Monday, June 30, 2008

Hip Hop Helps Counter Human Trafficking in Brazil


Take music and DJs, breakdancing, graffiti, rhythms and poetry. Swirl it around. The result is hip-hop, which has recently become a tool to fight human trafficking in Brazil. The new video clip "Don't Traffic," by a hip hop group from the outskirts of the capital Brasilia, is reaching youngsters with simple and effective language. "The message uses their own language, including slang," said 25-year-old group member Allison Costa. "These lyrics stick."

The hip hop group was originally contacted by Aldair Brasil, head of the Federal District's Committee to Fight Human trafficking, a permanent form of governmental and non-governmental representatives, including schoolteachers, community leaders, and even firemen. "We asked them to prepare a video clip for youngsters, particularly in vulnerable areas," Brasil says. "we thought it would be much more effective than any seminar or school class. Now we need to spread it throughout the country."

"Don't Traffic" is a low-budget film set in the outskirts of Brasilia and in its central area, close important governmental buildings. According to hip hop artist Costa, this is one way to put pressure on politicians to pass legislation, protect human rights and prosecute criminals.

The film also has a preventative message. It begins with a child, searching for his mother who left home and never returned. "We wanted to tell youngsters, particularly women, that propositions to become a model or to get a better life in other Brazilian cities or abroad may actually be a nightmare in disguise." Costa explains.

The Federal District's Committee to Fight Human Trafficking has been monitoring cases in the region. The majority of cases have involved girls between 12 and 17 years old. In almost every case, the process begins with a family member or close friend. "Traffickers lure victims by giving the family money, paying bills and basic food staples," Brasil explains. "These people also make fake identification cards, prepare model portfolios, everything to stimulate that the victim is heading for real work and, most importantly, an overall life upgrade."

Judging from the cases monitored by the Committee, most victims are trafficked to other cities in Brazil or to other countries, especially Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States. Although girls from Brazil's poorer regions, like the Northeast, also end up being trafficked to the Federal District.

In 2006, the Committee was recognized as a public utility organization. This recognition has helped in building a network with governmental agencies to urge them to include human trafficking in their programmes, provide improved assistance and protection of victims and conduct proper investigation and prosecution of criminal organisations.

In 2008, the government instituted a National Plan to Counter Human Trafficking, which involved governmental, non-governmental and international organizations, including UNODC. The plan is based on prevention, prosecution and protection of victims.

Corona Businessman Draws on Famous Ancestry to Fight Human Trafficking

From the Press-Enterprise:

By Janet Zimmerman

As a boy, Kenneth Morris Jr. used to sit at the top of his family's Maryland beach house overlooking the fields where his ancestor, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, once toiled as a slave.

Morris, a Corona businessman, grew up surrounded by stories and relatives of Douglass and his other famous relative, Booker T. Washington, his great-great-grandfather and founder of Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Until recently, Morris, 46, left public appearances and speeches about the family legacy to his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, who was the first generation to join the two bloodlines. Her mother was from Washington's side of the family, and her father from Douglass' side.

It is only in the last few years that Morris began talking about his heritage.

"A friend of mine came to me and said, 'With your lineage and the platform your ancestors built through struggle and sacrifice, you have an obligation to help people,' " Morris said.

With his newly formed Frederick Douglass Family Foundation -- on the Web -- Morris is working to end human trafficking, from factories and fields to prostitution. "It's slavery as horrific as the slavery we're familiar with in this country," he said. "It will take millions and millions of people to rise up and put an end to this."

The group raises awareness and money for organizations that rescue and help some of the estimated 27 million victims worldwide, he said. The foundation encourages public lobbying of lawmakers on human trafficking legislation and urges states to put such laws on the books. Morris' friend and former co-worker, Robert Benz, alerted him to the subject of modern-day slavery after reading an article about it in National Geographic. He knew Morris, whom he describes as up-front, congenial and likeable, was the one to spread the message.

"Frederick Douglass doesn't have to survive only in the history books. He can become relevant again in the persona of Ken Morris, who is taking up the cause of abolition in his stead," said Benz, executive vice president of the foundation.

Douglass, who taught himself to read and write, escaped slavery at age 20 and went on to become a revolutionary journalist, speaker and writer. He was influential in Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Washington was born a slave. When he was freed at age 9 under the Emancipation Proclamation, he worked in a salt mine and saved his money to attend Hampton Institute in Virginia. He later became a teacher and established Tuskegee for freed slaves.

Read the full article

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Child Trafficking in Ghana

From Modern Ghana:

The latest report that 390 child slaves are locked up at Krachi in the Volta Region, published in this paper yesterday, is indeed disturbing, if not disconcerting.

According to our correspondent, these children are under bondage, labouring for fishermen on five islands in the vicinity of Kete Krachi in the Volta Lake area.

These children, the report stated, are among 424 others registered by the Counter Trafficking Unit of International Organisation for Migration mission in Ghana.

Mr Eric Peasah, Counter Trafficking Project Manager, told our reporter that it costs a lot of money to rescue these children because 'we have to compensate the fishermen before they are released to us'.

The Times is indeed worried about the alarming rate at which child trafficking is going on in most parts of the country and called for urgent steps to check it from getting out of hand.

Some of these children mostly between 10 and 15 years are being used as housemaids, farmhands and in other difficult economic activities. Sexual abuse and corporal punishment are some of the hazards some of these children go through at the hands of their slave masters.

The problem of child trafficking can be attributed to a number of factors including poverty and broken homes.

It is on record that in July 2006, an eleven-member states of the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) including Ghana, entered into multilateral cooperation agreement to fight human trafficking in West Africa.

This led to the passage of the Human Trafficking Act 2005 in Ghana on December 9, 2005.

Read the full article

India: Postmen to Check Human Trafficking in Remote Villages

From the Economic Times:

With their job taking them to the remotest parts of the state, the postmen in Meghalaya will be assigned a new task -- report on human trafficking cases.

An NGO, Impulse, has entered into an understanding with the Indian Postal Services to reach out to remotest villages in the Northeast for disseminating information on human trafficking.

"People in remote villages of the region do not have access to any sort of information, be it on the very notion of human trafficking or available ways and measures for their redressal."

"They are hesitant to go to the police station and report cases of missing children from their localities or villages," the team leader of Impulse, Hasina Kharbhih, said.

The project includes setting up of common service centres in post offices as coordinating locations in the region.

"The postman will distribute pamphlets on awareness. Also upon receiving any information on missing children or person, he will intimate, transmit and guide the information to the coordinator placed at the CSCs."

"The coordinator will subsequently work out a rescue strategy with the law-enforcement agencies and local NGOs," Kharbhih said.

