbers of young people are leaping into the fray and doing the job themselves.

These are the social entrepreneurs, the 21st-century answer to the student protesters of the 1960s, and they are some of the most interesting people here at the World Economic Forum (not only because they’re half the age of everyone else).

Andrew Klaber, a 26-year-old playing hooky from Harvard Business School to come here (don’t tell his professors!), is an example of the social entrepreneur. He spent the summer after his sophomore year in college in Thailand and was aghast to see teenage girls being forced into prostitution after their parents had died of AIDS.So he started Orphans Against AIDS (, which pays school-related expenses for hundreds of children who have been orphaned or otherwise affected by AIDS in poor countries. He and his friends volunteer their time and pay administrative costs out of their own pockets so that every penny goes to the children.

Mr. Klaber was able to expand the nonprofit organization in Africa through introductions made by Jennifer Staple, who was a year ahead of him when they were in college. When she was a sophomore, Ms. Staple founded an organization in her dorm room to collect old reading glasses in the United States and ship them to poor countries. That group, Unite for Sight, has ballooned, and last year it provided eye care to 200,000 people (

In the ’60s, perhaps the most remarkable Americans were the civil rights workers and antiwar protesters who started movements that transformed the country. In the 1980s, the most fascinating people were entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who started companies and ended up revolutionizing the way we use technology.

Today the most remarkable young people are the social entrepreneurs, those who see a problem in society and roll up their sleeves to address it in new ways.

Bill Drayton, the chief executive of an organization called Ashoka that supports social entrepreneurs, likes to say that such people neither hand out fish nor teach people to fish; their aim is to revolutionize the fishing industry. If that sounds insanely ambitious, it is. John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan title their new book on social entrepreneurs “The Power of Unreasonable People.”

Universities are now offering classes in social entrepreneurship, and there are a growing number of role models. Wendy Kopp turned her thesis at Princeton into Teach for America and has had far more impact on schools than the average secretary of education.

So as we follow the presidential campaign, let’s not forget that the winner isn’t the only one who will shape the world. Only one person can become president of the United States, but there’s no limit to the number of social entrepreneurs who can make this planet a better place.

Read the full article

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

48 Charged in Supposed Human Trafficking Ring

The Arizona-Mexico border

*There is no specific mention of exploitation in this article. Smuggling is smuggling. Human trafficking is human trafficking. Although similar, there is a distinct difference in that human trafficking involves the deceit, coercion and exploitation of its victims while smuggling involves a consensual transaction between transporter and transportee for mutually advantageous reasons. Read more about trafficking vs. smuggling HERE.

From Fox News:

PHOENIX — Four dozen people accused of taking part in an immigrant trafficking ring have been indicted on human smuggling and money laundering charges, authorities said.

The group brought in as much as US$130,000 a week moving people from Naco, Mexico, to its center of operations in Phoenix and then to destinations across the U.S., Phoenix police Lt. Vince Piano said Thursday. Piano said the ring was believed to be one of the biggest operating in Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point into the country.

"It's not the end of the game, but we believe we have made some very important intelligence directions in the fight against the smugglers," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, whose office was prosecuting the case.

Ten of the 48 suspects were arrested. An additional 10 people who are expected to face charges in the future also were netted in the sweep, authorities said. The investigation led to the discovery of 13 "drop houses" in Phoenix where human smugglers hold customers until they pay up and are sent to their final destinations. The area is believed to have about 1,000 drop houses.

Authorities allege that two Cuban immigrants living in the area, 41-year-old Jose Luis Suarez-Lemus and 35-year-old Roel Ayala Fernandez, ran the ring and paid people in Mexico and Arizona to help smuggle immigrants.The two paid recruiters in Mexico to find customers, Mexican police to allow smugglers to stage their crossings and trail guides to lead immigrants through a conservation area in southeast Arizona, Piano said.

Drivers were paid to bring the immigrants by van to Phoenix, and other drivers were used to spot law enforcement vehicles and protect rival smugglers from forcing them off the road in an attempt to kidnap and extort their customers, he said. Once the immigrants were in a drop house and payments were made, drivers were hired to bring immigrants to spots across the country, authorities said.

They said the group would move four to six loads of immigrants per day, each with six to 10 people. Smuggling fees averaged US$2,500 per person.

