Friday, May 23, 2008

Human Trafficking in Maryland on the Rise

From the Examiner:

MARYLAND, United States- Human trafficking is on the rise throughout the region, those who work with victims say, but so are local efforts to combat it.

“Maryland is viewed as a state that hasn’t done a good job of combating [human trafficking], and that’s made it worse here,” Del. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s County, who has introduced legislation to crack down on trafficking, told The Examiner.

Since its founding in 2003, District of Columbia-based Ayuda, a nonprofit group that helps human trafficking victims, has gone from a handful of cases to serving more than 100 victims, spokeswoman Estera Barbarasa said.

Those cases are evenly split between men and women, Barbarasa said. The victims come from all over — the Middle East, Europe and Asia — but the majority are Hispanic.
And, although human trafficking is commonly perceived as a sex worker issue, it also includes farmhands, construction workers and domestic help — anyone who’s been tricked or forced into traveling across borders and has had his identification taken from him or falsified.

Human trafficking is not something either the Montgomery County or Prince George’s County police departments make arrests for, police officials said. Part of the reason is that until last year, human trafficking wasn’t considered a separate crime, Benson said. Now, it’s considered a misdemeanor, but she’d like to make it a felony.

That’s why George Udeozor, who was extradited from his Nigerian home earlier this month for a 2004 conviction, wasn’t charged with human trafficking despite having brought a teenage girl to the United States on a fake passport, said Jessica Salsbury, a lawyer at Casa of Maryland. Udeozor and his now ex-wife, Adaobi, told the girl’s parents she would be paid and attend school, but, instead, all she received was sexual abuse and forced labor, according to federal prosecutors.

Read the full article

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