Objective of the project is to create a sustainable harmonising environment for the communities to combat trafficking along with NGOs and law-enforcement agencies by utilising the reach of the Indian Postal Services, Kharbhih said.

About 44,000 children go missing in India annually and only 22 pc of them are traced, most of them victims of human trafficking.

Rescue operations conducted by NGOs show that majority of the victims belong to remote villages like those in some parts of Northeast where the illiterate masses do not have any access to information.

Read the full article

Saturday, June 28, 2008

FBI Operation Targets Child Prostitution

By Michael King


ATLANTA - Atlanta was one of 16 cities targeted in a federal child prostitution sting. The FBI's newly formed Crimes Against Children Task Force in Atlanta made fire arrests as part of Operation Cross Country.

In 2001, the trial of three alleged pimps brought to light a problem that had plagued cities around the country for years -- trafficking of children for prostitution. It involved a young girl who had been carted from Atlanta to Las Vegas for sex.

Ever since that case, Alesia Adams has been crusading against the problem -- now working for The Salvation Army as coordinator against human and sexual trafficking. "Finally, public awareness around this issue is coming out and law enforcement is deciding that they're not going to have this anymore," Adams said.

She's referring to an announcement in Washington on Wednesday detailing results of a 16-city child prostitution sting called Operation Cross Country.

"There were a number of goals in this sweep, the most prominent is to identify those individuals who are juveniles and take them out of the cycle of victimization," said FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"The community certainly has changed its attitude in looking at these juveniles as more a victim than criminals as it relates to child prostitution," said Stephen Emmett of FBI Atlanta. The Atlanta FBI office now has a Crimes Against Children Task Force targeting the issue.

Adams says we need more safe places for children to go when they run away from abusive homes. "And they hit these streets and within 48 hours of that child hitting the street, the predators are there and they know where to find these children," she said.

Five arrests were made in Atlanta as part of Operation Cross Country. The operation lasted five days and led to the recovery of 21 children.

Read the full article

Canada Failing to Nab Human Traffickers, U.S. Report Says

From the Epoch Times:

Despite new laws and programs, Canada is failing to catch those who are selling and enslaving other human beings, a U.S. report says.

Employing deception, threats, and abduction, human traffickers prey on the vulnerable, targeting mostly women and children—but increasingly men and boys—and subjecting them to labour exploitation, sexual exploitation or both.

The recently released U.S. State Department's 2008 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report calls human trafficking a "multi-dimensional threat" that increases global health risks and fuels the growth of organized crime.
In a section on each country's progress in curbing human trafficking, the report notes the strides Canada has made in combating the illegal practice, including an injection of $6 million in January to prevent the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and its increased efforts to protect victims.

However, Canada has demonstrated "limited progress" in catching and convicting trafficking offenders.

"Enforcement and laws have been put in place but there still hasn't been a single person convicted of trafficking in this country," says Sabrina Sullivan, managing director of The Future Group, a Calgary-based anti-human trafficking organization.

The researchers urge Canada to intensify efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, including those suspected of trafficking for labour exploitation, and increase efforts to investigate and prosecute Canadians suspected of engaging in child sex tourism abroad.

It also recommends more brothel raids, improved law enforcement coordination and greater protection and services for foreign trafficking victims.

Sullivan says Canada needs to establish a central office to combat human trafficking similar to the one operating in the U.S., noting that America has many "best practices" in fighting human trafficking that Canada could emulate.

Canada is a source, transit and destination country for trafficked people. Women and children are trafficked primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe for sexual exploitation.

Read the full article

Friday, June 27, 2008

Police Action: Prostitute Numbers Reduced in Norway

From the Aftenposten:

There's been a marked decline in the number of prostitutes on the streets of Oslo this week. The decline follows two waves of arrests aimed at cracking down on human trafficking.

Police in Oslo arrested nearly 70 persons earlier this week, all of them tied to the Nigerian circles of prostitutes who have been aggressively going after customers on downtown streets during the past year.

Of the 66 persons rounded up, 18 have been charged with offenses including human trafficking, pimping and dealing in stolen property. Prostitution itself is not illegal in Norway, but pimping is. Anyone considered to have organized prostitutes' activities is subject to prosecution, and a new law also opens for prosecution of persons buying sexual services.
All the persons arrested were women, except one. Most were held pending examination of their identity papers and proof of resident status.

It's believed that most of the active foreign prostitutes in Oslo have obtained resident status in another European country, thus giving them permission to live and work in Norway. Even athough Norway is not a member of the European Union, it is part of economic trade and cooperation agreements that allow EU residents to freely move across borders.

The 18 charged with serious offenses are aged 25 to 40 years. Those charged with human trafficking are suspected of transporting large sums of money out of Norway, believed to be individual prostitutes' revenues.

Read the full article

Burning Spear- Slavery Days

A healthy dose of Reggae to start the day, Happy Friday.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thai Woman Jailed for 14 Years on Trafficking Charges

From the Macau Daily Times:

Thailand's criminal court yesterday sentenced a 63-year-old women to 14 years in prison for trafficking young women to Italy, a court official and a child rights groups said.

Jomsri Srisam-aung, from Thailand's poor northeast, lured two women in their 20s and 30s from her hometown with the promise of work in her daughter's restaurant, a statement from the Fight Against Child Exploitation (FACE) said.

But when the two women arrived in Italy via France in 2005, they were told no jobs were available at the restaurant and they had to work as prostitutes to repay the money Jomsri lent to them to travel to Europe.

The two victims were rescued by Italian police in 2006 and sent home.

"Jomsri was sentenced to 14 years in prison," a court official said. "The suspect has many similar cases awaiting trial and sentencing."

Read the full article

Legal Migration, Jobs for the Poor Can Reduce Trafficking

From the Daily Star:

BANGLADESH- Experts at a consultation yesterday said encouraging legal migration in the developed countries and creating employment opportunities for poor section of people in the country all the year round can be effective means to prevent human trafficking and labour exploitation.

Human trafficking is an organised crime across the world which is also a serious human rights violation, but its real causes are not adequately addressed yet, they added, calling for united actions for awareness, legal reforms and prosecuting the traffickers.

The experts said this at a national-level consultation on 'Interventions in human trafficking' organised by Concern Universal Bangladesh and Terre des Hommes Italy Foundation and supported by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) at Brac Centre Inn in the city with IOM Regional Representative Rabab Fatima in the chair.

Pointing to European countries, Home Secretary Abdul Karim said, “We have to encourage legal migration… Many more jobs are expected to be created in Europe. You can meet the labour demands by hiring workers from countries like us.” Many asylum seekers are regularised in those countries, but they are always not good people. They also flee their own countries with criminal records, he said, adding “If you encourage legal migration, it will give a win-win situation.”

