Thursday, July 31, 2008

Turbulent Waters: 21st Century Galley Slaves

Most of the goods we consume are transported by sea on ships where working conditions recall those of the galley ships of another age. Turbulent Waters takes us into this murky world where ship owners, (like the family of former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin) avoid operating standards and working conditions in force in their own countries by registering their ships offshore in tax havens like Panama, the Bahamas, or Liberia. They then hire seafarers for cheap in the Philippines, India, China, or the Ukraine. Turbulent Waters tells the story of some of these seafarers - equivalent to 21st century galley-slaves - and of the turbulent seas they inhabit in the world of corporate globalisation. The feature-length documentary is directed and written by Malcolm Guy and Michelle Smith.

An excerpt from the film:

Sprite Zungu, an inspector with the International Transport Federation, defends seafarers who have decided to go on strike because they have not been paid for several months. Turbulent Waters tells the story of these seafarers -- equivalent to 21st century galley slaves -- and of the turbulent seas they inhabit in a world of corporate globalisation. Scene from the film Turbulent Waters by Malcolm Guy and Michelle Smith.

Visit the Turbulent Waters website

Marley in the Morning

Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don't give up the fight.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Growth Industry

My admittedly overly simplistic strategy to effectively attack trafficking at the root (one of the root problems at least):

Economic development = jobs = financial stability = increased quality of life = opportunity to pursue education = reduced vulnerability to trafficking = jobs = economic development = so on and so forth.

From Newsweek:

By Martha Brant & Miyoko Ohtake
April 14, 2008

Ash Upadhyaya is no tree hugger. The 29-year-old from India has a master's degree in petroleum engineering, worked as a reservoir engineer at Shell Oil and drives a Porsche Boxster that gets a measly 20 miles per gallon. Yet he has spent the past two years studying environmentally sustainable business at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "Am I really driven to do this by my values? The honest answer is no," says Upadhyaya, who wants to work for a private-equity fund when he graduates in June. "It just makes good business sense to be sustainable."

Environmentalists and capitalists have typically eyed each other with suspicion, even disdain. A new breed of M.B.A. student thinks it's possible to make a bunch of green by going green. For some, studying sustainable business practices just gives them a competitive edge. For others, it's a fresh way of thinking about business. These eco-M.B.A.s talk about the "triple bottom line"—people, planet, profit. Thousands are joining Net Impact, a networking group for business leaders interested in societal problems. "Business-school students today are much more interested in social and environmental issues—and in business solving those issues," explains Liz Maw, executive director of Net Impact.

Slowly, business schools are catching up. "This is all student-driven," says Stanford B-school professor Erica Plambeck. Seven years ago she offered the first environmental elective at the business school. Today Stanford ranks No. 1 on the Aspen Institute's 2007 "Beyond Grey Pinstripes" report, which rates how business schools integrate social and environmental responsibility into their curricula.

In 2001, when Aspen began ranking schools, only 34 percent of those it surveyed offered any green courses. By 2007, 63 percent did. Even the most traditional schools are weaving in the environment. Harvard Business School students study cases such as Nestlé's sustainable cocoa agriculture, and the Wharton School will host a Net Impact conference this fall.

Mainstream schools weren't changing fast enough for green-business icon Hunter Lovins. The book she coauthored in 1999, "Natural Capitalism," has become the textbook for sustainable management. In it, she argues that companies don't factor the environment into their spreadsheets. "We treat it as if it has a value of zero, and that's bad capitalism," she says. Business leaders needed to start thinking differently. So in 2003 Lovins helped found Presidio School of Management in San Francisco, where climate change permeates every part of the curriculum. Presidio is one of a handful of schools from Washington to Vermont now offering a "Green M.B.A." These being business schools, the term has actually been trademarked and is owned by the Dominican University of California.

Read the full article

Blue Blindfold Trafficking Awareness Campaign in the UK

From Precision Marketing:

By Sara Kimberley

July 28, 2008

The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) is launching an integrated campaign to raise awareness about the crime of human trafficking. The drive, ‘Blue Blindfold’ created by Principles Agency aims to raise awareness of modern day slavery.

The integrated campaign will include online activity, posters and outdoor advertising and use the strapline, ‘Don’t close your eyes to human trafficking’. The campaign urges the general public, victims of human trafficking, staff in all areas of public life, the authorities and employers to be extra vigilant in their daily activities, and to be aware of the nature and scale of the problem.

Principles Agency creative director Keith Lishman comments: “Our creation of the Blue Blindfold campaign demonstrates that we are serious about our corporate and social responsibility. We felt passionate about helping UKHTC to promote their very worthwhile work.

The campaign engages the public and promotes the important signs associated with this serious crime. It will evolve over time, having the potential to be promoted at an international level.”

More info on the Blue Blindfold Campaign

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Diplomats Abuse their Workers, Invoke Immunity


By Anthony M. Destefano
July 28, 2008

Federal investigators have uncovered numerous cases of foreign diplomats - mostly in New York and Washington, D.C. - who abused their domestic workers without fear of prosecution because of diplomatic immunity, according to a government report to be released tomorrow.

The level of cruelty of some of the allegations appears similar to those recently uncovered in the human trafficking prosecution of Varsha and Mahender Sabhnani, the Muttontown business couple convicted of abusing two Indonesian maids. At the federal trial in Central Islip the maids, who have sued the Sabhnanis, said they were tortured and beaten, sometimes resorting to foraging for food in garbage pails.

