Monday, March 31, 2008

Two Women Arrested for Trafficking in Kansas

From KCTV:

KANSAS, USA- They accused Annette Marie Simon, 50, and Heather Michelle Heald, 34, of forcing two women from Texas to sell their bodies at an Overland Park, Kan., hotel.

They appeared via video before a judge in the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe Monday.

The women who police alleged were being held against their will had gone to a trucking company looking for work, found out it was actually a prostitution ring and were told they or their families would be hurt if they didn't get involved, said Officer Jim Weaver, of the Overland Park Police Department.

The manager of the Settle Inn in the Interstate 435 corridor where police said prostitution was taking place said it didn’t appear as though the women were being forced to participate."We saw all of them interacting all the time, out of their car, going to the construction site next door, talking to the construction men," said Deanna Erter.

Overland Park police were working with Dallas authorities to determine if there really was a trucking scheme to force women into prostitution.In the meantime, Simon and Heald were being held Monday on $20,000 bond.

Read the full article

U.S. Firm Accused of Trafficking Stops Hiring Foreign Workers

From the Times of India:

An American company accused of... human trafficking while bringing in Indian guest workers to the US said on Thursday that it is freezing hiring of foreign labour while blaming recruiters and middlemen for the scandal.

Signal International, a subcontractor for the military giant Northrop Grumman, which is involved in post-Katrina reconstruction in the US Gulf Coast said in a statement that it is "not hiring any new temporary workers under the H2-B programme until it is reformed to better protect foreign workers and US companies that were misled by recruiters."

The statement came even as more than 100 Indian workers who were on Signal rolls in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas marched into Washington DC for a meeting with Indian ambassador Ronen Sen, demanding action to stop what they described as "modern day slavery".

The workers say they paid recruiters up to $20,000 each after they were promised permanent US residency to work as welders and pipefitters for Signal.

Instead, they received 10-month guest-worker visas and were forced into inhumane living conditions at company facilities in the Gulf Coast.

While the workers have filed a class-action lawsuit against Signal, the Indian Embassy, under pressure from New Delhi and NGO activists in the US, has launched an inquiry into the allegations.

But the agitated workers, fronted by aggressive local NGO leadership, are unhappy with the pace of action and also the embassies conversations with Signal on the matter. On its part, the Embassy says it has to listen to and look into all aspects of the case.

In an unprecedented three-hour meeting with ambassador Sen on Thursday, the workers representatives demanded a commitment that the embassy "would always put the workers first in any future handling of the case, rather than the company that held them in forced labour".

Assurances from the ambassador that their grievances would be looked into left them dissatisfied.

"The workers expressed disappointment with ambassador Sen’s inability to provide a concrete timeline on actions to open US-Indian talks on protecting future Indian workers from abuses of the guest worker program. The ambassador also refused to advocate for the workers with the US department of justice and other US agencies, claiming that protocol forbade him from doing so," a statement issued by the local NGO New Orleans Workers’ Centre For Racial Justice that is representing the workers, said.

Read the full article

Sunday, March 30, 2008

31 Women Rescued from Suspected Trafficking Operation in the Philippines

By Tina Santos

From the Inquirer:

MANILA, Philippines - At least 31 women, including a minor, were rescued by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from a suspected human trafficking syndicate following a raid in an apartment in Manila Thursday night.

Regner Peneza, chief of the NBI Counter Intelligence Division, said the victims, mostly from Mindanao (southern Philippines), were rescued from a two-storey apartment on Angel Linao Street, Malate around 9 p.m.

Arrested during the raid was Marieta Rosita, the suspected illegal recruiter who detained the women whom she promised jobs as domestic helpers in the Middle East.

"They were threatened and prevented by the suspect to leave the apartment, were not allowed to speak with anybody outside, and were even stripped of their cell phones," the NBI said, adding that most victims claimed they were fed only once a day.

The suspect will be charged with large-scale illegal recruitment and serious illegal detention.

Read the full article

Ricky Martin in Cambodia

By Ker Munthit

From Yahoo News:

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - Ricky Martin met with victims of sexual exploitation Saturday during a visit to Cambodia to promote the fight against human trafficking.

Martin held infants and listened to a 14-year-old rape victim's song during his visit to a shelter in the northwestern city of Siem Reap, home of the famed Angkor temples. "She sings like an angel," Martin said after the girl finished a song she composed about the plight of trafficking victims.

The girl was among 65 victims sheltered at the rescue center of Afesip, a French non-governmental group working to combat human trafficking in Cambodia.

The pop star also held the 3-month-old daughter of a 22-year-old woman who was sold by her father to a brothel and is now HIV-positive. The woman broke down in tears as she urged Martin to keep fighting against human trafficking. "I'm not going to stop," Martin said, pounding his fist on his knee as he sat on a tiled floor. "All of you are my heroes. You are a gift of my life."

Martin said he plans to take what he learned in Cambodia and use it to "motivate people, organizations, governments in Latin America" in their efforts to combat the same problems. The
Ricky Martin Foundation does most of its work in Latin America.

Read the full article

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Qatar Conference Addresses Trafficking

From the Associated Free Press:

DOHA, Qatar — A conference in Qatar on human trafficking has urged Arab states to step up the fight against the scourge, seen as widespread in the oil-rich Gulf region.

Delegates called for an agreement within the framework of the Arab League "to combat human trafficking in all its forms," according to a statement issued at the close of the conference late on Thursday.

They urged the Riyadh-based secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to take the lead in boosting "coordination and cooperation among member states to enhance measures to fight human trafficking."

The two-day conference was organised by Qatar and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, with the participation of representatives of the United Nations Children's Fund, jurists and human rights organisations.

Delegates called for "a network to exchange information and expertise on combating human trafficking under the supervision of the Arab League," and the inclusion in school and university curricula of material on fighting the phenomenon.

Five of the six GCC member states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia -- are on a US blacklist of countries trafficking in people.

GCC countries, which also include the United Arab Emirates, are close allies of the United States.

International human rights groups have also highlighted the problem of human trafficking in the Gulf area, which hosts more than 13 million expatriates, many of them unskilled and low-paid Asian workers vulnerable to abuse.

The US State Department human trafficking report in 2006 upgraded the UAE from the "Tier 3" of worst offenders to "Tier 2 Watch List" comprising countries making "significant" efforts to deal with the problem.

The UAE maintained its rank in the 2007 edition of the report, but Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar were downgraded to Tier 3, joining oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

Three other Arab countries -- Algeria, Sudan and Syria -- are on the list of worst offenders.

Read the full article

Sweden's Sex Law: Get the Customer

By Karl Ritter

From the Associated Press:

STOCKHOLM, Sweden- Selling sex isn't illegal in Sweden, but buying is — a radical approach to prostitution that faced ridicule when it was introduced nine years ago.