Stating that the government has put counter-trafficking issue on a priority agenda, Abdul Karim, who spoke as the chief guest at the inaugural session, said: “We are very serious to detect traffickers and prosecute them. We have already delivered death penalty to eight traffickers.”

He said the government has trained law enforcers as well as religious leaders and introduced community policing to deal with trafficking. “We are aware of our obligations. We want to be known as decent society.”

In his presentation, Concern Universal Research Specialist Shankor Paul said acute poverty and familial crisis have been found to be two very significant causes of human trafficking.

Addressing these issues by providing employment opportunities to reduce economic hardship and empowerment of women can help combat the menace, he noted.

Read the full article

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

EU Passes Tougher Illegal Immigration Laws

From Voice of America:

The European Parliament has approved new rules for detaining and expelling illegal immigrants, legislation that human rights groups consider unfair.

EU lawmakers voted in Strasbourg Wednesday to let governments detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months and impose a re-entry ban of up to five years. The rules are to go into effect by 2010. Britain, Ireland and Denmark have not signed on to the agreement.

Estimates of immigrants in Europe illegally vary from eight million to 12 million people. The new rules provide them some protections, including the right to apply for residency and to leave voluntarily, as well as access to legal counsel.

Amnesty International, among other rights groups voicing concern, says the measures do not ensure that illegal migrants will be returned to their home countries in safety and dignity.

Current detention limits vary within the EU, with most countries mandating maximum periods shorter than 18 months.

Federal Prosecution of Illegal Immigrants Soars in U.S.

By Nicole Gaouette

From the LA Times:

The Bush administration has sharply ratcheted up prosecutions of illegal immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the last year, with increases so dramatic that immigration offenses now account for as much as half the nation's federal criminal caseload.

In the widening crackdown, administration officials prosecuted 9,350 illegal immigrants on federal criminal charges in March, up from 3,746 a year ago and an all-time high, according to statistics released Tuesday. Those convicted have received jail sentences averaging about one month.

The prosecutions are among the most visible steps in a larger effort that includes work-site raids, increased border patrols and the use of technology and fences. Often controversial, the patchwork of measures represents the administration's response to failed congressional attempts last summer to overhaul federal immigration laws.

Administration officials and conservative groups have lauded the increase in prosecutions. But critics say data show illegal immigrants are still trying to enter the country. And some lawyers argue that the push is overwhelming a federal court system with limited resources and higher priorities.

Even so, administration officials announced this month that they would be funneling more resources toward the effort, called Operation Streamline.

"The results of this criminal prosecution initiative have been striking," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Chertoff's agency and the Justice Department, which oversee the effort, recently announced a plan to assign 64 attorneys and 35 staff members to prosecutions along the Southwest border.

The program began as a pilot around Del Rio, Texas, in 2005 and spread to other areas. Officers and prosecutors participating in it practice "zero tolerance," and jail times can range from two weeks to six months.

"The reason this works is because these illegal migrants come to realize that violating the law will not simply send them back to try over again but will require them to actually serve some short period of time in a jail or prison setting, and will brand them as having been violators of the law," Chertoff said. "That has a very significant deterrent impact."

The statistical analysis released Tuesday was compiled by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, considered an authoritative source for such figures. It called the increase "highly unusual."

Operation Streamline's larger aim is to give the administration another tool to use in its crackdown on illegal immigration, said Susan B. Long, a TRAC co-director and Syracuse University professor.

"This is an effort to use the federal criminal justice system in immigration enforcement," Long said. "What it means is that immigration cases are dominating the federal court system these days. The volume of cases is really huge. This is a big deal."

Of 16,298 federal criminal prosecutions recorded nationwide in March, immigration cases accounted for more than half, Long said. The next-highest number, 2,674, was for drug offenses, followed by 702 for white-collar crime.

Read the full article

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Confusing trafficking and smuggling

Multiple articles were published yesterday and today in major news agencies around the world regarding the Europol operation that arrested 75 people yesterday in nine different countries in Europe under charges of smuggling. 

Today, a total of 75 persons suspected of being part of a people-smuggling network were arrested throughout Europe...

All suspects are said to be involved in the clandestine smuggling of a large number of illegal immigrants into and within the European Union. This was one of the largest co-ordinated actions against people smugglers ever, involving more than 1,300 police officers...

Operation Baghdad targeted a network primarily consisting of Iraqi nationals and former nationals facilitating the illegal immigration of citizens from Afghanistan, China, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Iraq into and within Europe.

No where in the release is it mentioned that there were suspicions or charges of human trafficking although it did mention that the migrants often suffered through cramped conditions while being smuggled into the EU.

However, the BBC and the Times Online reported that this effort was a part of a bust on human traffickers.
BBC: A pan-European police operation has led to the arrest of 75 people suspected of trafficking Iraqi Kurds in the EU

Times Online: Dozens of suspects were arrested in Britain and across Europe yesterday in one of the largest co-ordinated crackdowns on people-trafficking.
It is important to recognize the distinction between trafficking and smuggling for multiple reasons:
  • They are different problems, even though their paths sometimes cross. Essentially, smuggling is the facilitation of illegal border crossing or irregular stay, while the final purpose of trafficking is exploitation. Also, borders need not be crossed in trafficking (i.e. internal trafficking.
  • By not distinguishing the issues, it creates confusion among the public and hinders general awareness of both problems.
  • It impedes a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to tackling the problems effectively.
While, other news sources such as AP, Al Jazeera,  and CNN (although CNN used the term "funneling" immigrants, which is not an official term) did not place trafficking anywhere in their reports, the fact that some news agencies did confuse the two terms shows that there is still a lack of awareness among journalists covering these stories, even in major news networks.

The AP story did include an interview with a representative from UNHCR who commented on how this operation, for example, affects refugees desperate to reach Europe.

William Spindler, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Geneva, urged authorities to consider the interests of refugees who at times count on human smugglers to help them flee misery at home.

"We welcome actions to crack down on human smugglers, some of whom are utterly ruthlerr characters who abuse, exploit, rob and sometimes even kill their clients. But it is important to ensure that their victims are properly protected," he said.

"An unintended effect of cracking down on human smugglers - as important as that is - may be to close the only avenue left for refugees to escape persecution or conflict," he said.

He noted cases in which some Iraqis had been granted refugee status in European countries but were unable to get there without turning to people smugglers.

"For many refugees it is well nigh impossible to get passports, visas or plane tickets," Spindler said. "They have to travel in an irregular way in order to save their lives and reach a secure place."