At least 42 cases of suspected abuse by diplomats - including allegations of forced labor, human trafficking and physical abuse - have been uncovered in the past eight years, the Government Accountability Office study found, according to people who have seen summaries of the document.

GAO officials wouldn't release the report in advance of its scheduled unveiling tomorrow. But congressional staffers familiar with the report's contents said the diplomats suspected of the abuses were assigned to various embassies and United Nations missions. In some instances the officials were involved with agencies like the World Bank, said the staffers, who added that the report doesn't identify specific countries involved.

Juhu Thukral, an attorney with the Urban Justice Center in Manhattan who helps trafficking victims, said domestic workers represent the largest number of victims in trafficking cases and their plight is exacerbated by physical and language isolation.

But while the victims in the Sabhnani case saw their employers prosecuted and were able to file lawsuits, foreign diplomats who abuse domestic workers are insulated from criminal prosecution and most lawsuits under the Vienna Convention, the international treaty ratified here in 1961 that provides diplomatic immunity.

Earlier this month, Marichu Suarez Baoanan, 39, sued the former chief of the Philippines mission to the United Nations, Lauro Liboon Baja, Jr., in federal court in Manhattan. In her complaint, Baoanan said Baja and his family lured her from the Philippines and subjected her to forced labor at the official residence. But in court papers, Baja's attorneys argue that he is protected from the lawsuit by the Vienna Convention.

Read the full article

Illegal Immigrants March in Iowa

From Spero News:

Led by 43 Guatemalan and Mexican women wearing ‘electronic tracking bracelets’ imposed by local authorities, hundreds of people from around the country marched peacefully in Postville, a small town in Iowa, in protest against the biggest immigration raid in US history. The raid occurred on May 12, when 389 migrants, including 287 Guatemalans, were arrested for possession of false documents while working at the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Pottsville.

The immigrants also denounced their transferral to a sort of detention camp set up at the local livestock show-ground, where they remained for days in the cold, without food or hygienic services; eighty some of the immigrants were tried directly and sentenced to between five and seven months in prison ahead of deportation.

The protesters took off from the St. Bridget church and marched for 10km, chanting “No more raids”. “We demand respect of the human rights of immigrant workers”, said Marcos Yax, vice-president of the Coalicion de migrantes guatemaltecos (Conguate), reminding that the arrests separated many families, with serious consequences mainly for the children; union representatives participating in the march also emphasised the responsibility of Agriprocessors, accused of persistent violations of migrant workers rights and security norms due to frequent workplace accidents; two company officials are currently under investigation.

From Guatemala, Cardinal Quezada Toruño dedicated the Sunday homily to his fellow nationals in US territory, remembering the exodus of at least one million Guatemalans caused by the long civil war (1960-96): “The arrests and deportations hurt our souls. Let us pray for those who suffered these painful separations”, said the cardinal.

A School for Johns

From Newsweek:

By Miyoko Ohtake

July 24, 2008

It's after 11 a.m. when Emmanuelle, an attractive 41-year-old former prostitute dressed in a red-and-black V-neck dress, takes the podium at San Francisco's Hall of Justice. She's clearly very nervous, but that's not surprising. In another time and place, the 40 or so men sitting in rows of plastic upholstered chairs might have been her customers. In fact they're here on a warm Saturday in May because they've been arrested for trying to buy sex.

The men, who are diverse in age and ethnicity, are voluntarily taking part in something called the First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP). It's a bit like traffic school for drivers with too many speeding tickets. But the day's lineup at what is sometimes called "johns school" has a unique curriculum—a series of "scared straight" talks about the ills of prostitution mixed with some seriously graphic sexual-health education. By attending the eight-hour session, and paying a $1,000 fee, these "johns" can avoid being prosecuted for solicitation. More than 5,700 men have gone through the program since its inception in March 1995. Over the last decade, the number of arrests annually in San Francisco for soliciting sex has varied widely, ranging from 140 to 1,200.

San Francisco's johns school is part of a renewed nationwide push by law enforcement to focus more on the buyers of sex than the sellers—a method that, if initial studies are to be believed, seems to be more effective than the cops' periodic roundups of prostitutes. Thirty-nine other U.S. cities have similar education programs in place, most based on San Francisco's school, which got government support after a city task force on prostitution created in 1994 recommended that officials focus on the social issues fueling prostitution instead of prosecution.

Now, the future of the johns school is in question. Earlier this month, supporters of a measure to decriminalize prostitution announced that they had enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot this fall. The bill, backed by the Erotic Service Providers Union, a San Francisco-based labor group, would not only end arrests for solicitation and prostitution, but also contains a specific provision that would prevent the city from funding the First Offenders program.

"Criminalizing sex workers has been putting workers at risk of violence and discrimination for far too long," said Maxine Doogan of the ESPU, in a statement July 18. The group believes that city resources are being wasted in they call "a futile effort to police consensual sex between adults."

But San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the city's district attorney, Kamala D. Harris, strongly disagree. "To suggest that this is somehow an issue that only involves consensual adults, that's just not true. No matter how these girls and women are packaged for sale, the reality is that for many of them, their life experience is often wrought with abuse and exploitation," says Harris. The proposed measure would hamper efforts to crack down on human trafficking, she says, because it prevents police resources from being used to locate and help immigrant women and children in particular who have been forced into sex work by traffickers who lure them to the United States with promises of other kinds of employment.

Read the full article

Philippines: Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon Top Trafficking Cases

A Traditional Sunday Meeting of Filipino Maids in Hong Kong

From the Sun Star:

By Annabelle L. Ricalde
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CASES of human trafficking this year are high in Bukidnon province and Cagayan de Oro compared to other places in Northern Mindanao, said the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Task Force Against Human Trafficking.

