Thursday, November 13, 2008

Study pushes for action on human trafficking

From the Concord Monitor:

The state needs to do more to address the growing trend of modern-day slavery, according to a report released yesterday by the Statewide Interagency Commission on Human Trafficking, which recommended legislation and training for law enforcement officials as means to counter what it calls a problem transcending borders.

There are few documented cases of human trafficking in the state because the crime is difficult to quantify, said the report's lead author, Jennifer Durant of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. But incidents over the past several years indicate that the state is not immune.

Human trafficking is characterized by the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtainment of a person through force, fraud or coercion for labor or sexually commercial purposes.

Federal laws criminalizing human trafficking have inspired some states to draft localized legislation. It's important for New Hampshire to address the issue in its criminal code, Durant said, and to coordinate and train law enforcement and victims'-rights agencies.

Lawmakers and committee members gathered at the Legislative Office Building in Concord yesterday to release the report, "The Hidden Problem of Human Trafficking: Addressing Modern Day Slavery in New Hampshire."

A recently reported case involved a 17-year-old girl who was forced to work as a sex slave near the Seacoast, according to the report.

In August 2007, a former victims' advocate got a call from the National Human Trafficking Hotline in New York City, which connected her with the victim. The girl, who escaped her captors, told the advocate that she had been kidnapped from her native country when she was 12 and forced to work as a sex slave with five other girls in the house. The girl said she had been starved for days and stabbed in the abdomen, the report said.

After the advocate picked the girl up and brought her to the crisis center, she called the national hotline back.

During the call, someone mentioned contacting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Because the woman was undocumented, she fled and was not heard from again, the report said.

Captors often tell victims they will get in trouble if they try to get help, Durant said.

According to the Center for Women Policy Studies,

SB 194 establishes the Statewide Interagency Commission on Human Trafficking. The commission is charged with analyzing the adequacy of existing criminal legislation to address human trafficking and making recommendations for revising these criminal statutes or creating new ones; working with law enforcement personnel to develop methodologies for collecting data on human trafficking; identifying available federal, state, and local programs that provide services to trafficking victims; and evaluating approaches to increase public awareness of trafficking. The commission must report its findings and recommendations to the president of the senate, the speaker of the house, the senate clerk, the house clerk, the governor, and the state library on or before November 1, 2008.

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