An article such as this one approaches these issues from multiple points of view without confusing them. Law enforcement must also be careful in these situations with migrants who may, in fact, end up becoming victims of trafficking. The importance is to approach the migrants with a consideration for human rights and the possibilities facing these migrants as to why they went through a smuggler in the first place. However, it is the media's job to be responsible and not confuse the issues, thus hindering better public awareness and a better response to each of these problems.

Washington D.C. Nonprofit Concerned New Federal Legislation Will Harm Victims of Trafficking

From Ayuda:

May 20, 2008- This week, Ayuda sent a letter to Senate leaders asking them to reject a change approved by the House of Representatives, which would greatly expand the definition of human trafficking and divert resources away from protecting the victims intended by the original anti-trafficking legislation. The House approved this change in December, and legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate within days.

The House-passed change would authorize the Department of Justice to prosecute as trafficking any person who "persuades, induces or entices any individual to engage in prostitution…" Current law defines trafficking to include labor or commercial sex performed under force, fraud or coercion or minors engaged in commercial sex. The expanded definition of trafficking approved by the House equates each instance of adult prostitution to a form of modern-day slavery, ignoring whether the individual in question is free to leave or not.

"Every week, Ayuda opens its doors to victims of trafficking and witnesses first-hand the toll this atrocity takes on its victims and their families. We are speaking out because this change in the definition of trafficking will harm our clients," said Mauricio Vivero, Ayuda's Executive Director. He added, "We hope Congress will ensure that any reauthorization of the federal anti-trafficking statute remains true to the vision of the original law."

Ayuda's letter was sent to all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and points out several harmful consequences that will result from a change in the definition of trafficking. Most importantly, Ayuda is concerned the change will divert resources away from victims of trafficking and force the Department of Justice to use its limited anti-trafficking resources to instead prosecute prostitution cases traditionally pursued by the states. The change will also de-harmonize the United States definition of trafficking from international laws and norms.

Ayuda is D.C.'s leading source of multi-lingual legal and social assistance for low-income Latinos and foreign-born persons. Ayuda staff has provided services to over 135 survivors of trafficking and thousands of hours of technical consultation to organizations and law firms working on the issue.

More information on Ayuda


Legislation was introduced in the Senate (on May 22nd), which rejects the House-passed
definitional change. This legislation is slated for committee mark-up on Thursday morning.

Thanks to Perry Wasserman at Ayuda for the info.

Monday, June 23, 2008

National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum Releases New Study on Trafficking

From the NAPAWF:

The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
(NAPAWF) recently released, *Rights to Survival & Mobility: An Anti-Trafficking Activist's Agenda*, a new report highlighting the disproportionate impact of human trafficking on Asian and Pacific Islander women and girls. Human trafficking is the third most profitable underground enterprise, rivaling the drug and arms trade. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that the largest group of persons trafficked into the U.S. are from East Asia and the Pacific.

"This is an extremely critical time to discuss the impact of human
trafficking on API communities, especially in light of the pending reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act," says NAPAWF's Anti-Trafficking Project Director, Liezl Tomas Rebugio. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007, HR 3887, offers extended protections for foreign domestic workers but also attempts to transform anti-trafficking legislation to prostitution legislation. Specifically, HR 3887 expands the Mann Act--a federal law that prohibits the transportation of persons across state lines for the purpose of prostitution--to include prostitution activity within states, and calls prostitution "sex trafficking". Essentially, this creates a new federal prostitution crime and identifies all prostitution as "sex trafficking", even if *force, fraud or coercion* is not present.

This limited approach to human trafficking is a strategy that NAPAWF is
highly critical of. *Rights to Survival & Mobility* broadens the discourse on human trafficking to include root causes, such as poverty, gender-based discrimination, globalization and militarism. Furthermore, NAPAWF links the anti-trafficking movement with other social justice movements such as worker's rights, reproductive justice, racial justice, women's rights and human rights.

Download the report here

Ex-judge, family indicted on human trafficking charges

From Atlanta Journal-Constitution and USA Today:

A former Fulton County magistrate judge, along with his son, a Forsyth County deputy, and his son's wife, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on human trafficking charges involving a nanny from India.

William Garrett Jr., 72, an Alpharetta lawyer; deputy sheriff Russell Garrett, 43; and Malika Garrett, 42, were charged in a nine-count indictment.

Russell and Malika Garrett, who have been married since 1993 and have two children, live in Woodstock. The couple faces charges of human trafficking, alien harboring, witness tampering and making false statements.

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias the the nanny, only identified as "R.S." in the indictment, was subjected to a "form of modern day slavery." The indictment alleges that after the nanny escaped from the Garretts' Woodstock home in June 2005, the couple spread vicious rumors about her, including falsely accusing her of theft.

Malika Garrett is also charged with making false statements last year to the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department for claiming the nanny should be investigated for possible terrorism, the indictment said.

"This case is an example of alleged domestic servitude of a nanny brought over from India," Nahmias said in a statement. "This type of abuse is insidious, as it preys upon those who are vulnerable due to their immigration status and unfamiliarity with this country's legal system."
The case was brought by both the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in Washington.

The three Garretts appeared briefly Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate E. Clayton Scofield III and entered pleas of not guilty. They were granted bond.

When Scofield asked them if they had read the indictment, William Garrett answered, "I haven't finished. But I pretty much know what's there." He faces two counts — conspiring to induce the nanny to enter the United States under false pretenses and making false statements.

William Garrett Jr. was a Fulton County magistrate while most of the alleged scheme was going on. He last received pay as a magistrate in December 2005, Jessica Corbitt, public affairs manager for the county's Office of Community Relations, said in an e-mail.

Forsyth Sheriff Ted Paxton said Wednesday that Russell Garrett has been placed on administrative leave. Garrett began working at the Sheriff's Department in August 2002 and had recently been assigned to the court security division, Paxton said.

The indictment alleges that, beginning in January 2003, the three defendants conspired to induce the victim, a female Indian national, to enter the United States under false pretenses to serve as a live-in nanny for Russell and Malika Garrett's children. But the Garretts later stopped paying the nanny, curtailed her freedom, made her live in an unheated basement room and told her she could be jailed easily because she was a criminal, the indictment said.

From the DOJ's press release:

According to United States Attorney Nahmias and the information presented in court:
The indictment alleges that in January 2003, all three defendants conspired to encourage and induce the victim, a female Indian national, to enter the United States under false pretenses for the purpose of serving as a nanny for MALIKA and RUSSELL GARRETT's children.