As of June 2008, 38 percent of human trafficking victims came from Bukidnon and 35 percent from Cagayan de Oro, CFO data show. Another 20 percent of the victims live in Gingoog City, 16 percent in Ozamis City, and 11 percent Misamis Oriental.

The figures only account for the cases handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Northern Mindanao, so the actual number of 138 victims could be higher, said lawyer Golda Myra Roma of the CFO.

Roma said that of the total number of victims, 117 are minors and almost all of them are females.

She said women are more preferred by human traffickers because of "the availability of the labor force for women."

The "jobs" offered for women often include forced prostitution, while others land into forced labor, slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs, she added.

Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada meantime said the number of unemployed workers falling prey to human trafficking syndicates has risen in the last two years.

Estrada, concurrent chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said that international syndicates have been preying on desperate workers who are trying to get employment abroad.

Meanwhile, Roma named Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei and Japan as the top haven of trafficked persons from the Philippines. She said these countries do not have comprehensive laws against human trafficking, unlike the Philippines.

She said that cases of human trafficking in the country have been going down since 2006, although the number remains alarming.

She said that the victims often would lose interest in pursuing the case because of the delayed and long process of the prosecution.

Read the full article

The Fight to Abolish Human Trafficking Within the United States

From the National Ledger:

By Paul M. Weyrich

Jul 23, 2008

Without doubt the Federal appointee who was most effective dealing with sex-trafficking was former Representative John R. Miller (R-WA). President George W. Bush has sought to end sex slavery within the United States and provide international leadership on the issue. Miller was appointed Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for the U.S. State Department and became an Ambassador-at-large on the issue of modern slavery. Miller elevated the fight to a high priority in the Bush Administration.

Recently, Miller wrote an op-ed in THE NEW YORK TIMES which suggested that the effort to oppose sex slavery has met opposition in the Department of Justice (DOJ). Miller also made a presentation to a group with which I am involved. Upon hearing Miller’s presentation I realized that the situation is worse than he described in THE NEW YORK TIMES.

After nurturing the 21st-Century abolitionist movement from 2002 to 2006, Miller believed that President Bush supported him despite objection to his efforts from numerous Ambassadors who did not want their host countries criticized. Miller stated that the President made it clear that his work was important. While he did not win every battle, he prevailed, often thanks to White House support.

One could imagine Miller’s surprise when he learned that DOJ initiated a campaign to oppose a new Congressional bill which would strengthen the Federal Government’s anti-trafficking efforts. In a 13-page letter, DOJ blasted nearly every aspect of the proposed legislation. In its annual report which rates how well countries are combating sex slavery, DOJ does not want to consider whether governments put traffickers in jail, nor does it want the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to streamline their efforts to help the victims of sex-trafficking acquire visas and assistance. DOJ does not want to pool data with the Departments of State, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services on sex-trafficking and to devise prevention strategies.

DOJ opposes the creation of Presidential awards for groups leading the struggle against this modern-day slavery. It is against a citizens’ task force to develop a pamphlet for victims. It does not want the State Department to give the telephone numbers of American anti-trafficking organizations to visa applicants at American Consulates worldwide.

Miller believes the vehement opposition by DOJ to this proposed legislation goes far beyond the usual turf battle which usually rears its ugly head in Washington, D.C. Miller states that DOJ opposes changes which would expand its own authority to combat trafficking. For example: Should they prosecute American tourists who create the demand for sex-trafficking in foreign countries? Should Congress provide increased penalties for Americans who sexually abuse children abroad? Should American jurisdiction extend to Americans who traffic human beings aboard? Should the Attorney General include information in his annual report on his department’s efforts to enforce anti-trafficking laws against federal contractors and employees? No, it should not do any of these.

Read the full article

Police Shut Down Spa, Arrest Owner On Sex Charges


MONROE, North Carolina- A Monroe massage parlor has been shut down after a three-month undercover investigation. Police said they arrested the owner and two employees on sex charges.

The owner of the Island Day Spa, on Highway 74, Son Jarkowski, was charged with human trafficking and maintaining a place of prostitution. Employee Min Ye was charged with solicitation. Another employee, Dan Kim, was charged with two counts of indecent exposure.All the crimes shocked Mark Binks, whose family shopped at the grocery store in the same shopping center as the spa.

“It’s hard to believe something like this would be going on in this area,” Binks said. “It’s too rural, you know, nothing happens here."Monroe police said the arrests were the result of an undercover investigation that began back in April. Sgt. T.J. Goforth said that’s when officers received a tip that the spa was a front for prostitution.

Read the full article

Monday, July 28, 2008

Justice & Sex Trafficking

From the New York Times:

July 22, 2008

We take issue with John R. Miller’s characterization of the Department of Justice’s work in the fight against sex trafficking and the department’s commitment to rescuing victims of this horrendous crime.

The department has convicted hundreds of sex traffickers for prostituting children and forcing women into prostitution. We have rescued hundreds upon hundreds of victims. And we strongly support Congressional reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which made these successes possible.

But we oppose provisions in the bill passed by the House of Representatives that would divert our focus away from the worst of the worst cases by making all prostitution a federal crime.

Dozens of law enforcement agencies, women’s and immigrants’ groups, crime victims’ rights organizations and policy experts have written Congress sharing the department’s concern.