Now, while Americans are preoccupied with the downfall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer in a prostitution scandal, some countries are considering emulating the Swedish model, which prosecutes the client but views the prostitute as an exploited victim.

Officials say the changed approach has reduced the demand for prostitutes and reshaped attitudes toward the sex trade.

"We don't have a problem with prostitutes. We have a problem with men who buy sex," said Kajsa Wahlberg, of the human trafficking unit at Sweden's national police board.

Under Sweden's so-called "Sex Purchase Law," paying for sex is punished by fines or up to six months in prison, plus the humiliation of public exposure. A handful of Swedish judges have been caught up in prostitution scandals, including a Supreme Court justice who was fined in 2005 after admitting to paying for sex with a young man.

Pimps and brothel keepers are also prosecuted, but not prostitutes, because they are viewed as victims, treated as commodities in the sex trade.

While authorities judge the new system a success, critics question whether it has really reduced prostitution or merely pushed it off the streets into more isolated and dangerous surroundings. Wahlberg concedes that accurate statistics are hard to obtain, but estimates the number of prostitutes in Sweden dropped 40 percent from 2,500 in 1998 to 1,500 in 2003.

She says police know from eavesdropping on human trafficking rings that Sweden is considered bad business because of its tough stance.

"They are calculating profits, costs and marketing and the risk of getting caught," Wahlberg said.

"We're trying to create a bad market for these activities."Conscious of the international interest, Sweden's government is planning a thorough review of the effects of the law, expected to be ready next year.

Read the full article

Friday, March 28, 2008

California Dreaming

By Tony Castro and Harrison Sheppard

From the LA Daily News:

A young Asian woman arrives in Southern California with the promise of a restaurant job and a generous invitation to live for free in her employer's home as she acclimates to her new world. "I couldn't believe it. I thought I was living the American dream," authorities said Thonglim Khamphiranon told friends in her native Thai language.

But the promise of $240 a month to work in a Thai restaurant in the San Fernando Valley turned out to be a nightmare. Her passport was confiscated, Khamphiranon later told activists battling human trafficking, and her ties to the outside world were cut. For six years in the late 1990s, she slaved up to 18 hours a day both at her employer's restaurant and at the woman's home, where Khamphiranon slept on the floor and served her boss on her knees.

It happened not in some ethnic Third World pocket of Los Angeles but in an upscale neighborhood in Woodland Hills. Khamphiranon had become a victim in the estimated $9 billion global industry of human trafficking. "If it can happen in Woodland Hills, it can happen anywhere," said Kay Buck, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, an organization that aids victims of the modern-day slave trade.

While Khamphiranon's case is a decade old, experts say California has grown into the heart of an underground, multimillion-dollar human-trafficking industry in which people are coerced into hard labor or the sex trade through force or fraud, according to a recent 18-month government study.

Golden State lawmakers have begun taking new steps to try to curtail the activity. A proposal introduced recently by the state Senate president pro tem-elect, Darrel Steinberg, D-Sacramento, asks businesses to do more to help eliminate human trafficking. The bill asks retailers and manufacturers to develop and implement policies on how they will comply with federal laws to eliminate slavery and human trafficking.

"Human trafficking and slavery are growing international businesses for the monsters who practice it," said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Steinberg. "In (Senate Bill) 1649, Sen. Steinberg will raise awareness among businesses and consumers that forced labor - whether in America or abroad - should have no place in our economy."

Read the full article

Trafficking & the 2012 London Olympics

By Jill Sherman

From the Times Online:

The imminent arrival of thousands of construction workers for the 2012 Olympics [in London] could cause a surge in prostitution and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, health experts say. Olympics chiefs are being urged to address the impact of the predominantly male construction workforce, which is likely to total more than 100,000 over the next four years.

More than 1,000 people are already working on preparing the site, with a further 2,000 scheduled to begin arriving within weeks as work starts on the stadium.

Health organisations are warning that thousands of prostitutes, including trafficked women, are likely to arrive in the run-up to 2012. They are calling for extra staff in sexual health clinics to address a predicted rise in sexually transmitted infections and for preventive measures, such as sex leaflets in various languages and condom distribution.

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), the HIV and sexual health charity, is calling for an urgent meeting with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games. Clinicians assessing the impact of the Sydney 2000 Games found a big increase in demand for sexual health services and a corresponding increase in sexually related diseases, mainly among casual workers, the trust said.

  • 100,000 construction workers are expected on or near the Olympic site in the next four years.
  • An estimated 10,000 sex workers were operating at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
  • In Sydney 70,000 condoms for athletes went so fast that 20,000 more were ordered. Even these ran out before the Games ended Read the full article
Read the full article

Thursday, March 27, 2008

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

By Merissa Nathan Gerson

We live in a culture grounded in a victim/oppressor mentality. Good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. In general we prefer to find a villain. When it comes to prostitution America doesn’t shift values. There is always the good one, the bad one, the poor one, and the advantage taker. There is the victim hooker and her oppressive John. Or else there is the villainous sex worker, the embodiment of evil, and the client, the guy who comes in and then leaves.

There is another way of looking at the Hooker-John dynamic, one that takes into account the culture around these two agents, a view that holds the man as accountable for his wounded nature as the often-victimized prostitute.

In various feminist circles there are large debates surrounding the notion of a sex worker possessing power. There are some feminist sex workers, like many of the performers at the renowned Sex Worker’s Art Show, for example, who see themselves as sexual healers. There is Xaviera Hollander, author of The Happy Hooker, who turned her job into a fine art. And there are sex workers who view themselves as therapists, catering to the needs of broken men, the bedroom their foray for sexual liberation and experimentation.

Then there is the flip side, the pimps, the psychological pasts of so many women involved in the industry. There is the abuse, the torture, and often, the inhumanity. At the Dumas Brothel Museum in Butte, Montana there were rooms underground with vibrators operated by 500 volts of electricity. These were for the clients to use, to “pleasure” the prostitutes. There are scenes in movies, like Ma Vie en Rose, that show what happens when a man, in a position of physical power over a woman, takes gruesome advantage.

Nudity, money, desire; these things combined put women in often-terrible slave-like conditions. There are the debatably happy hookers, those in charge of their own industry, and then there are those whose businesses are owned and run by men and others in positions of power, who often view their workers as dogs. There is the movie Milk Money, with Melanie Griffiths, that shows a good example of abuse within the trade. And there is the movie Nuts, with Barbara Streisand, which closely links childhood sexual abuse to her character’s prostitution habit.

What are so often looked at in these cases are the women; their mental state, the causes of their drive towards stripping or prostitution. But rarely do we evaluate the psychology of a man wishing to purchase sex. We might condemn him, like the Elliot Spitzer case in New York, but to ask what he reflects of a larger mindset is uncommon. Prostitution is huge, has been for years in cultures around the world. It is statistically a market that feeds the thirst of men. One wonders, though, why?