According to the indictment, MALIKA and RUSSELL GARRETT later stopped paying the victim for her work as a nanny, significantly curtailed her freedom and ability to leave their home, and threatened to malign her to her family in India if she did not work for them. MALIKA and RUSSELL GARRETT compelled the victim to work in their home for up to 16 hours a day, nearly every day. The indictment further alleges that, to control the victim, MALIKA and RUSSELL GARRETT insulted her, intimidated her, and threatened her with jail and deportation. With the assistance of a neighbor, the victim escaped the GARRETTS' home.
In addition, the indictment alleges that after the victim escaped, MALIKA and RUSSELL GARRETT conspired to spread vicious, false rumors about her in her Atlanta neighborhood and her Indian community, and that they falsely accused the victim of theft to 2 local authorities; reported the victim's illegal status to federal authorities; and falsely accused the victim of engaging in terrorism-related activities to the Department of Homeland Security.

Finally, the indictment alleges that RUSSELL GARRETT and D. WILLIAM GARRETT made false statements to the Department of State to obtain a visa for the victim in which they attached documents showing that they were in law enforcement, namely, for RUSSELL GARRETT, a photocopy of his Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Badge, and, for D. WILLIAM GARRETT, a photocopy of his Certificate of Training from the Georgia Magistrate Courts Training Council; that MALIKA GARRETT made false statements to the Department of Homeland Security to obtain a visa extension for the victim; and that MALIKA GARRETT made false statements to the Department of Homeland Security and to the Department of Justice, claiming that the female victim should be investigated for possible terrorism.

If convicted, MALIKA GARRETT faces a maximum penalty of 60 years’ imprisonment; RUSSELL GARRETT faces a maximum penalty of 50 years’ imprisonment; and D. WILLIAM GARRETT faces a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Child Slavery in Benin

Toyota Looking Into Allegations of Human Trafficking and Sweatshop Abuses

From Edmunds:

The Toyota Prius may be the darling of environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities, but a new report by a self-described human rights advocacy group accuses Toyota of "human trafficking and sweatshop abuses" in the building of its vehicles.

The National Labor Committee on Wednesday issued a 65-page report, "The Toyota You Don't Know," which accuses the Japanese automaker of using "low-wage temps" to build the popular Toyota Prius. The report also alleged that Toyota has "ties to Burmese dictators" through the Toyota Tsusho Corporation. "Toyota's much admired 'Just in Time' auto parts supply chain is riddled with sweatshop abuse, including the trafficking of foreign guest workers, mostly from China and Vietnam to Japan, who are stripped of their passports and often forced to work — including at subcontract plants supplying Toyota — 16 hours a day, seven days a week, while being paid less than half the legal minimum wage," the group said in a statement.

Toyota addressed the allegations late Wednesday with a brief statement. "We are reviewing the lengthy report issued today by the National Labor Committee," the automaker said. "As the well-being of our workforce and suppliers is one of our highest priorities, we are taking the allegations seriously." Toyota spokesman Curt McAllister told Inside Line on Thursday that the automaker has no further comment on the controversial report.

Read the full article

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Human Trafficking Report Ignores Role of Pornography

From Citizen Link:

In its annual Trafficking in Persons Report issued last week, the U.S. State Department kept Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia on a blacklist of countries that traffic in people, while it applauded progress made by Bahrain and the UAE. Daniel Weiss, senior analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family Action, said the report does a great job highlighting problems in other nations but virtually ignores the United States' contribution to the global issue.

"There is one tiny section in almost 300 pages that speaks to the need of addressing the demand for human trafficking," he said. "However, it completely ignores the role that pornography plays in stimulating a demand that can only be satisfied by criminal sex acts. "The U.S. still produces a majority of the world's pornography. By not enforcing our own laws against the sale and distribution of obscene pornography, we are complicit in fueling a global industry that sexually exploits and abuses women and children."

Friday, June 20, 2008

World Refugee Day

"A total of 11.4 million refugees were under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2007, including some 400,000 feeling conflict in their home countries, the agency said. The report for 2006 numbered 9.9 million." -NY Times

An excerpt from a message by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres to mark World Refugee Day, 2008:

"Today, the world is different and refugee protection is vastly more challenging. Old barriers to human mobility have fallen and new patterns of movement have emerged, including forms of forced displacement that were not envisaged by the '51 UN Refugee Convention.

Conflict today may be motivated by politics, but looking deeper it can also be about poverty, bad governance, climate change leading to competition for scarce resources. Recent food and fuel shortages have had an immediate and dramatic effect on the poor and the dispossessed, including refugees and the internally displaced. Extreme price increases have generated instability and conflict in many places, with the very real potential of triggering more displacement..."

The links between refugees and human trafficking:

From"International protection for trafficked persons and those who fear being trafficked"

Can a trafficked person be a refugee?
Trafficked persons and those who fear being trafficked can be defined as refugees under the 1951 Convention if they meet all the elements defined in Article 1(A). If they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on one of the Convention grounds and their country of origin is unable or unwilling to provide protection against further re-trafficking or reprisals bytraffickers, they are entitled to international refugee protection. There is no reason why a victim of trafficking who fears returning home due to the real possibility of being re-trafficked, targeted for reprisals, or threatened with death, should not be granted refugee status where the state of origin is unable or unwilling to protect that person against such harm...

Can refugees be trafficked?
It is also important to note that refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing from persecution could be easy targets for traffickers. This is because the displacement and related vulnerability put refugees and internally displaced persons at a greater risk of exploitation and abuse. To access countries of asylum in an environment of tightening visa regimes and border controls, some refugees may resort to desperate and even illegal measures in their search for a safecountry and of livelihoods and can fall prey to trafficking. Asylum applicants may fear re-trafficking and reprisals from traffickers upon returning to their country.

Does being re-trafficked or a target of reprisals amount to persecution?
According to the UNHCR Trafficking Guidelines, re-trafficking usually amounts to persecution, in view of the serious violations often involved. Reprisals would also amount to persecution as they usually involve acts of serious human rights violations. Among the cases reviewed, both the risks of re-trafficking and reprisals were considered by the courts of Australia, Canada, and the U.S., as found in the cases illustrated below. In the U.K., it is more difficult to convince the court that the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution from being re-trafficked or a target of reprisals, which will be discussed later in the section...

A stateless person is vulnerable to trafficking for the lack of state protection. The UNHCR Trafficking Guidelines specify that while being stateless alone does not make an individual a refugee, the stateless person would be considered a refugee if unable to return to his or her habitual residence for fear of persecution on a Convention ground. The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness set out the legal framework for the rights of a stateless person and obligations of states to avoid actions that would result in statelessness...