Elisebeth C. Cook
Assistant Attorney General
Department of Justice
Washington, July 11, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Philippine Gov’t Hit for ‘Callous Neglect’ of OFW Rape Victim in Japan

From the Inquirer:

By Abigail Kwok

July 24th, 2008

The government has “callously neglected” a Filipina who was allegedly raped by a US soldier in Okinawa, Japan “at a time when she needed help the most,” the Philippine mission that went there said Thursday.

Gabriela Representative Liza Maza, a member of the contingent, said on Thursday that Honorary Consul Ako Alarcon of the Philippine Consulate in Okinawa failed to provide legal counsel for “Hazel” during the investigation to determine if there was probable cause for the case.

She also blamed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for not providing Hazel with enough assistance.

Maza said that Hazel was a “victim of human trafficking and that the Philippine government had been sorely remiss in providing her adequate and proper assistance.”

“Hazel was on her own during the whole process of investigation given that she has no knowledge of the legal system in Japan, does not speak nor understand the local language, and that she hardly knows anyone because she just arrived in Japan three days before the rape happened,” said Maza.

The team, composed of representatives from the Gabriela Women's Party and Migrante, also obtained a copy of medico-legal records that supposedly proved that Hazel was raped.

“We saw the medical records of Hazel. Hazel vividly accounted to us what transpired the night she was raped. And coming from the perspective of a women's organization which has handled many cases of violence against women, we are fully convinced that Hazel was indeed raped,” said Lana Linaban, Gabriela deputy secretary general.

Last July 15, the mission team, and Melly, Hazel's mother, left for Okinawa to investigate the incident.

Upon arrival, the team consulted with Father Rommel Cruz, legal guardian of Hazel, and met with Okinawa officials.

Maza urged both the Philippine and Japanese governments to conduct their own investigations on the incident saying “Wherever the US soldiers commit crime, sovereign countries should have the sovereign right to prosecute.”

She said that the Philippine Consulate in Okinawa should focus on protecting Filipinas who were vulnerable for human trafficking.

“Hazel is one of the many Filipina victims of human trafficking for the rest and recreation needs of US soldiers...this scenario makes women, especially Filipinas working as entertainers, in Okinawa vulnerable to abuse,” Maza said.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mexican Human Trafficking Ring Manager Pleads Guilty in US


A Mexican woman pleaded guilty [DOJ press release] Tuesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] to one count of sex trafficking for her role in recruiting Mexican women, sometimes by force, for prostitution in the US. Consuelo Carreto Valencia was extradited to the US in January 2007, and in March 2007 was arraigned [DOJ press releases] in federal court on 27 counts of sex trafficking, conspiracy and smuggling. Her trial on 12 of those counts began Monday but ended Tuesday with her guilty plea. The Department of Justice (DOJ) commented on the charges:
From 1991 through 2004, Carreto Valencia served as a manager in her family’s sex trafficking operation based in San Miguel de Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, Mexico. Carreto Valencia, and her sons Josue Flores Carreto and Gerardo Flores Carreto, and other co-conspirators, recruited young, uneducated women and girls from impoverished areas of Mexico and used or approved of a combination of deception, fraud, rape, forced abortion, threats, and physical violence to compel them to prostitute themselves in brothels throughout the New York City metropolitan area, including Queens and Brooklyn. Carreto Valencia and her family made hundreds of thousands of dollars in prostitution profits, while the women who had been separated from their families in Mexico received next to nothing.
Josue Flores Carreto and Gerardo Flores Carreto were each sentenced [DOJ press release] in April 2006 to 50 years in prison for their roles in the prostitution scheme. Carreto Valencia could be sentenced to up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The New York Times has more. AP has additional coverage.

Read the full article

Friday, July 25, 2008

10% of Israeli Prostitutes are Minors

From the Jerusalem Post:

By Ruth Eglash
July 23, 2008

The age of those being forced into the sex industry is rapidly falling, with more than 1,000 out of the estimated 10,000 prostitutes in Israel being minors, according to statistics collected this year by counter-trafficking non-governmental organization, the Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT).

These figures, which are based on the findings of numerous non-governmental and official sources, were presented Wednesday at a special session of the Knesset Sub-Committee on Human Trafficking - headed by Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On - focusing on a new Education Ministry initiative aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of the sex industry in general and human trafficking in particular among school-age children. TFHT's report also noted a new trend of 13 and 14 year olds frequenting prostitutes.

"It is essential that the future generation learns about equality between the sexes and is given the tools to correctly judge and evaluate this phenomenon," Education Minister Yuli Tamir told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting.

Earlier in the session, the minister had referred to the rise in media reports of children, some as young as 11 or 12, using cellphones to capture graphic sexual incidents on camera and stories of teens pimping out their peers for cash. Tamir said that the goal of the program, which started work six months ago, was to combat such incidents and to provide teachers with the educational tools to raise awareness of right and wrong among teens.

"Our main goal is to teach children that other people should not and cannot be seen as mere objects to be purchased," commented Miriam Schechter, Commissioner of Gender Equality in the Education Ministry and the one responsible for incorporating information on trafficking and prostitution into the education system.

She said that so far this year the ministry had worked together with several hundred teachers on how to present the subject to high schoolers and had run a handful of workshops and other pilot programs in Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Bat Yam and Nahariya.

"We are very happy that this [education] minister is so open to this topic and willing to raise the issue among the country's youths," said Gal-On. "It is not easy to introduce a new topic to the education curriculum and obviously there is always more work that can be done in this area, but this is definitely a step in the right direction."

Read the full article

International Organizations react to the 2008 US TIP Report

HTP has covered the reaction of various governments to the State Department's 2008 TIP Report, but international organizations also have input on the pluses and minuses of the process and criteria of the report.