Someone might answer, animal desire. Others would say that’s how men are. But as much as someone might link childhood trauma to a sex worker’s involvement in the business, so might another view the man who pays a stranger to be intimate with his body.

We are sexually repressed as a culture. From normalized sexual expectations to an overall denial of pain and feelings in men, it is possible that they turn to sex workers for relief beyond the orgasm. Sex workers allow men to express and release feelings without consequence or commitment. They are an outlet to larger issues. Some feminists might even argue they aren’t an issue at all; that the desire to pay a stranger for sex is not to be judged.

When it comes down to solving the issue of sexual slavery, of prostitution gone wrong, turned abusive and oppressive, the victimization of the women involved does not alleviate the problem. Understanding the urge to purchase, dominate, and abuse; comprehending the market, the drive, the dilemma that pushes a culture to not only hide its sex workers, but to hide its desire to frequent them, this is what might curb future abuse.

Both the client and the worker are involved in a momentary relationship. This relationship not only reflects a great deal of suffering, but also shows the wounded nature of sexuality in a nation implicated in the push and pull of prostitution.


Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive

Prostitution Research

The Sex Workers Project- New York

Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom

Annie Sprinkle’s Homepage

Whores and Other Feminists, Edited by Jill Nagle

Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography, Edited by Rebecca Whisnant and Christine Stark

Illegal Adoption in China

By Ashton Shurson

From the Daily Iowan:

As Chinese adoptions increase around the world and especially in the United States, a few University of Iowa (UI) students have been looking into the darker side of adoptions in the Asian country.

UI law students Patricia Meier and Joy Zhang gave a presentation Monday on the Hunan baby-trafficking scandal and how it exposes vulnerabilities in Chinese adoptions to the United States.

In November 2005, police in China uncovered a baby trafficking ring involving six orphanages and babies primarily from the southern part of the country.

It is unclear how the children were obtained, but defendants claim the babies were abandoned while prosecutors in the case accused the Hengyang Social Welfare Institution of knowingly buying abducted babies.

Zhang said that the primary reason for the adoption trafficking was to garner more money - Hengyang received roughly $1,000 from the orphanages for each child and the orphanages could collect approximately $3,000 for each adoption placement.

While many involved with this specific case were arrested and punished, many questions remain about the whereabouts of the children and if Hengyang was an isolated case.

Either way, it has illustrated that the Chinese adoption process is easy to corrupt, Zhang said. Meier said inter-country adoption means large incomes for orphanages that are often misused.

In 2006, 10,000 children were adopted from China, with 7,000 going to the United States. Adoptive parents usually pay around $15,000 to $20,000.

Read the full article

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Conflict in Sri Lanka Raises Risk of Trafficking

By Shihar Aneez

From Reuters:

COLOMBO, March 25 - Sri Lanka's protracted and increasingly bloody civil war is making the country more vulnerable to human trafficking, a senior United Nations official said on Tuesday.

People fleeing conflict-torn areas in Sri Lanka's north and east, where fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and state security forces has raged since 1983, opened the door to people smugglers keen to profit from the vulnerable, the United Nations said.

"The conflict you have is quite clearly going to be a major factor in increasing vulnerability of some of the country's young people," Gary Lewis, representative of the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime in South Asia, told Reuters.

"Migration is the key in which traffickers and traffic victims meet," Lewis said after a briefing in Colombo.

Sri Lanka, a developing nation of 20 million, has one of the lowest incidences of people smuggling in Asia, despite the ongoing conflict which has claimed 70,000 lives.

Lewis's office estimates at least 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia each year, led by India and followed by Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But with fighting intensifying between government troops and the rebels, the U.N.'s refugee agency UNHCR says around 188,000 Sri Lankans have been forced from their homes since April 2006.

Read the full article

Law Enforcement Challenges to Combatting Trafficking in India

From Merrinews:

Research conducted by the National Human Rights Commission during 2002-2004 shows that the major issues in law enforcement are as follows:

1. Lack of priority- The law enforcement agencies and justice delivery agencies, for various reasons, accord lowest or nil priority to HT issues.
2. Insensitivity- The lack of sensitivity to human trafficking is a major challenge. It is more of an attitudinal issue.
3. Victimisation of the victim- More often, the trafficked women have been arrested and penalized for ‘soliciting’.
4. Improper investigation- Trafficking involves a long trail, starting from the source point, covering several transit points before terminating at the destination. But the investigation is more or less confined to the place where the victim is rescued. Victims remain more often unheard and unrepresented.
5. Organised crime perspective is lacking in investigation- HT involves several offenders like recruiters, transporters, traffickers, harbourers, exploiters and conspirators. But often, investigation is limited to those present at the scene of rescue. Human trafficking being an organized crime requires sharing of intelligence and an in-depth investigation into all linkages but this is rarely done.
6. Lack of coordination- The response to human trafficking requires co-ordination among the various government departments, like police, public welfare, health, women and child. The gap in co-ordination is a major challenge to the response system.
7. Lack of coordination with NGO’s- The ITPA and labour laws do assign specific role to NGO’s; however there is no institutionalized system of co-ordination between the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s.
8. Lack of appreciation- Several instances of good work done by the police officers, researchers, NGO’s, etc, in controlling human trafficking can be cited. However such actions are not acknowledged and disseminated; often good news is no news and bad news is good news.
9. Lack of emphasis on rehabilitation- This is a major challenge which leads to not only victimization of victims but also re-trafficking of the rescued person. Despite the fact that several corporates set aside large funds for social responsibility, lack of synergy with the law enforcement agencies and NGO’s has been an impediment in effective dovetailing of such sources for rehabilitating the victim.

However, the emerging scenario is certainly positive. There are several initiatives launched across the country to address human trafficking in a comprehensive and effective manner. Some of these initiatives may be initiated by individuals who are committed to the cause and due to their initiatives, such steps are getting institutionalised. In fact, during the last six years of this century, there has been a growing momentum against human trafficking. The reasons may be many. First of all, credit should go to NGOs who have brought the HT issue into the national agenda. Secondly, several law enforcement officers and human rights activists have provided leadership and proper orientation in achieving better results in anti-human trafficking (AHT).

Increased awareness
- There is a national momentum, involving various stake holders, especially the media, the corporates, government agencies including the law-enforcement wing and human rights agencies. One of the best examples is the Global Initiative in Fighting Human Trafficking (GIFT), initiated by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

Holistic approach
- Several agencies working together and attending to the issues of ‘PPP’(Prevention, Protection and Prosecution), in a concerted manner has been one of the features of the new response system. While police undertake rescue operations along with NGOs, other government departments immediately move in, to provide interim relief to the victims. The NGOs take over post-rescue care and attention in association with the government agencies concerned.