Human Trafficking Covered by Two New International Masters Degrees in Ireland

From Dublin City University:

Ireland- The School of Communications [at Dublin City University] today announced the introduction of two new Masters programmes which will start in September 2008 - a Masters in International Journalism Studies and a Masters in International Communication. Both programmes analyse international human rights issues and conflicts in the world today, such as human trafficking, sweatshops and torture, and crises in Darfur, West Bank and China. Modules offered include Media and Conflict, Human Rights Journalism, International Journalism and Europe, and Politics and Media. Whereas the MA in International Communication will examine these from a theoretical perspective, the MA International Journalism Studies will take an approach based on journalism practice.

The two degrees are full-time, one-year programmes.

The MA in International Journalism Studies is particular suited to journalists and graduates of undergraduate journalism programmes. Uniquely, it offers students the opportunity of spending one semester at DCU, and one semester at Schools of Journalism in either the US or Australia. It is targeted at journalism graduates who wish to deepen their understanding of the media's role in international society and develop their capacity to operate professionally in international contexts. The MA in International Communication is targeted at Irish media professionals who wish to explore contemporary media practices. Applicants should have a primary degree in journalism, communications or related area, and have an active interest in international affairs. The course will examine current developments in media institutions, values and practices, with particular reference to globalisation influences and tendencies.

Professor Paschal Preston, Head of the School of Communications said, "The School of Communications has built up a world-renowned reputation in media studies and is now delighted to announce the introduction of these two new programmes which will build on the School's leading-edge expertise in communication theory and journalism education".

Students can apply online through PAC. Further details on the programme can be found at

Poverty Fuels Child Trafficking


Lahore- A disturbing new trend in people smuggling is emerging in Pakistan: more and more children are being sent by their parents on hazardous journeys in a bid to reach wealthier countries, with several instances of such trafficking reported recently in local newspapers.

Of the more than 2,200 persons deported to Pakistan in 2007, mainly from Oman or Iran (from where many hoped to reach European destinations), 15 were children under 18, according to figures maintained by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Two of the children sent back were Muhammad Zulfikar, 12, of Bhimber District in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and Waqar Hasan, 14, from the town of Mandi Bahauddin, near Gujrat, a town 120km north of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. Zulfikar had been apprehended on the Turkish border and Waqar on the Iranian frontier. Both boys had hoped to make it to Greece.

"I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the many people from my area who have gone abroad and made a fortune," Zulfiqar said after being handed over to the FIA, the government agency responsible for tackling human trafficking.

According to Arif Bokhari, the FIA's assistant director, the "trend of trafficking teenage boys" is rising in Pakistan's populous Punjab. He blamed parents who "paid out large sums of money to agents" for subjecting children to such hazards.

Under an agreement between the FIA and the Lahore-based Child Welfare Protection Bureau (CWPB) of the Punjab government, both Zulfikar and Waqar are now at the bureau's well-run premises, attending school and living with some 200 other children at the hostel.

Other victims of child trafficking, including former child camel jockeys rescued from Gulf States over the past few years, are also housed at the facility. "We educate and rehabilitate these children," Zubair Ahmed Shad, programme director at the CWPB, told IRIN. He also explained that the "children saved from traffickers and living with us are doing well", and pointed out there had been a sharp decline in trafficking to Gulf states since the United Arab Emirates (UAE) banned the use of child jockeys in March 2005.

But other children are not as fortunate as Zulfikar and Waqar, who, despite their ordeal, are alive and well.

In 2006, a family from the town of Gujranwala, about 80km north of Lahore, reported their son missing - apparently while on his way to Greece - only to learn later that he had died during the ordeal.

The agent whom the parents had paid to organise the hazardous journey was arrested, but the victim's family declined to testify against him after he promised to take two other sons overseas free of charge.

"It is the economic desperation of people that leads them to do such things," said Akhtar Hussain Baloch of the Islamabad-based Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, which has campaigned against child trafficking for many years.

Recognising such realities, the authorities have in recent years worked to mitigate this, putting forward the Prevention of Human Smuggling Control Ordinance, which was enforced by the Pakistan government in 2002. Under the law, tougher punishments are envisaged for anyone found involved in trafficking people, including prison terms and fines for parents.

Additionally, as part of its measures to curb smuggling, in 2006 Pakistan's FIA published a "red book" listing 165 agents in various places from Pakistan to Greece, and has sought Interpol assistance to tackle them.

While boys in impoverished parts of rural Pakistan, particularly towns in the southern Punjab, are more likely to be trafficked overseas, girls are trafficked more often within the country, and sometimes sold into what amounts to little more than sexual slavery, says the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

HRCP has reported that in most cases, they are given away for amounts of money ranging from US$1,300 to $5,000 by impoverished parents, sometimes in "marriage"; and sometimes to agents who promise lucrative jobs as domestic servants in large cities. Many of these girls, according to child rights groups, end up as sex workers. Some are no older than 10 at the time of the "sale".