GAATW reacts to TiP report

On 15 July 2008, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), a coalition of more than 90 organisations spanning five continents committed to ending trafficking and to the protection of the human rights of trafficked persons and women migrant workers, including La Strada International, addressed a letter to the authors of the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) within the U.S. Department of State.

In their statement the GAATW members praised the drafters of the TIP report for their efforts in giving more attention to such issues as trafficking for labour exploitation as well as for the recognition that migrant workers can be trafficked even if migrating legally. Furthermore, the intention of the authors of the report to focus more on the exploitation element of trafficking rather than the movement is seen as an important and promising development.

Nevertheless, in spite of these improvements, the Alliance members addressed a number of concerns which undermine the efficacy and consistency of the TIP report. First and foremost, the lack of human rights impact assessment of anti-trafficking measures hinders considerably full understanding of the trafficking situation. Secondly, conflation of trafficking with prostitution as well as the lack of distinction between forced and voluntary sex work in its definition of trafficking leads to harmful anti-trafficking policies. Finally, the shortage of proper reference or citation for research and statistics undermines the credibility of the TIP Report as it is vital that a report of this stature support its arguments with credible and verifiable data.

In its letter GAATW has made the following recommendations to the U.S. Government:

• Incorporate an impact assessment of anti-trafficking policies and practices as part of the criteria for the TIP Report, including inter alia:
- the impact of these policies and practices, especially that on the human rights of migrants and sex workers;
- the ineffectiveness of conditional assistance;
- the quality of services provided and if they comply with human rights standards;
- the impact of punitive migration policies.

• Use an evidence-based approach when assessing anti-trafficking measures.

• Reassess the U.S. government's position on the links between prostitution and trafficking. Examine the adverse affects the zero-tolerance prostitution policy is having upon those most vulnerable to trafficking.

• Provide proper citations for all referenced research and statistics, so as to provide verifiable evidence for its claims.

• In evaluating countries' prevention efforts, consider measures that address the root causes of trafficking, namely poverty, gender inequality, traditional social structures and lack of safe, legal migration possibilities.

• Focus on trafficking into all sites of work (formal and informal) in which forced labour occurs: e.g. agriculture, construction, domestic work, manufacturing, and sex work.

The full letter can be found here.

Ukranian Anti-Trafficking Commercial

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nike Contractor Using Forced Labor

Just stop it.

Jim Keady is a former assistant soccer coach from St. John's University. While coaching, Keady was also doing a research paper on Nike's labor practices for his MA in theology. Citing Nike’s use of sweatshop labor, Keady began to publicly protest the university's relationship with Nike. He also refused to wear the equipment Nike provided the University. On May 12, 1998 Keady was given an ultimatum by university officials, "Wear Nike and drop this issue publicly or resign." Keady was forced to resign.

In May 1999, Keady offered to work for six months in a Nike shoe factory in south-east Asia to dispel the myth that "these are great jobs for those people." Brad Figel of Nike’s Labor Practices Department responded, "We are not interested in your offer". So, Keady and project assistants Leslie Kretzu, and Mike Pierantozzi did the next best thing ... read from their diary.

In Search of the Whole

By Merissa Nathan Gerson

July 24th, 2008

My body, as an invadable entity, is coveted by the wounded. To seek
relief there are people out there who want to rape me, take me, dominate me, and somehow leave feeling satiated. This occurred to me walking home the other night. I was alone and there were two men walking close behind me. I thought about the fear, a womanly fear, of sexual abuse.

What is it, I wondered once they were no longer close behind me, that
makes rape so common? While aware that rape goes both ways, men raping women, women raping men, the fear of a random attack alone late at night in a small mountain town, this fear of rape, for me, is wholly grounded in my female physicality.

To rape a woman, among other things, is to rob her of power. I
imagined women's bodies as holders of the sacred, of immense force, the capacity to create, the embodiment of every rapists very origin. To rape is to return to the place you emerged from. To rape is to angrily take back the womanhood that you left, that you do not contain. This fear of physical invasion is a constructed piece of my identity as woman.

Rape and human trafficking are grounded similarly in their connection
to social constructs of gender and sex. It is not so simple as patriarchy. It is not so clean as a weaker and stronger sex. The sex trade industry is the manifestation of a deeper imbalance in each culture where it is found. It is the manifestation of repression, the embodiment of the unspoken.

I recently went to an all-nude strip club in Boulder and was surprised
by how little it disturbed me. Naked and worshipped, solely for the object form of their bodies, were glistening hairless women. This was a simply reaffirmation of everything I knew to be true in society. On the gendered bodies of men and women we project power roles, dynamics of deprivation, lack of expression, and ultimately, a deep form of idol worship.

I do not condemn the stripper, the john, the rapist. I condemn the
socio-economic and socio-cultural structures that create these small worlds. A strip club is no different than a Facebook advertisement telling me to lose thirty-seven pounds in thirty days. Both are byproducts of a social world that emulates masculinity and represses femininity, leaving both the man and woman at a loss.

In Jungian psychology there is the concept of wholeness via the
incorporation of the anima and the animus. A man, to be a whole man, needs to incorporate the feminine, or anima. Whereas a woman, to be her complete self, needs also to incorporate the male, or animus. The divisive gendered nature of our world, living in binary and black and white, does not permit this "wholeness." Without wholeness the people functioning within and running this country are fragmented.