Synergy in action
- The UNODC, New Delhi, in partnership with the government of India and State government agencies as well as civil society has set up ‘anti-human trafficking units’ (AHTU) in several states. AHTU is a special task force set up under the State police, by involving chosen police officers, NGOs and others who are specially trained for the purpose. UNODC has provided training and empowerment to these officers with focus on knowledge, skills and attitudinal orientation. These units are making a tremendous impact on the law enforcement scenario - for example, in a span of six months, the AHTUs in Andhra Pradesh have rescued more than 700 victims of which more than 100 are children under 18. The rescued victims are being promptly taken care of by the government as well as NGOs, most of them having been rehabilitated with the help of corporate and business houses. Excellent rehabilitation has been achieved through synergetic action.

Read the full article

The Ongoing Tribulations of 500 Indian Men Trafficked to Mississippi

From Thaindian News:

New York, USA- A noted US legal scholar and human trafficking expert has criticised the Indian government for allegedly violating international protocols as its embassy in Washington investigates the trafficking of over 500 Indians by US company Signal International.

In his letter to Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen, Daniel Werner, deputy director of the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s Immigrant Justice Project, co-counsel for the workers in the lawsuit against Signal, has expressed “deep concern” over the “protocol violations”, which may risk the safety of workers and witnesses, some of whom are still working at Signal.

“It has come to my attention that representatives from the Indian mission to the US have held closed-door meetings with Indian nationals employed at Signal International, and that these meetings occurred at Signal’s labour camp. I am deeply concerned about these meetings,” Werner wrote in the letter, made available to IANS late Sunday.

The embassy’s team met all concerned in Mississippi and Louisiana last week and submitted a report Friday, which the ambassador was studying before deciding on a course of action and on the workers’ demand for a meeting. “Before you continue your investigation, I request that you first consult with experts on human trafficking to ensure the safety of the victims, witnesses, and their families and the integrity of your inquiry into this serious criminal activity,” added Werner, who has authored the widely used book “Civil Litigation on Behalf of Victims of Human Trafficking”.

Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers’ Centre for Racial Justice that is helping the workers, commented: “Werner’s letter further underscores the point that the Indian government has no idea how to address the realities of labour trafficking and protect the well-being of its own citizens. “Ministry (of overseas Indian affairs) officials give audience to company representatives, and lower-level diplomats talk to workers the company has coached. Meanwhile, the workers who broke a major labour trafficking chain still wait to be granted a meeting with the ambassador.”

Read the full article

Monday, March 24, 2008

An Agent, a Green Card, and a Demand for Sex

From the NY Times:

By Nina Bernstein

No problems so far, the immigration agent told the American citizen and his 22-year-old Colombian wife at her green card interview in December. After he stapled one of their wedding photos to her application for legal permanent residency, he had just one more question: What was her cellphone number?

The calls from the agent started three days later. He hinted, she said, at his power to derail her life and deport her relatives, alluding to a brush she had with the law before her marriage. He summoned her to a private meeting. And at noon on Dec. 21, in a parked car on Queens Boulevard, he named his price — not realizing that she was recording everything on the cellphone in her purse.“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.” She reluctantly agreed to a future meeting. But when she tried to leave his car, he demanded oral sex “now,” to “know that you’re serious.” And despite her protests, she said, he got his way.

The 16-minute recording, which the woman first took to The New York Times and then to the Queens district attorney, suggests the vast power of low-level immigration law enforcers, and a growing desperation on the part of immigrants seeking legal status. The aftermath, which included the arrest of an immigration agent last week, underscores the difficulty and danger of making a complaint, even in the rare case when abuse of power may have been caught on tape.

No one knows how widespread sexual blackmail is, but the case echoes other instances of sexual coercion that have surfaced in recent years, including agents criminally charged in Atlanta, Miami and Santa Ana, Calif. And it raises broader questions about the system’s vulnerability to corruption at a time when millions of noncitizens live in a kind of legal no-man’s land, increasingly fearful of seeking the law’s protection.

Read the full article

Eastern Visayas in the Philippines Hotbed for Trafficking

From the Inquirer:

A partylist lawmaker on Monday urged national and local authorities to address the rampant human trafficking in the Eastern Visayas region, where even girls as young as 13 years old are being victimized.

In a statement, An Waray Rep. Florencio “Bem" Noel said hundreds of Eastern Visayan women and young children are going to spend their Christmas inside brothels and sweatshops in Metro Manila as the trade of human trafficking continues unabated.

“For these young Warays, Christmas means spending the holidays inside a dark room with a complete paying stranger or working to death inside factories not fit for humans," Noel said.

He noted that from January to June this year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has monitored 108 cases of human trafficking from Eastern Visayas, the region comprised of Leyte, Samar and Biliran.

He said of the number, 70 percent are young women aged from 13 years to 17 years old.

In 2006, Noel said DSWD documented 185 cases of human trafficking from Eastern Visayas and 105 cases in 2005.

Noel said the figure could still go up because there are still many undocumented and unmonitored human trafficking cases from Eastern Visayas .

“With the grinding poverty, the cases are bound to increase every year and the solution is the combined vigilance of Eastern Visayas provincial and local leaders, law enforcement agencies and the national government through the DSWD," Noel said.

Read the full article

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bosnia's Flourishing Sex Trade

Although old, this article touches on the involvement of law enforcement in perpetuating human trafficking.


June 2001, SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Seven years after civil war tore apart Bosnia-Herzegovina, international authorities in Sarajevo estimate there are 5,000 trafficked women in the country at any given time, and that many are used by NATO peace keepers and foreign police officers helping maintain law and order in the republic.

Many of the women are held near the bases of the 21,000 NATO peacekeepers. But others are used by some of the 2,100 international police officers and even by civilians working for the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, according to officials.Sarajevo alone has 40 “nightclubs” featuring sex slaves as “dancers.”

Since August, the international police force created to help maintain order in Bosnia has formed a squad that has raided nearly 100 bars and clubs suspected of holding sex slaves. But the police force also has been accused of ignoring the sex trade, and even taking advantage of it.

Kathryn Bolkovac, a policewoman from Lincoln, Neb., who was posted to Bosnia, was fired last spring by the British-American firm DynCorp, with which the United Nations contracts for the international police force. Bolkovac charged that British and American members of the force used and bought sex slaves, and accepted bribes from bar owners who ran quasi-brothels. She is suing DynCorp.

In February, two Romanian officers assigned to the force were implicated in trafficking and sent home. Also last year, a bar owner in Prijedor told a reporter that NATO officers raped his clients.

Nidia Casati of the International Organization for Migration, which helps sex slaves return home, said the women are “bought and sold constantly. At the ‘Arizona Market’ near Brcko, they sell women like animals. They have to pay off the cost of their own sale. They earn from $50 an hour to $500 for a night, but are paid between $100 and as little as $13 a month.”