Kenyan Negotiators Resume Talks to End Crisis

*The political instability in Kenya has
displaced 300,000 people creating a large population that is extremely vulnerable to trafficking. Click HERE for a profile of trafficking in Kenya.

From Reuters:

NAIROBI- Kenya's feuding parties resume talks on Tuesday after a calls from home and abroad to solve a post-election crisis that has killed 1,000 people and jeopardized the east African nation's reputation.

Foreign powers and the majority of Kenya's 36 million people are impatient for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to find a political solution to their country's darkest moment since independence in 1963.

Their dispute over who won the December 27 election unleashed protests and ethnic attacks that have traumatized the population, displaced 300,000 people, and hurt Kenya's reputation as a stable democracy and peacemaker in the region.

"The time for a political settlement was yesterday," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the end of a lightening trip to Kenya on Monday to push for a power-sharing accord as the best way out of the impasse.

Apart from hardliners on either side, a similar message is reverberating around Kenya from businessmen, clerics, civil society groups and ordinary citizens, who are increasingly angry with the political class.

"Where are the leaders who will put selfish gains aside and accede to the higher commitment to serve and honor a country's craving for peace?" said Daily Nation columnist Mildred Ngesa.

Human Trafficking & Globalization

From Reuters:

Globalisation has vastly increased human trafficking over the past decade and governments must take urgent action to combat the abuse, United Nations officials and human rights activists said on Tuesday.

On the eve of the first U.N. global forum on human trafficking in Vienna, Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson said it was time end what the U.N. says is a multi-billion dollar market. "It is increasing big, big, big time," Thompson, chairwoman of human rights group the Helen Bamber Foundation. "It's the third largest shadow economy after drugs and arms."

The U.N. says some 2.5 million people are trapped in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, in forced marriages, or are pushed to provide body parts for black market organ trade.

The surge in human trafficking coincides with a revolution in affordable transport and instant communication around the world, said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). "All of this has facilitated things like trade and services, (yet it has) also facilitated the trafficking of human beings," Costa told a news conference.

A U.N. anti-trafficking protocol took force in 2005, establishing a framework for a crackdown, and now governments must create laws and prosecute perpetrators, he said. "Governments have not done much. But the international agreement puts a burden on the countries," he said.

The organisers will push for a universal ratification of the U.N. protocol, which has been signed by more than 110 states.

There is also a pressing need for better data, as most has come so far from sources like media reports, said Costa.

Most trafficking victims come from nations in the Commonwealth, central and southeastern Europe, West Africa and Southeast Asia, according to a recent UNODC report. Western Europe, North America and Western Asia top the list of destinations for victims of human trafficking.

Adult woman and girls are most at risk of becoming victims and sexual exploitation is the most prevalent abuse, it said.

Few Traffickers End Up in Court

*According to the interviews I conducted in the Philippines with various anti-trafficking non-governmental organizations- a justice system with too many cases and too few judges, corruption, the financial leverage of traffickers used to buy off both victims and criminal justice officials and an unfamiliarity with the anti-trafficking law on the part of prosecutors, amongst other factors, continue to hamper efforts to put traffickers behind bars in the Philippines.

From the Sun Star:

Philippines- Efforts to curb human trafficking are hobbled by the paucity of successful prosecutions, amid the lack of cooperation from victims and the limited ability of authorities to rescue possible victims, especially those in transit at the country’s many seaports.

Figures from the Department of Justice (DOJ) show that while 109 cases of human trafficking had been received and investigated from 2003-2005, only 22 cases had been filed.

The National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) Anti-Human Trafficking Division also reported that while it received 122 cases in 2006, it had recommended only three cases for prosecution, said University of the Philippines journalism professor Yvonne Chua.

Chua reported the figures during a media training workshop by the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), The Asia Foundation and the US Agency for International Development last Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.


During the workshop at Parklane International Hotel, Nancy Lozano, state counsel at the DOJ and a member of the secretariat of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat), said there had been convictions in only 10 cases filed against traffickers in the country since Republic Act 9208 or “The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” was passed.

The first seven convictions took place in 2005, of which four took place in Quezon City, two in Batangas City and one in Zamboanga. The rest of the convictions were handed down last year, one each in Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga.

Last July, Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Raphael Yrastorza Sr. found two pimps guilty of qualified trafficking of persons and imposed on them the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P3 million after a 2004 entrapment operation caught them offering nine females, one of them a minor, for sex to undercover NBI agents.