As effects of globalization continue to expand, the nature of trafficking becomes more complex. To protect those targeted by trafficking, asylum is an essential measure and may be the only option available in countries where there is no other means ofprotection. The importance of making the asylum procedures available to these persons cannot be over-emphasized. The adoption of the UNHCR Trafficking Guidelines would therefore be essential in the provision of international protection for trafficked persons and those who fear being trafficked. As states have the primary responsibility to prevent trafficking in person and protect those affected by this serious human rights violation, the challenge is on the decision-makers of each state to ensure trafficked persons' full access to fair and efficient asylum procedures.

Give Refugees a Hand on Facebook

Actions Against Human Trafficking

From Iceland Review:

The Icelandic government is preparing a plan on how to act on human trafficking. The plan will be ready in the fall.

Current Icelandic laws include no clauses on how to protect the victims of human trafficking. Those who have been sold to slavery cannot file for residence or work permits on the grounds of human trafficking. Morgunbladid reports.

The Icelandic police are also not equipment to deal with those circumstances. According to Hildur Jónsdóttir, a member of the task force which is creating the plan, there is a huge task to be done.

The police must be capable of recognizing human trafficking and make those involved in it stand trial. The welfare system must also be fit enough to receive the victims. The operation plan calls for co-operation between the police, the welfare system as well as health institutes and organizations that work for human rights.

The prototype of this strategy came from Norway where a similar plan was put into action in 2003. The size of human trafficking was unknown then, and it was even believed that human trafficking in Norway did not exist. That has proved to be wrong and since the plan was introduced in Norway, 204 possible victims of human trafficking have been discovered.

Read the full article

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Holly Q&A w Alec Baldwin at the Hamptons Int. Film Festival

Should African Americans Be Given Reparations for Slavery?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Council of Europe Unveils the Convention on Action Against Trafficking


The Council of Europe now has a powerful weapon at its disposal as it leads an effort to eradicate human trafficking, which the Strasbourg-based organization terms "a new form of slavery."

The Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings entered into force in February. The pact is the first European initiative that is specifically designed to curtail trafficking, which has emerged as a social scourge during the post-Soviet era. "Every year, thousands of women, children and men fall victim to human trafficking, whether for sexual exploitation or other purposes, both within and beyond the borders of their own country," a CoE statement said.

Human trafficking has been steadily increasing in recent year, according to CoE Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio. "The estimated number of women [being trafficked] is growing," de Boer-Buquicchio said in a recent interview with EurasiaNet. "The only progress that we have witnessed [to date] is the fact that the issue is being publicly debated."

Starting in 2009, the convention should help reverse the existing trend, de Boer-Buquicchio believes. "I expect a different Europe to take shape," she said.

So far, 17 states have ratified the Convention and another 21 have signed it. Most individuals who become victims of trafficking in Europe are women, and almost half of those trafficked are forced to work in the sex industry. Another one-third of trafficking victims end up being used as forced laborers, according to Council of Europe estimates. Since 1991, former Soviet countries have developed into a major source of trafficked individuals. Organized criminal groups are a driving force behind trafficking, European law-enforcement officials say.

The convention, according to de Boer-Buquicchio, is "victim oriented." The pact not only seeks to protect the rights of those who have been trafficked and exploited, it seeks to encourage victims to help prosecute traffickers. Signatories of the convention are accordingly obliged to "design a comprehensive framework for the protection and assistance of victims and witnesses." As part of this provision, victims in states that have joined the convention would be eligible for medical services and psychological counseling.

Under the convention’s provisions, those trafficking victims who have been forced to work in the sex industry will no longer be treated as criminals upon discovery. In addition, suspected trafficking victims will not be immediately treated as illegal immigrants, as the pact allows for a "recovery and reflection period" of at least 30 days during which "it shall not be possible to enforce any expulsion order against him or her." If a victim decides to cooperate with local prosecutors in a criminal investigation, he or she would be eligible for a renewable residence permit.

In an additional move to curtail the influence of trafficking in the European sex industry, de Boer-Buquicchio said the convention seeks to "criminalize clients who knowingly enable trafficking."

Read the full article

Private Sector-NGO Cooperation to Combat Human Trafficking in Ukraine

On June 18, representatives from the nongovernmental, international and private sectors gathered in Kyiv to discuss building private sector and NGO partnership to combat human trafficking in Ukraine at a conference sponsored by the International Organization Mission to Ukraine and USAID.

From the IOM press release:

"IOM Ukraine, in tandem with its network of Ukrainian NGOs dedicated to eradicating the evil of human trafficking, have begun to enlist the assistance of the private sector to build the sustainability of counter-trafficking initiatives in Ukraine. Key speakers at the conference will include representatives of Ukrainian and international companies who have demonstrated corporate social responsibility and an unmistakable willingness to collaborate with IOM on anti-trafficking campaigns and projects."

Over 60 participants from Ukrainian NGOs, the private sector and international organizations took part in the panel discussions and the interactive sessions aimed at finding common ground between private sector businesses and non-governmental organizations working to combat trafficking. The panelists came from major companies already doing socially responsible work as well as NGO directors who have had some success bringing in private donors.

Here are the profiles and presentation summaries of some of the companies and organizations that provided speakers for the conference:


Galnaftogaz is a Ukrainian fuel retail company with filling stations all over the country. The company recently took part in an information campaign that posted large billboards at entry and exit points on Ukraine's borders warning about the dangers of trafficking with hotline numbers. The stated objectives of the campaign were to 1.) provide Ukrainians going abroad with safe migration information, 2.) inform Ukrainians returning to their home country about the National Counter-Trafficking hotline and 3.) to raise public awareness on the issue of human trafficking. According to the company, they choose to cooperate in combating trafficking because, "Everyday we indirectly face consequences of this problem: our filling stations service buses with potential migrants, relatives of our employees can be victims of this problem, etc."

Their approach: Create new workplaces, offer quality business education, reassure citizens that it is worth staying in Ukraine to work, and warn people about the possible problems of leaving the country for uncertain work.

Microsoft Ukraine

Microsoft runs multiple community partnership programs that provide skills training and technology as well as initiating the Coalition for Child Safety Online to help combat cyber crimes affecting children. The Unlimited Potential - Community Technology Skills Program has multiple components. Two that directly affect the fight against human trafficking include the "Learn IT to Find a Job" program, which works with local State Employment Centers and NGOs to provide access to technology skills training to job-seekers (thus lowering the prospects of deciding to leave for work abroad by providing attractive job skills), and the "Information Dissemination and Equal Access" or IDEA project, which was launched in collaboration with Project Harmony International. IDEA Centers offer free monthly training and internet access to centers that provide skills classes to vulnerable groups. Seven centers have been established across the country, and many of these offer training to victims of trafficking.