Read the full article

Saturday, March 22, 2008

UN GIFT Conference- Ricky Martin Speech

Filipinas Marrying Foreigners

From Gulf News:

MANILA, Philippines- The government has advised Filipino women considering marrying someone of a different nationality to seek counselling. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), a government body, has advised Filipinas planning to get married to undergo orientation so they know what to expect when they wed into another culture.

Cherry Joy Veniles, Senior Officer of the CFO, said the Commission maintains a database of Foreign Nationals who have petitioned Filipino brides to join them abroad. Veniles said Filipina spouses and fiancées are required to register with the CFO before they leave the country. She said this measure was adopted to guard against human trafficking.
She said trafficking in the guise of marriage is common among many Filipinas, adding there have been some instances when unscrupulous individuals present themselves as couples, when in reality the husband would just bring his poseur wife as part of an elaborate human trafficking scheme.

The Department of Foreign Affairs requires Filipina spouses and fiancées to attend guidance and counselling programmes as a pre-requisite to the issuance of their passports. The objective of the counselling programme is to inform the couple on the realities of cross-cultural marriages.

According to Veniles, 2006 was the peak year of cross-cultural marriages between Filipinas and foreigners. A total of 24,904 Filipinos went overseas because of marriage. In 2007, when the CFO adopted stringent measures to guard against human trafficking, the number dropped to 23,927. Records show many of the cross-cultural couples were introduced personally while a considerable number met through pen pals. With the advent of the internet, the number of foreigners and Filipinas meeting online has significantly increased since 2002. There are also websites dedicated to finding Filipina brides.

Veniles said 40 per cent of the Filipina spouses/ fiancées' destination is the United States while 30.6 per cent of the spouses are destined for Japan. The CFO Senior Officer said the profile of a typical foreigner spouse of a Filipina bride-to-be is someone aged about 30-60 years old. Americans seeking Filipina brides usually work as truck drivers, while Japanese mostly have carpentry as their profession. The profile of South Korean males ranged between 40-50 years of age with many working in farms and rural areas.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Chefs Battle Human Trafficking

From singers to actors to chefs, it's great to see people from all industries and walks of life using their skills to combat trafficking.

From ABC:

The co-owner and chef of a well-known Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco and his fellow chefs will use their talent and their clout to draw attention to the growing worldwide problem of human trafficking, particularly child trafficking for prostitution. Chef Khai Duong, a father of two, was disturbed by news reports about child sex slaves.

"I have a daughter, eight years old. When I saw the TV, I reflected on my daughter. I say what happened, so we have to do something. That's why I want to do something," says Chef Khai. Chef Khai belongs to the Asian Chefs Association. Their charitable arm called Chefs Without Borders fundraiser, will debut clips from a powerful new movie called "Holly" about child trafficking in Asian countries.

Chefs Without Borders says raising awareness about human trafficking is the first step, but the second step has to be finding a variety of ways to stop it and help those who are already victims. So, Chefs Without Borders will donate the proceeds from their event to a non-profit organization called Give2Asia.

"We work in the area of anti-human trafficking across Asia," says Birger Stamperdahl of Give2Asia. Give2Asia will give that money to established programs already in place in Vietnam, for example, to help the victims recover.

Chefs Without Borders also wants to create a culinary school in Vietnam along the poverty stricken Mekong Delta area, using their own members from the San Francisco area as teachers. "What they want to do is create programs that train people in these rural communities for skills like cooking that will give them a great opportunity in the future to earn a living. I think we're looking at student numbers in the hundreds, and giving them an opportunity to go through a two-year program for example, and come out on the other side with a job lined up," says Stamperdahl.

Chef Khai just returned from Vietnam where he went to find a location for the proposed culinary school. "I pray everyday. So, hopefully we do something right for them. So, we cannot rescue them all, we cannot help them all, at least in our mind, in our hearts, at least we help one at a time. What we can do, we will do," says Chef Khai.

Read the full article and see the video

Trafficking Ring busted in Bukovina region of Ukraine

This is my translation of an article from DELFI. Here is the original in Russian.

A human trafficking ring is exposed in Bukovina
According to the Public Relations Section of Administration of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine in the Chernvitsi Oblast [region], employees of the department responsible for combating crimes connected to human trafficking have blocked a ring that exports young girls to Russia for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

According to information from the head of the Special Department Alexander Rarenko, police arrested a 37 year old man and a 17 year old girl who are residents of the Chernivtsi oblast and who organized the sending to Russia of a 22 year old female from Chernivtsi and a 20 year old resident.

The minor participant of this group was involved in the recruitment of young girls, and her places of focus were night clubs, bars, and discos, where she looked for future victims, for which she was paid $200 for each one.

The young swindler promised the unskilled girls a better life, good pay and work with the support of VIP clients, and as many of the candidates came from difficult families, the majority of them agreed. The pimps promised to pay them $1,000 a month, but this money was never paid.

Prosecutors have established that now in Moscow there are some girls from Bukovina in sexual slavery, and they have taken measures concerning their return to Ukraine. It is also established that members of the criminal group prepared exit documents to Moscow for several minors of Bukovina, but their attempt was cut short.

I chose this article for two reasons:

1.) I lived in Bukovina, in Chernivtsi, for six months in 2006 so news like this is difficult for me to hear, personally. It's a small area, and I still have friends there. There are not that many clubs and bars as compared to places like Kyiv so odds are, I know some of these places of recruitment. $1.000 a month is a huge sum of money for an unskilled worker from this area.

2.) This article touches on an issue that came up while I was doing research on the developments of Ukraine in preparation for ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings: Some of these girls who consent to work abroad in the sex industry have extremely warped concepts of what that may entail. And their traffickers are quick to exploit that.

For example, a prosecutor in the Dnipropetrovsk region asked some of the victims she was working with what made them feel safe in accepting these offers to work in the sex industry abroad, and most of them answered that they believed they would be working with young, attractive, and rich clients who wouldn't treat them bad. It was a glamorous view of the world of high-end prostitution, prevalent on TV programs. They perceived little risk that they would be locked up or beaten or forced to work extemely long days in dangerous conditions.

Update: Indian Welders & Pipefitters File Case Against U.S. Employer

A continuation of this article.

Satyagraha is a
concept introduced in the early 20th century by Mahatma Gandhi to designate a determined but nonviolent resistance to injustice.

From the Hindustan Times:

“Watch out! We're coming!” they sang in Malayalam.

Over 100 Indian guest workers who broke an Indian-US human trafficking chain on Tuesday began a satyagraha to protest “the Indian government’s failure to protect Indian workers,” departing on foot from New Orleans on their way to confront Ambassador Ronen Sen in Washington, DC. The workers, members of the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity, will travel on foot through historically racist sections of the United States, following in the footsteps of African-American freedom fighters, who marched to win basic human rights.