Interviewed earlier this month by participants of the media training workshop, Cebu City Assistant Prosecutor Rudolf Joseph Carillo described the conviction as a “breakthrough,” saying it was the first major promulgation in the Visayas region.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Trafficking Victims Are Getting Younger

Photographs of young Filipina women hired as overseas workers. Though trained as entertainers, many face pressures to enter the sex industry.

From the Sun Star:

Philippines- The victims of human trafficking are getting younger and younger as more and more women fall prey to the false promises of people offering them a better life.

Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) president Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda revealed this in a video shown during a media training workshop conducted by the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) and the Asia Foundation last week at Parklane International Hotel.

Asked to elaborate, Ligaya Abadesco, VFFI field coordinator for Cebu and Dumaguete, told Sun.Star Cebu that in the past, the victims that the VFFI intercepted at seaports and brought to its halfway houses for temporary shelter and counseling were adults.

But in recent years, the VFFI has been intercepting 14- and 15-year-olds.

She explained that traffickers have been recruiting younger and younger victims because they command higher prices in the sex trade.

Republic Act 9208 or “The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge by means of threat, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception or abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation.

Exploitation includes prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs.


During the forum, VFFI regional coordinator for the Visayas Vicente Abadesco said traffickers target women and children from 12-22 years old.

The women are transported from the rural areas—usually in the Visayas and Mindanao—where they came from, to urban areas in the country or abroad where, instead of the decent jobs in factories or restaurants they were promised, they find themselves working as prostitutes in brothels.

Abadesco said it is difficult to tell exactly how many women and children have been trafficked because of the illegal and covert nature of the activity, aside from the fact that women who are trafficked usually change their names.

But from July 2001 to June 2007 alone, the VFFI intercepted and provided halfway house services to some 7,996 victims.

The problem is much bigger though.

The United Nations estimates that there may already have been anywhere from 600,000 to 800,000 victims of human trafficking from the Philippines.

Clueless on rights

The difficulty in tracking victims also comes amid the low level of consciousness of people about the law and their rights, and the prevailing attitude of communities that people have a right to migrate to seek a better life.

Red Batario, executive director of the CCJD, said that in some cases it is the parents of the victims themselves who allow their children to be trafficked.

“At the back of their minds, they know what will happen to their children,” he said. But driven by desperation as a result of poverty, the parents just give in.

Despite the number of women and children known to have been trafficked, there have been convictions in only 10 cases filed against traffickers in the country since RA 9208 was passed, said Nancy Lozano, state counsel at the Department of Justice and a member of the secretariat of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking

One of these judgments was handed down in Cebu.

On July 20, 2007, Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Raphael Yrastorza Sr. found a couple from Barangay Kamagayan guilty of qualified trafficking of persons and imposed on them the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P3 million.

The pimps were tried for the more serious crime of “qualified trafficking” because one of the nine females they offered for sale to the undercover National Bureau of Investigation agents in the entrapment operation that led to their arrest in 2004, was a minor, at only 15 years old.

The case is now in the appellate court.


VFFI regional coordinator Abadesco hopes more people will get involved in the prevention of human trafficking.

To help determine if women and children traveling in a group on a ship may be trafficked victims, he said to watch out for these warning signs: the bulk buying of tickets; the individual embarking and disembarking of the members of the group who always regroup once inside the vehicle; and the possession by the usually lone adult in the group, the recruiter, of all the travel and personal documents of everyone in the group.

Normally, the members of the group are also told not to talk to anyone, and to say, if challenged, that they are 18 years old even if they are minors.

To emphasize the scale of the problem, Abadesco said no country is immune to trafficking and that the causes of trafficking go far beyond mere poverty to the poor values of parents and the maneuvers of exploitative recruiters feeding an ever-increasing demand for cheap labor as the Philippines opens itself up further to tourism.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Indian American Convicted of Human Trafficking in the U.S.

The U.S.-Canadian border

*What appears to be a human smuggling ring has been misconstrued by the media as a human trafficking operation. The journalist makes no clear distinction between human trafficking and smuggling. For clarification on the issue read HERE.

From the Hindustan Times:

2/23/07, Vancouver, Canada- An Indian American has been convicted in a human trafficking racket that illegally transported South Asians from Canada to the US.

The trial in Seattle showed that as many as 100 Indian and Pakistani nationals were smuggled first into Canada and later into the US. The gang charged up to USD 40,000 per head.