Kyivstar is one of Ukraine's largest telecommunications companies and a national mobile operator. The company was recently honored by the IOM for their work with anti-trafficking initiatives. Kyivstar joined together with two other mobile operators to establish a toll-free number "527," which, when dialed, routes the call to a hotline with operators who provide advice and warnings regarding finding work abroad. These operators are also trained to identify and assist people who were exploited while abroad.

Western Union

In 2008, Western Union, which offers financial services and money transfer operations, cooperated with the International Organization for Migration's campaign to raise awareness on the trafficking issue in Ukraine. Brochures are available at over 350 locations of the Ukrainian Financial Group with Western Union Money Transfer services, and a new initiative concerning reintegration assistance to victims of trafficking is about to be launched. The company commits to corporate citizenship in order "to facilitate global economic empowerment and help families stay connected, overcome barriers and realize their dreams.


Every day, ADECCO helps over 700,000 labor migrants to find work through the netwrok of more than 37,000 employees and over 7,000 branch offices in more than 60 countries and territories. The company provides language training as well as integration assistance for people with various levels of experience and matches them with employers who are looking for people with a certain set of skills. The placement process takes about 3 to 5 months on average.

Brainstorming and NGO presentation

One of the NGO leaders that spoke was also a participant in my recent case study project. Elvira Mruchkovska of Suchasnyk in Chernivtsi. The organization conducts programs that help former victims develop business skills, as well as gain support for entrepreneurship projects. There was a also a project recently that helped support female victims through manufacturing crafts and promoting them in Ukraine and abroad.

The event ended with a few brainstorming sessions where NGOs and private sector participants spoke together about how NGOs can approach businesses to help support their activities including understanding business motivations, doing research on the goals of companies to identify ways to approach them with mutual benefits involved in the project, coming up with creative ideas for projects that target businesses would support, being able to explain the advantages of the organization's work to businesses, among many other ideas.

*All photos were taken by the IOM.

Special Trafficking Operation Program

U.S. : Federal Hammer Hits Migrants Harder

From the LA Times:

The Department of Homeland Security has dramatically ratcheted up its arrests of individuals along the U.S.-Mexico border for various immigration crimes, according to statistics released today by Syracuse University. Immigration prosecutions hit an all-time high in March 2008, with 9,350 defendants charged. The number of March arrests is up 50% from April and up a whopping 73% from 2007. The prosecutions are part of a Homeland Security and Justice Department program called "Operation Streamline." Under the program, illegal immigrants caught along the U.S.-Mexico border are prosecuted on federal criminal charges that require jail time. The average sentence is one month.

In early June, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the program was yielding "striking" results. "Once they get prosecuted, they stop trying to come in again," Chertoff said, adding that officials have also seen "a reduction in smuggling -- in smuggling organizations and illegal entries in the relevant urban areas." The top three charges in March were: "reentry of deported alien," "bringing in and harboring certain aliens," and "entry of alien at improper time or place, etc." The Syracuse data found that five federal judicial districts along the border dominated when it came to immigration prosecutions. The Southern District of Texas, around Houston, was the most active with 488 prosecutions in March. Texas' Western District court, around San Antonio, was second and the Southern District of California, around San Diego, was third.

Read the full article

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 Pt II

Click here for part 1

Opening remarks from Condoleezza Rice:

Good morning. As many of you know, combating human trafficking is a top priority for the Bush Administration. Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable of our society, particularly women and children, and they use that vulnerability to enslave them.

We began issuing the Trafficking in Persons Report eight years ago, when President Bush first came to office. Today, because of our efforts, the efforts of our allies, and reports like the one we are releasing today, there is much greater global awareness about the brutality of human trafficking.

Globally, human trafficking is a multi-dimensional threat: It deprives people of their human rights and dignity. It increases global health risks. It bankrolls the growth of organized crime, and it undermines the rule of law. In recent years, we have witnessed a hopeful global movement uniting civil society, governments, and international organizations -- not just to confront this crime, but to abolish it. Worldwide, the United States relies on a unique diplomatic tool in its bilateral and multilateral collaboration on this issue -- the annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

Excerpts from the report:

Trafficking & Technology

At a recent U.S. conference on human trafficking, 17 year-old Rosita was describing the business mode of her boyfriend-trafficker. In contrast to many commonly heard stories of trafficking, Rosita was not held against her will in a back-alley brothel. Nor was she moved around on street circuit in a bad part of town. Instead, her trafficker was advertising on a popular internet list-serve where buyers and sellers are able to come together virtually to make business deals and exchanges. A description of the “service” was posted, along with the trafficker’s cell phone. Buyers called and made discrete arrangements. Following the business deal, Rosita was delivered to a home, a hotel, or other meeting place at an agreed upon time for an agreed upon price. Rosita was trafficked for prostitution in this manner when she was between the ages of 14 and 17.

This case had all the elements of common trafficking—Rosita was recruited as a child, and forced, by a violent and abusive boyfriend, to be sold for commercial sexual exploitation. What was different about the case was the trafficker’s use of new technologies to facilitate her sale. Numerous similar cases have emerged, illustrating the use of new technologies, such as cell phones, text messaging, and other phone technologies to facilitate business; chat rooms to exchange information on sex tourism sites around the world; social media and social networking to target, stalk, and land victims, as well as to convey, buy, and sell pornographic records of sex trafficking; instant messaging to communicate in real time with victims or targets; and more. In addition to phones and the Internet, traffickers may also be using new ubiquitous technologies such as chips, global positioning systems, and biometric data.

A two-pronged approach to addressing these developments is important. As a preliminary measure, countries should begin to document all cases in which new technologies are utilized by traffickers for either sex or labor trafficking. Such information is a necessary first step toward analyzing and designing interventions in cases where technology is used to facilitate trafficking.

At the same time, law enforcement should examine ways to utilize “reverse engineering” to combat sex trafficking, identifying ways to identify new victims and to obtain protection and services for them. New technologies can be harnessed for the good of identifying traffickers and customers, and to facilitate arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of the exploiters.

Trafficking & Migration

A number of governments, particularly within Asia and the Middle East, have entered into bilateral agreements or Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) in order to encourage and formally manage the flow of migrant workers from one country to another. To date, however, very few if any of such agreements contain any provisions explicitly protecting the workers in question from conditions of forced labor or other forms of trafficking in persons. At the same time, the number of cases reported to the Department of State has raised concerns that labor trafficking is occurring within the context of this otherwise legal form of transnational labor migration.