“Mahatma Gandhi’s salt satyagraha exposed the tyranny of the British salt tax system. Our guest worker satyagraha will unmask the US guest worker programme as a system of bonded labour,” worker and organiser Rajan Pazhambalakode said.

Workers will arrive in DC on March 26 and demand a mass meeting with the Ambassador, whom they excoriated in a letter on Tuesday for abandoning them. “We write in response to your seven-day-long silence, followed by a 97-word letter that adds insult to the workers' injury as survivors of human trafficking. Apparently 18 months of human trafficking merited less than 100 words from you,” the workers wrote. “You leave us no choice but to launch a satyagraha so that the truth will come to light and justice will be served.”

“Our own government turned its back on us after we were treated like slaves,” said Sabulal Vijayan, one of over 500 Indian workers who were bound as forced labour to Gulf Coast marine construction company Signal International, as the group began their journey with a rally at the Department of Labor building in New Orleans. The workers allegedly paid $20,000 to Indian and US recruiters for false promises of work-based permanent residency in the US, and instead they received ten-month H2B guest worker visas and worked at Signal in deplorable conditions.

“The only answer is satyagraha,” Vijayan said. “The father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, broke the salt tax of the British government with a satyagraha. We are following in his footsteps to get justice in this country,” Vijayan added. “In my own country I was free, but this programme made me a bonded labourer in the United States. Meanwhile my father died in India without me by his side. I don’t want compensation for my loss — I want justice for the Indians who will come here after me," said former Signal worker Paul S Konar.

The workers will meet with their growing network of supporters and allies as they travel through key sites of the US civil rights struggle, including Jackson, Mississippi; Selma, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and Greensboro, North Carolina. They will arrive in DC on March 26 as US Congress prepares for a session in which a massive expansion of the guest worker programme is at the top of the agenda.

Read the full article

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New UN GIFT Trafficking PSA with Emma Thompson

Trafficking Challenges in the Philippines

The Manila skyline

Here's an interesting article that touches on the role of parents in recruitment, the hesitation of trafficking victims to pursue legal cases and the initial aversion that many victims have of NGO workers upon being rescued.

From the Sun Star:

PHILIPPINES- Sheila, Valerie and Bridget (not their real names), who hailed from poor families here, have set their sights to as far as Manila, Brunei, and Japan for employment to alleviate the plight of their respective families. However, instead of working as domestic helpers, they ended up as prostitutes.

"They have been promised heaven, but hell greeted them," Rebecca Magante, secretariat head of the Local Inter-Agency Task Force Against Trafficking in Person (LIATFAT), stressed how the three became victims of human trafficking.

General Santos is not only considered as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines but has also been considered a "hotspot" because of the proliferation of bars and transit houses.
This is according to the Visayan Forum Foundation, a non-government organization that seeks to help curb human trafficking incidence in the country. Human trafficking proliferates in the city with the presence of sea and airports, as well as its proximity to neighboring East Asian countries like Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. This city also serves as gateway for overland transport for the southern and central parts of Mindanao.

On top of its strategic location, human trafficking thrives in this city in what Magante termed as parental consent.
"The sad fact is that parents egged their children to bite the offer of the recruiters in the hope these children would send back money to the family," she said.

From 2003 to 2007, human trafficking violation reared its ugly head in 21 of the city's 26 barangays (villages), 20 of them in Lagao and 13 in Apopong. About 89 victims came outside the city.
Even if the figure is low for the past four years, Magante believed that this is still significant considering it involves violation of individual's rights. "Victims in previous years were children, but for 2005 to 2007, adults also became primary victims. This means that trafficking cuts across all ages," Magante said.

Of the 204 cases of human trafficking from 2003 to 2007, 87 were less than 18 years old and the rest were of legal ages. There were more female victims than males.

Only 11 cases have been filed in local courts, 10 at the barangay level, while 183 have not been filed at all, according to Liatfat data.

Rose Delima, City Social Welfare and Development Office point person for human trafficking, explained that only a few cases have reached the courts due to the lack of interests of the aggrieved parties to go after the suspects.

"After the victims are in the custody of the parents or their relatives, they no longer care to pursue the case. They consider it a hassle as they try to eke a living," Delima said.
In fact, in most cases the task force responded, Delima stressed they are cast as the "villains."

"The victims often thought that we're obstructing their dreams for a better life when we rescued them, but in fact we're just protecting them from the claws of exploitation," Delima explained.

Read the full article

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

14 Trafficked Women Rescued in the Philippines

Another arrest, I will follow up with this to see if I can track down an article about the result of the case.

From the Inquirer:

LUCENA CITY, Philippines -- Police have rescued at least 14 women, three of them minors, from the den of a suspected human trafficker said to be a scion of a prominent Chinese family here. A team from the Camp Vicente Lim-based Regional Special Operations Group in Canlubang, assisted by operatives from Lucena police Special Weapons and Tactics, swooped down on a residential house at Pleasantville Subdivision in the village of Ilayang Iyam and rescued the victims.

The raiding team was armed with a search warrant issued by Judge Cesar Mangubang of Regional Trial Court-Branch 22 in Imus, Cavite. Police said the victims were allegedly recruited by one Edward “Al Capone” Sy Bang, owner and operator of G-51 nightclub in the village of Isabang in the nearby town of Tayabas. The suspect, in his late 40s, is a member of a prominent Chinese clan here with various business interests. Sy Bang’s lawyer, Rey Olivier Alejandrino, denied the allegations his client has been involved in human trafficking operations.

Sy Bang’s lawyer, Rey Olivier Alejandrino, denied the allegations his client has been involved in human trafficking operations. “Mr. Sy Bang is a legitimate businessman. He belongs to a respected and well-off family. There is no need for him to engage in illegal activities just to earn money,” Alejandrino said in defense of his client. He said the raid was “illegal” and the search warrant “questionable.”

Chief Superintendent Ricardo Padilla, Police Regional Office 4 regional director, said the suspect will face criminal charges in violation of Republic Act 9208 or Child Abuse Act at Human Trafficking Act 2003. “We received reports on human trafficking activities of the suspect that’s why my men immediately conducted the raid to save the victims,” Padilla told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone.

Last year, Lucena Mayor Ramon Talaga Jr. issued an executive order strengthening the local government capability in combating human trafficking in partnership with non-government organizations.

Read the full article

Raising Awareness of a Hidden Problem

From the Star Tribune:

MINNESOTA, USA- Earlier this month, the problem [of human trafficking] surfaced close to home again when local and federal authorities uncovered a prostitution ring operating out of a Minneapolis massage parlor and a St. Louis Park apartment building. Several Asian women who had been brought into the United States illegally were involved, and a Chinese national was arrested for trafficking. Police say at least a dozen similar operations are scattered throughout the Twin Cities.