Thirty-eight year old Harminder Singh of Kent, Washington, was convicted on Monday and faces between three and 10 years in jail, including deportation, the Vancouver Sun said yesterday.

Four Canadian residents facing similar charges are yet to be extradited to the US, but have a hearing scheduled in late March, according to the Canadian Department of Justice. Five other Canadian residents arrested for their involvement in the racket pleaded guilty and testified at Singh's trial, Assistant US Attorney Ye-Ting Woo said in an interview.

The five, Raman Pathania, Jatinder Singh Brar, Sukhveer Singh Sandhu and Harjeevan Singh Parhar, all of Surrey, as well as Matthew Dehagi of Port Coquitlam, are due to be sentenced in the next two weeks, the US Attorney said.

From the Vancouver Sun:

"Throughout the course of the investigation both Canadian and American investigators had full access to each other's intelligence on a daily basis," said Mercer. "This collaboration demonstrates our shared resolve to keep our borders secure while respecting each other's sovereignty."

Winchell said officials have begun deportation proceedings against all of the people caught sneaking into the U.S., but could not say how long it would be until their cases are resolved.

Vietnam's Desire for Baby Boys Skews Gender


8/31/07, HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam's preference for boys over girls is further tipping the balance between the sexes in Asia, already skewed by a strong bias for boys among Chinese and Indians. The trend could lead to increased trafficking of women and social unrest, a U.N. report says.

Vietnam is now positioned where China was a decade ago, logging about 110 boys born to every 100 girls in a country where technology is readily available to determine the sex of a fetus and where abortion is legal, according to research released this week by the U.N. Population Fund. The sex ratio at birth generally should equal about 105 boys to 100 girls, according to the report.

"The consequences are already happening in neighboring countries like China, South Korea and Taiwan. They have to import brides," said Tran Thi Van, assistant country representative of the Population Fund in Hanoi, adding that many brides are coming from Vietnam. "I don't know where Vietnam could import brides from if that situation happened here in the next 10 or 15 years."

'Marriage squeeze' predicted

The report, which looked at China, India, Vietnam and Nepal, warned that tinkering with nature's probabilities could cause increased violence against women, trafficking and social tensions. It predicted a "marriage squeeze," with the poorest men being forced to live as bachelors.

Gender imbalance among births has been rising in parts of Asia since the 1980s, after ultrasound and amniocentesis provided a way to determine a fetus' sex early in pregnancy. Despite laws in several countries banning doctors from revealing the baby's sex, many women still find out and choose to abort girls.

"I have noticed that there have been more and more boys than girls," said Truong Thi My Ha, a nurse at Hanoi's Maternity Hospital. "Most women are very happy when they have boys, while many are upset if they have girls."

In China, the 2005 estimate was more than 120 boys born to 100 girls, with India logging about 108 boys to 100 girls in 2001, when the last census was taken. However, pockets of India have rates of 120 boys. In several Chinese provinces, the ratio spikes to more than 130 boys born to 100 girls.

Reports of female infanticide still surface in some poor areas of countries and death rates are higher among girls in places like China, where they are sometimes breast-fed for shorter periods, given less health care and vaccinations and even smaller portions of food than their brothers, the report said.

It estimated Asia was short 163 million females in 2005 when compared to overall population balances of men and women elsewhere in the world. It said sex ratios at birth in other countries, such as Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, also should be closely monitored to avoid uneven trends there.

Earlier research has documented the gender imbalance in the region. A UNICEF report last year estimated 7,000 girls go unborn every day in India."It's very difficult to imagine what's going to be the exact impact of these missing girls in 20 years," said Christophe Guilmoto, an author of the report presented this week at a reproductive health conference in Hyderabad, India. "No human society that we know has faced a similar problem."

The reasons boys are favored over girls are complex and deeply rooted in Asian society. In many countries, men typically receive the inheritance, carry on the family name and take care of their parents in old age, while women often leave to live with their husband's family.
In India, wedding costs and dowries are usually required of the parents of the bride, and sons are the only ones permitted by the Hindu religion to perform the last rites when their fathers die.

"My husband took me to a private clinic to be checked. I broke down in tears when I saw the result because I knew this is not what my husband wanted," said Nguyen Thi Hai Yen, 33, recalling when she discovered her second baby was a girl. "But he was good. He told me it was OK."China has a one-child policy, while Vietnam encourages only two children per family after relaxing an earlier ban on having more.

Such limits have led many women to abort girls and keep trying for sons who can carry on the family lineage.The report calls for increased public awareness, more government intervention and steps to elevate women's place in society by promoting gender equality.