An example of this phenomenon: A worker is recruited in his home town in a South Asian country for a two-year construction contract in a Gulf state. The labor recruiting company tells the worker that he will earn $250 a month in addition to overtime payments for more than 40 hours worked in a week, and he will receive free room, board, medical care, and one day off per week. Upon arrival, however, the worker discovers that he is to be paid $120 per month with no paid overtime, and deductions of $15 a month are to be taken from his paycheck for food. He was deceived by the labor recruiter, who collaborated with the worker’s Gulf state employer, and now he is exploited by the employer who has confiscated the worker’s passport and threatens to turn him over to immigration authorities as an undocumented migrant if he does not continue working. Through threatened abuse of the legal process (immigration laws) the employer has coerced the migrant worker to continue his labor on terms to which the laborer did not consent. This is trafficking in persons.

This is but one example of trafficking that has been reported to be occurring within the context of otherwise legal, transnational labor migration. In order to more effectively address such problems, source and destination governments are encouraged to collaborate, and where appropriate, to include in their MOUs and bilateral agreements specific measures to prevent trafficking in persons.

Governments participating in existing multilateral, regional, and sub-regional initiatives such as the Colombo Process and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue are also encouraged to collaborate with the ILO, in light of its mandate to eliminate forced or compulsory labor.

Get the report here

National Anti-Human Trafficking Day in Thailand

From the Bangkok Post:

There were no banner-waving social militants on the march or high-profile campaign launches. Nothing, in fact, to make the first Thursday of this month stand out as a special day. The only clue lay in the show of diligence by police busily checking the ID cards of youthful passengers on long-distance trains. That was how the country marked its first-ever National Anti-Human Trafficking Day.

This date, June 5, was when our tough new law to combat traffickers came into effect and extended its protection to all those in danger of becoming victims of prostitution, pornography, sexual abuse, forced labour or the trade in human organs. It increases the punishment meted out to traffickers, spares victims from prosecution and conceals their identities. It also spares high-ranking police officers from having to obtain search warrants when actively in pursuit of suspected human traffickers and while rescuing their victims.

There are other provisions too, but the new law will only be of value if police actually enforce it. Too often in the past they have shown little inclination to get involved and Thailand has had to suffer the shame of being branded an international human trafficking hub as a result. Lax attitudes have to change before anything else will. This means breaking up cosy working relationships between the corrupt influential figures behind the trafficking and their equally corrupt state counterparts and throwing both in jail. It is not an exaggeration to say that the world is watching and there will be further damage to our reputation if complacency sets in.

Read the full article

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Task for Senator Obama

From Letters to the Editor of the New York Times:

To the Editor:

In "The Sex Speech" (column, June 12), Nicholas D. Kristof urges Barack Obama to address women's rights issues like maternal mortality.

As it happens, Senator Obama has an opportunity right now to demonstrate his commitment to women and girls.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act is up for reauthorization. In December 2007, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill strengthening the law to enable more effective prosecution of sex traffickers. Sadly, these criminal provisions were dropped by Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Sam Brownback in the trafficking reauthorization bill they recently introduced.

Senator Obama could help ensure that the Senate legislation incorporates the criminal justice provisions included in the House bill and does justice to victims of sex trafficking. Such action could go a long way in establishing his credibility with women voters.

Jessice Neuwirth
President, Equality Now
New York, June 12, 2008

Equality Now's Page on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act

A Horrible Business

From the Economist:

CONSIDERING it is a business that has provoked wars in centuries past, scant attention is paid to the modern slave trade. But one way to track the trade in people is the recently released annual report on trafficking in persons from America’s State Department. And it makes for gloomy reading. Though there have been improvements of late, the numbers of people involved are still appallingly high. Approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders each year and millions more are traded domestically. The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are at least 12.3m people in forced labour at any one time, including sexual exploitation, as a result of trafficking.

Efforts to wipe out this modern slave trade are hampered because human trafficking is a big business. It is impossible to know the exact sums involved but recent estimates of the value of the global trafficking trade have put it as high as $32 billion. The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking describes it as a high-reward and low-risk crime. People come cheap and many countries lack the necessary laws to target traffickers, or they are not properly enforced. Worse still, it is often the victims of the traffickers that are treated as criminals.

Women suffer most in this respect: the report estimates that 80% of victims of international trafficking are women forced into some form of prostitution. Women are involved in trafficking too, though this is less common. In Europe and Central and south Asia women are often recruited by other women who were themselves the victims of trafficking. In part to avoid detection by the authorities, traffickers grant victims limited freedom while simultaneously coercing them to return home to recruit other women to replace them.

The report also casts a light on the increasingly important role that technology is playing in the trade, both in combating it and its perpetration. The internet helps to identify and track down the perpetrators but increasingly it is becoming part of the problem. Chatrooms are used to exchange information about sex-tourism sites; people are targeted through social-networking sites where pornographic records of sex trafficking are also bought and sold; victims are ensnared through instant messaging.

There are a few bright spots. Ethiopia is commended for its efforts to combat the trafficking of children by establishing child-protection units across the country. Romania’s creation of a national database to identify and respond quickly to trends in trafficking is also praised as is Madagascar’s campaign to wipe out sex tourism.

Read the full article

The power of technology, both as a tool to fuel or prevent trafficking is an interesting and necessary discussion.

During the past two decades we have experienced the rise of the Internet and its incredible capacity to disseminate information, give a voice to the unheard and spur social change. The emergence of bloggers sounded the bell that the opinions of citizens, of individuals mattered- no longer was news limited to large organizational filters. Social networks established a new means of connecting with others and mobilizing action. In short, the Internet largely democratized information and created the power of connection between individuals across the world on a previously unimaginable level.

At the same time, whether it be environmental degradation, the Iraq war, soaring grain prices or the prevalence of modern day slavery, it is clear that we live in a time of serious global problems that we cannot afford to ignore.
On its own, technology, and principally the Internet, offer the raw potential to connect, interact and have access to information on a level previously unheard of. This potential can be used, as mentioned by the above article, in innovative ways that either promote trafficking or prevent it.

One of the running themes of this blog is to identify innovative uses of technology to combat trafficking, for example initiatives led by
Microsoft, MTV, Ashoka Changemakers and let's not forget the great viral videos by the guys and gals at the Freeze Project. I believe, however, that we are just starting to tap into the full potential of the Internet to effectively combat trafficking. I am not, however, making this criticism without offering some solutions of my own. The upcoming Human Trafficking Project website (not this blog) will launch next month and includes a few examples of how we can use technology to easily connect and work together to fill much needed gaps in the global anti-trafficking effort.