In raping a woman, a man implies, by default, his own wounded nature.
In damaging another, he exhibits his own inner ruin. Pain is passed between people when unresolved. For this, we have a human trafficking problem. For this there are self-hating women, with a counterpart of self-hating men.

Our sex industry is only the mirror of our social selves, fragmented,
gender biased, the disempowerment of women by disempowered men. It is a ricochet effect; he who oppresses is himself bound. And we, the community around the oppressors and the victims, are equally tied up. The denial of feminine power is a blanket indicator of a social ill affecting every member of our society.

Further reading:

Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

By Bell Hooks

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women

By Susan Faludi

Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature

By Donna Haraway


See the Swedish film "Together" and note their treatment of addiction
and abuse. Same with the film "Celebration." Both of these films illustrate the humanity of the oppressor and the devastation caused by unresolved pain.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reality TV: Introducing UK Youth to the India Garment Industry

It's good to see there is more to reality tv than Flavor of Love...

U.S. Teens Take a Stand Against Trafficking

From the Daily Planet:

By Martha Vickery
July 17th, 2008

MINNESOTA, USA- Two Woodbury High School students have taken on a project to organize both an educational conference for teens about human trafficking and a benefit concert for Twin Cities area organizations that help victims of the crime.

The project, dubbed End Slavery Now, is the creation of sisters Joan Park (15) and Grace Park (17), and now includes a planning group of about 24 teen girls who will hold an educational conference July 25 and 26, with an expected attendance of 50 to 60.

The participants in the conference will also be invited to participate in a fundraiser concert to benefit the organizations that work with victims.

Human trafficking is real in Minnesota, according to Yae Joon Kwon, an advocate for the anti-human trafficking program administered by the Korean Service Center in Minneapolis. Kwon has been raising awareness among youth, in community groups and in law enforcement in educating about this emerging crime since she took the job in January.

Minnesota has been named as one of the 13 states in which human trafficking incidents are the highest. The existence of an international border, and a large rural area, contribute to human trafficking here, according to information on the website of Civil Society, a local legal advocacy group that works directly with human trafficking victims.

The highest-profile law enforcement action on human trafficking in the recent past took place in December 2007, Kwon said “where there were 100 women, all of Chinese and Korean descent, all in uptown and the St. Louis Park area. The women slept in massage parlors and were not allowed to leave. Their visas and passports taken away. They were under video surveillance. They did not speak English – their clients were upper-middle-class men between age 35 and 55.”

Internationally-trafficked victims are often kept under control through “debt bondage,” Kwon said, where the captors tell the victims they have to work off their debts of flight tickets, visa fees, or other costs incurred by the trafficker to bring them to the U.S. The captors may tell the victims their family will be told and/or that children or other family members will be hurt if the victims do not cooperate. “They feel like they have no other options,” she said. “Oftentimes, they are physically abused or raped. They are in an environment where they are under threat.”

Read the full article

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Former Sudanese Child Soldier Turned Hip-Hop Artist Performs at UN

Emmanuel Jal, child-soldier of Sudan turned Hip-Hop artist, has incorporated his experiences into "Warchild," due out May 13, 2008. The inspirations for the 13 songs on Warchild are rooted in Jal's impossible past. In "Forced to Sin," Jal recounts, "I lived with an AK-47/By my side/Slept with one eye open wide / Run / Duck / Play dead." His love and loyalty for his homeland of Sudan shines in "Stronger" - "I pledge allegiance/To My Motherland/That I'll do everything possible/To make a stand/Yes I can." Jal pleads with rapper 50 Cent on "50 Cent" to be a better role model for his young fans: "You have done enough damage selling crack cocaine/now you got a kill a black man video game/We have lost a whole generation through this lifestyle/now you want to put it in the game for a little child to play..."

Jal plans to support the release of
Warchild with a tour of North America; details will be announced shortly. In addition, he frequently speaks on college campus about his experiences in an effort to raise awareness of and halt the inhumane treatment of children in Sudan. "I believe I've survived for a reason," says Jal in Warchild. "To tell my story, to touch lives."

UN News bit:

Emmanuel Jal - Warchild music video

More info on the album here

When rescue is not the end, but a beginning

Excerpts from an article on Ghanian child victims of trafficking in the July 2008 IOM Migration Magazine:

“The money I get from my parents to buy food at school is not enough and I am hungry,” pipes up an older boy.

Of all the refrains, this is the most often repeated.

The gathering on the beach is a weekly mentoring session for a group of former child victims of trafficking in Cape Coast in Ghana’s Central Region and an opportunity for the children to unburden their woes, get some advice, and some tutoring help with their schoolwork. Organized by Ghana’s Education Service, the mentoring is part of a package of services being provided by IOM, various government ministries and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to help Ghanaian child trafficking victims recover from their trauma and reintegrate into families and communities.

Since 2003, with funding from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees (PRM), IOM has rescued nearly 650 children in Ghana knowingly or unknowingly trafficked by parents to work in fishing communities on Lake Volta in the belief they would be fed, educated and taught a useful trade.

The reality is often different. Forced to work painfully long hours doing heavy and dangerous work because owners or ‘masters’ can’t afford to pay adults to do their jobs, the children are also severely underfed and often abused physically and verbally.

Food- the Main Issue

Food, Mavis Narh says, is the issue in the counselling sessions with trafficked children. “If we could feed these children properly, we would see significant results in just a few short months.”

Faustina Amegashie-Aheto, head of a clinical unit in a district in the Volta region where 90 per cent of the children rescued by IOM live, would agree. A health assessment of 178 children a year after their rescue revealed that 38 per cent of the children were still suffering from stunted growth while 62 per cent were underweight. Although de-worming and improved food intake meant that these figures were a vast improvement on those just gleaned after the children’s rescue, they highlight the enormous work ahead to improve the children’s health.