Those are examples of this complicated and somewhat hidden crime. However, thanks to the good work of Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) researchers and a state task force on trafficking, better information is being gathered about the problem and how to address it. Based on the data, it's clear that trafficking can be reduced through increased public awareness, improved training for police, health care and other providers, tough laws and expanded victim services.

In 2005, the state Legislature required DPS to staff the 24-member task force and produce annual reports on trafficking. What it has learned so far is that victims of labor and sex trafficking come from all over the state, nation and world. The same conditions of poverty, limited opportunity and alienation apply to victims from the Third World or rural Minnesota.

The study rightly suggests continued examination of the vulnerabilities that put people at risk. Once those are better understood, effective prevention strategies can be developed. Researchers also found that many who might be in a position to help victims aren't aware of the problem. Therefore, the study wisely recommends additional training for law enforcement, clergy and health professionals to help them recognize the signs of human exploitation.

Read the Full article

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Abolition of EU Border Control Measures May Increase Trafficking

From the Earth Times:

KIEV, Ukraine- The abolition of European Union border control measures leaves the porous 1,800-mile Ukrainian border the final barrier against illegal immigrants

Nine additional members of the EU signed onto the Schengen agreement Dec. 21, abolishing border control measures between participating countries, making Ukraine the last frontier between non-EU members and the Schengen zone, The Sunday Times of London reports.

A human trafficker boasting a 70 percent success rate in trafficking told the newspaper he expects "business to boom" because his clients can pass into the EU without showing their passports.

Ukrainian border guards detained nearly 3,000 illegal immigrants in 2007 and official estimates put the number caught at only 20 percent, the Sunday Times reported.

The trafficker said corruption plays a role and cites several instances of paying off border guards.
The smuggler said most of the immigrants entering the EU through Ukraine go through Moscow.

Canadian Human Trafficking Ring Busted

From the National Post:

The ongoing investigation into a human trafficking ring by Toronto police resulted in two more arrests Wednesday.The arrests followed after police carried out a search warrant at an address on Bude Street, near the junction of Allen Road and Eglinton Ave. W.

The two men, Alexander Vinokurov, 44, and Vadim Kostin, 52, are from Toronto. They are facing charges related to human trafficking, communicating for the purpose of prostitution and living off the avails of prostitution. Both men are to appear in court Thursday.

Police allege women from Eastern Europe were lured into entering Canada on false passports, under the impression that they would be working as models.

After their arrival they were confined against their will and forced to work as escorts. Police said they performed prostitution-related activities for the people in charge of the trafficking operation. Police have now charged six people, including a husband and wife, since the start of their investigation a week ago. Police have also identified two alleged victims.

Andrei Khazarov, 39; Daniel Leshinsky, 38; Artur Boris Tomchin, 35, and his wife, Volha Vassilievna Venar, 35, all from the Toronto area, face numerous human trafficking related charges.

This is only the second time Canadian police forces have laid charges from the country's new anti-human trafficking legislation, which came into effect in November 2005.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Human traffickers to face heavy sentences in Ghana

From Joy Online and the Ghana News Agency:

The Human Trafficking Programmes Coordinator of the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs Mr. Mark Dundaa, has warned that any person found engaging in human trafficking would serve a prison term of not less than five years.

He was speaking at a day's workshop on Human Trafficking for 25 volunteers in Krachi.

The participants were from Krachi West District and Sene District in the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The workshop was to sensitize the volunteers to help tackle human trafficking in the two districts which were noted to be the destinations for trafficked persons.

Mr. Dundaa said the Ministry had provided temporary basic material support for the care and protection of rescued victims of trafficking and called on stakeholders to support the victims in their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Mr. Dundaa said rescued victims were also being trained to acquire skills to enhance their socio-economic development.

Mr. George Achidre, Executive Director of Partnership in Community Development (PACOD), a local human trafficking non-governmental organization, which organised the workshop, urged the public to provide the police with information to help fight the menace.

He advised volunteers to be vigilant and attach seriousness to the work to curb the practice.

Although Ghana has made some progress in its effort to combat trafficking, it only made trafficking a crime in 2005 with the Human Trafficking Act. According to the Legal Resources Centre of Ghana (which produced this assessment of the definition of human trafficking according to the 2005 law), the law was "enacted as a result of increased public awareness of the problem of trafficking in Ghana, partly as a result of local media attention on the trafficking of children for exploitative work."

The exploitation of children happens very often in the fishing industry, according to this article from the UNODC:

Many Ghanian children are trafficked from their home villages to work in the fishing industry. Living in tough conditions and working long hours every day, they are exploited by fishermen desperate to feed their families and eke out a living along the banks of Lake Volta...

The driving forces behind child trafficking extend beyond fish scarcity. Deep-rooted traditions can also help explain the prevalence of this crime. For example, it is common in Ghana for children to participate in apprentice work with a relative or family friend. Many children, and their parents, believe that going away to work is a route to a better life.

"Child trafficking is actually a distortion of the old cultural practice of placement with relatives or townspeople," says Joe Rispoli, Head of the Counter-Trafficking Department of the International Organization for Migration in Ghana. "And many parents don't know the value of education; for them, it's more immediately valuable for their children to learn how to fish."

Child labour and even trafficking are deeply ingrained in the fishing industry in Ghana. Through conversations with child traffickers, it becomes clear that many of them simply do not realize that it is wrong for children to be away from their parents, missing school and performing hard physical work for long hours.

Not Fit to Print

What about the "Health Spas" listed at the back of
New York Magazine?

From the BBC:

UK- Local and regional newspapers are being urged to turn away advertisements for sexual services which may encourage human trafficking.

The Newspaper Society is updating its guidelines on those adverts which should be accepted on classified pages. It wants its members to be especially aware of the link between organised prostitution and human trafficking.

The society has already advised its members on how to spot adverts which might be promoting sexual services. For example it tells them to be wary of ads for massage parlours, which might be a front for brothels.

The society, which represents most local and regional papers, is suggesting they simply refuse such ads. It also suggests that payment be made by card or cheque so accounts can be traced, and that papers consult with police.

The updated guidance follows a meeting with Harriet Harman last year in her role as minister for women, the society is sending out updated guidance to papers which stresses the link between organised prostitution and human trafficking.

Kidnappings Cross Border into U.S. Cities

Drug traffickers and human smugglers (no explicit mention of trafficking) are being kidnapped and held for ransom by fellow criminals.


PHOENIX, USA - A woman leaving an eyeglass store is grabbed in the parking lot by four men who force her, kicking and screaming, into a pickup. The kidnappers demand a $900,000 ransom.