Challenge of Finishing School

Julia Damalie of the Ghana Education Service and in charge of girl and child education in his district recognises the difficulties older trafficked children face when going back to school. “We may need to consider allowing the children to jump years if they have the ability. We know that some children would much rather not go to school any more because of this age difference issue and instead learn a trade but there is no such facility to provide this at the moment,” she explains.

“At the moment, the retention rate is over 90 per cent but that is because of our sponsorship. The reality is that if 50 per cent of these children actually go on and finish their schooling, the programme would be successful. But we won’t know this for several years,” says Jo Rispoli of IOM in Ghana.

There are also other emerging long-term issues that will bear on the outcome...

“We’ve made a great deal of progress but many challenges remain. The key is to secure enough funding to ensure that the future holds a promise for all the children,” adds Rispoli.
To contribute or to sponsor a child through IOM’s rescue and reintegration programme, please click here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

NY Millionaire Gets Prison for Enslaving Workers

Ukraine takes steps to curb trafficking

From the Kyiv Post:

With no money, no husband, a sick mother and two children, Natalia became an ideal target for a human trafficking network that has claimed an estimated 100,000 victims in independent Ukraine.

Natalia’s journey took the 38yearold woman from her hometown in western Ukraine, to a brothel in Western Europe for six months and back again to her native country, where she is now working at a printing house.
While Ukraine continues to be a haven for traffickers, the situation is not entirely bleak and there is progress to report.

According to a recent U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, the Ukrainian government is doing a better job of punishing convicted traffickers, both through convictions and longer prison sentences. The government is also improving its prosecution of labor traffickers, training the judiciary and carrying out prevention strategies.

However, the State Department criticized the Ukrainian government for not doing enough to help victims. A weak witness protection program and a bias against sex trafficking victims which discourages many from testifying in courts, according to the report.

For example, Natalia, which is not her real name, is afraid to press charges against the woman who deceived her and then recruited her into the network where she was sexually exploited...

From 2000 to 2008, IOM assisted 5,214 Ukrainians who were trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation.

Jeffrey Labovitz, chief of mission in Ukraine for IOM, says trafficking in Ukraine remains an “acute problem” and says the government needs to take more responsibility to decrease the number of trafficked victims.

“They need to go after the big fish,” says Labovitz, speaking about the lack of prosecution against the traffickers, who adds that weak prosecution of traffickers prevents Ukraine from getting a top ranking for combating the problem.

The organization helps victims reintegrate into society and provides them with shelter, medical, psychological, legal and job placement assistance. It also runs five centers for migrant advice throughout the country where Ukrainians can get information on workers’ rights, contract terms, visas and fraudulent schemes used to lure workers abroad.

Labovitz believes that Ukraine has, over the last few years, improved its efforts to deal with trafficking by setting up a countertrafficking department within the Interior Ministry that employs over 300 employees. He also points to the statistics and says 90 percent of Ukrainians understand what trafficking is, a significant increase over the last five years, when only 60 percent of Ukrainians knew what trafficking was, he says.

Labovitz says partnerships to reduce human trafficking are crucial. “You need the government, civic society, corporate Ukraine and international organizations working together to get the maximum effect,” he said. Joint efforts remain essential to tackling this problem and over the years more partnerships have been formed between the public and private sector.
Partnership programs between international organizations and the government have helped Ukraine rise from the Tier 2 watch list, a type of “red flag,” to Tier 2, a slight improvement...

New partnerships between the public and private sector are a recent phenomenon and more companies are climbing on board to raise awareness of trafficking. A new campaign was launched by Ukrainian oil company Galnaftogas in February 2008 that includes countertrafficking billboards at 12 OKKO gas stations in Lviv, Volyn and Zakarpattya oblasts warning travelers of human trafficking. In addition, three leading mobile companies Kyivstar, Life, MTS, have joined forces and set up a tollfree number “527” that provides information and assistance on trafficking to callers. Microsoft Ukraine has also donated software to seven nongovernmental organizations meant to train trafficked victims and help them with their job skills. MTV Ukraine has been involved by donating airtime for public service announcements informing viewers of the dangers of working abroad...

Natalia’s story

Despite a steadily improving economy that is reducing financial desperation, Natalia’s story is still all too common in Ukraine. Millions of people still remain mired in poverty or lowwage jobs in tiny villages scattered throughout the nation.

The IOM, which assisted Natalia, set up an interview between her and the Kyiv Post on the condition that her real name and other identifying information not be used. She is a woman with shortbrown hair, skyblue eyes and two gold teeth. Wearing an all-white crochet dress and a gold cross around her neck, her nails are not painted and her makeup is minimal.

Like many deceived victims, Natalia said she was destitute when a young woman approached her as she was working in a local market in her hometown. The woman asked if she was interested in working abroad.

“She promised good money,” says Natalia in a shaky voice, her mascara watering as tears begin to trickle down her face.

“This woman knew I had no money, no husband, a sick mother and two children and she knew I was desperate,” she says. Natalia was told she would work in the home of a family in a Western European nation.

It turned out to be a lie.

“When I arrived, I asked where the family was, where the washing machine was and all the other things I would need to help around the house. Suddenly a large man dressed in black threw cheap lingerie at me and said I had to work to pay off the cost of my travel, and that’s when I knew I had been trafficked. I knew I had been trafficked on the first day.”