But police soon realize her family is holding something back and isn't fully cooperating with them. Later, investigators find out that relatives have arranged the woman's release on their own. And they discover that members of the family are heavy into marijuana trafficking.The case illustrates how a terrifyingly common crime in Latin America has moved across the border into the United States: Criminals and their family members are being kidnapped by fellow criminals and held for six-figure ransoms.

The abductions are occurring in the Phoenix area at the rate of practically one per day, and police suspect they have led to killings in which bound and bullet-riddled bodies have been found dumped in the desert.

The kidnap victims are typically drug or immigrant-smugglers, who are seen as inviting targets because they have a lot of money, they can raise large sums of cash on short notice, and they are unlikely to go to the police, for fear their own shady dealings will come to light.

"We have never had a victim that we have investigated that has been as clean as the new driven snow," said Sgt. Phil Roberts, who investigates the kidnappings. "There has always been some type of criminal element to it. Either they are criminals, drug dealers or human smugglers — or a close family member is."The kidnappers themselves are fellow traffickers who are doing it for the money or to punish their rivals.

Rise in violence, kidnappings

Phoenix had more than 340 such kidnappings reported last year, but police said the real number is much higher because many cases go unreported.The San Diego area has also seen a rise in kidnappings over the past year, with two or three reported during busy weeks, and some victims were mixed up in drug smuggling. But the hostage-taking appears to be most prevalent in Phoenix, the nation's biggest base of operations for immigrant smugglers.Kidnappings are common in Mexico, and the victims often include criminals as well as legitimate businessmen, such as bankers. Phoenix police said they believe the kidnappers here are not going after legitimate businessmen for fear their families will go to the police.The kidnappings first came to light in Phoenix three years ago but are rising as overall violence associated with immigrant smuggling intensifies in Arizona.

Drop houses and torture

Immigrant smuggling is a lucrative line of work: A ring that moves a load of 30 illegal immigrants through Arizona can gross $45,000 to $75,000.And smugglers can quickly get their hands on large sums of money — sometimes in the middle of the night. In one case, someone who turned to authorities about a kidnapping brought more than $300,000 in ransom money to the police department in cereal boxes.

Read the full article

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Human Trafficking Panel Discussion

From Radio Netherlands Worldwide:

A recent panel discussion on trafficking in the Netherlands discusses global anti-trafficking efforts and the challenges of combating the issue.

Listen to the mp3 here

The Panel

Diana Wong
is a fellow of New York's Social Science Research Council, she's based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"The policies that have been undertaken with the aid of this inflated discourse on trafficking have created stereotypes about migration which I think are counterproductive and also dangerous. It puts migrants into the position of victims or as criminals. In the public imagination that is very negative and for the migrants themselves. It creates a sense of alienation from the society in which they're now living."

Corinne Dettmeijer
-Vermeulen is the Netherlands' National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, she works independently and reports to the Dutch government.

"We have, at this time, a problem with many Nigerian girls. As soon as they come to the Netherlands they are being trafficked to Belgium or Italy and put into prostitution. Now, if the solution could be that you could ask them who paid for their ticket before they got into the plane and who they were going to see, you could prevent them from being trafficked through the Netherlands into the other countries but that's a moral issue." "We have tried to decriminalize the prostitution sector by legalising it, by making it liable for permits and we have seen that it really doesn't work that way. Many of these women in the legalized sector are being forced and violently treated so the Dutch government is now thinking are we on the right track?"

Suzanna Hof
is the International Coordinator of La Strada, a network of human rights organisations that aim to prevent human trafficking.

"With the current political situation in Belarus it's very difficult for students even to leave. You also see that not many people from Belarus are being trafficked, though we can never really know, but in general we're not seeing them pop up very often. So you could argue that closing the borders is effective. At the same time you can say that we opened the borders for a lot of new European member states and for the first time in the last two years we see more trafficking cases from Poland and the Czech Republic even in the Netherlands. So it's very difficult to find proof for the best solution. We should look much more at implementation of law and legislation and the national and International level."

For more information click here

CNN's Untold Stories: Trapped

CNN International's World's Untold Stories ran a four episode series called "Trapped", which followed the stories of Nigerian women who had been trafficked to Denmark. Michelle Mildwater, a psychotherapist and project leader for was the consultant and narrator for the series. The first shows aired in February, and the second half ran in March.

Show One:

The first show told the story of Anna, a Nigerian woman who was trafficked to Denmark. She explains the trauma of the work she was forced to do, the terror she felt every day, the beatings she endured upon trying to escape, and how she could not go to the police knowing she would be deported back to Nigeria, where her traffickers await a payment for themselves.

The show also spoke with a Danish NGO that offers medical services to victims, and the representative explained how from 2003 onward, there has been a significant increase in Nigerian women who have come to seek services.

By the end of the show, Anna was caught during a police raid, and was set to be deported as an illegal immigrant working illegally in Denmark. No mention of any attempt of an identification process or anything.

Unfortunately, CNN does not provide a way to embed their videos, but you can access the program here on their website.

Show Two:

This is the story of Joy, who is a Nigerian woman also trafficked to Denmark with false documents, but was caught at the Danish airport where upon Danish authorities arrested her for falsifying documents. She has been in prison for six months, and has given up attempting to seek asylum. No one has attempted to identify her. Joy's illiteracy holds her back from helping herself. She will be deported without any assistance to her situation.

The link to the second show is here.

Show Three:

In the third show, Michelle follows Joy back to Nigeria. It gets a little deeper into her personal story. Joy is from outside of Lagos and she has been bought and sold since she was ten years old within Nigeria, then trafficked to Mali and then Denmark. After being caught in Denmark illegally, she was deported back to Nigeria with 100 Euros, which she promptly had to pay to Nigerian authorities to release her from the airport. Despite seeking help with an evangelical Christian community, she was turned away for not being able to contribute some money for her stay.

Here is the link to the video. 

Show Four:

Michelle travels to a village outside Benin City. She interviews some people in the village. A woman explains that none of her children are able to go to school so she is trying to teach her children to read, despite the fact there are little to no resources. Some women even offered for Michelle to take their children. One mother explains she does not want her daughter to stay in Africa; she wants her to go somewhere, anywhere to get an education.

Michelle also spoke to a woman who sold her house for her children to be taken to get jobs, but she never heard from them again. Another woman also sent her daughters to Europe, and she believes her daughters are working as hair-dressers, but she has not heard from them either. There is this automatic assumption that Europe is full of great jobs and that even poor, African women are able to get them.

Michelle finds Anna, who is hiding from her traffickers and cannot go back to her village. Her traffickers are beating and threatening her parents, and she must move from place to place to keep away from them. Even calling her parents is risky. There are some nuns who picked her up at the airport, but due to limited funding, cannot help her for long. 

Everything comes back to money.