Natalia worked with five other women from Ukraine and Moldova in a small apartment, where she was forced to service up to four men a day, she says. She worked in slavelike conditions for six months until she got pregnant and begged to be sent back to Ukraine by one of her customers, who refused to pay for an abortion. The abortion had to wait until she returned to Ukraine.

*Photo courtesy of IOM Mission in Ukraine

Marichu Baoanan Sues Former Philippine UN Envoy

Here's a clip from a press conference sponsored by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) for Marichu Banaoan, who is suing her former employer, Ambassador Lauro Baja and his family, for human trafficking violations.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Russia's Thriving Sex Slave Industry

From CNN

By Matthew Chance

Young women in bright miniskirts and high heels line up to sell themselves in the dingy back streets throughout the Russian capital. Moscow's illegal flesh markets are flourishing, with up to 30 women at each pickup point, or tochka, standing in order of price for the night.

Customers light up the lines with their car headlights and are asked to pay between $100 and $700 for a woman.

Aid workers for groups fighting for women's rights say Moscow is witnessing a surge in prostitution, including forced prostitution, as a result of Russia's booming economy.

They say thousands of young women are made to work as sex slaves on the city's streets, unable to escape from the ruthless and violent criminal gangs who traffic them.
"It's because of the economic boom they are brought here," said Afsona Kadyrova of the Angel Coalition aid agency, which rehabilitates trafficked women and children. "The fast pace of development in Moscow has fueled demand for a range of cheap workers, including prostitutes." To investigate the thriving trade, CNN went undercover posing as potential customers and gained access to speak directly to the prostitutes and their pimps.

"Take your pick from any of the girls," the female organizer said at one location, lines of women all around. "The expensive ones are on the right, for $600 and $700 a night. The women on the left are $100."

Read the full article

North Carolina: Man Gets 14 Years for Human Trafficking

From the Charlotte Observer:

One of two illegal immigrants charged with smuggling a teenage girl into South Carolina and forcing her into prostitution was sentenced Friday to more than 14 years in prison.

Jesus Perez-Laguna was also ordered to pay $52,500 in restitution during a federal court hearing in Columbia, the U.S. Justice Department said. U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. also ordered that he be deported after his release and never be allowed to re-enter the United States.

Perez-Laguna and a co-defendant, Ciro Bustos-Rosales, 36, pleaded guilty in September, admitting that they transported the 14-year-old girl across the U.S.-Mexico border and into South Carolina, via North Carolina, to force her into prostitution.

In April, Bustos-Rosales was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and ordered to pay restitution. Authorities are still searching for a third defendant, Guadalupe Reyes-Rivera.

In June 2006, the defendants arranged for the girl to be smuggled into the country under the pretense of getting restaurant work. She was taken to Charlotte, N.C., several locations in South Carolina and eventually Columbia, where she was forced "to perform acts of prostitution and turn over the proceeds," according to a sworn statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent Craig Hannah.

Prosecutors said Perez-Laguna and Bustos-Rosales marketed their business by passing out business cards and hired drivers to transport women to meet with clients, according to court documents. Federal agents have said a 19-year-old girl and 31-year-old woman also were involved in the prostitution ring.

Read the full article

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Trafficking Between Britian and India

From Thaindian News:

The latest sting operation on illegal immigrants in Britain has exposed a well-oiled network in human trafficking from Punjab, but the state authorities do not seem bothered about taking corrective measures at the ground level, say those involved in highlighting the fraud. Despite scores of tragic stories every month of men, women and even children being trafficked, the number of illegal immigrants from Punjab continues to rise.

Congress legislator from Qila Raipur, Jassi Khangura, who gave up his British citizenship in 2006 to come back to Punjab, says the state government lacks the will power to stop illegal immigration. Khangura has been involved with several activities to curb illegal immigration.

“The BBC investigation has shown how sophisticated the network is. The Indian and British governments have to initiate action at their respective ends. Effective measures need to be taken on the Indian side,” Khangura said.

In an undercover investigation in Britain, the BBC has exposed a London-based criminal network that used fake passports, identity documents and human carriers to bring in illegal migrants, mostly from Punjab, into Britain.

These immigrants were settled in around 40 safe houses in Southall, home to a large concentration of immigrants from India. Nearly all of the illegal migrants - called “faujis” in criminal parlance - are said to be from Punjab.

Khangura told IANS here: “Given my experience, this illegal immigration is going to create such a mess that the British and other authorities will become very strict about immigration, and the genuine people will suffer.”

“Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and the Punjab Police know of the brokers in all corners of the state but don’t want to take action. It is not difficult to identify people who are playing fraud with hundreds of youths by taking millions of rupees with the promise of taking them to western countries,” he added.

The two passport offices at Chandigarh and Jalandhar, which cater to the state, and the latest one at Amritsar which opened this month, are already termed as “passport factories”. The Chandigarh and Jalandhar passport offices churned out 350,000 passports in 2007.

Read the full article

Completing the Climb

From Climb for Captives:

This Fourth of July a group of friends has decided to celebrate Independence Day a little differently. We're calling it the "Climb for Captives". Early on the morning of July fourth, six of us will set out for the Summit of 14,410 foot Mt. Rainier in an effort to raise both awareness and funds to fight human trafficking worldwide. Our goal is to raise a dollar for every vertical foot of the mountain... that's 14,410 dollars, and with the help of friends, family and other generous supporters, we believe that it’s an attainable goal.

Congrats guys

Friday, July 18, 2008

EU Backs French Immigration Pact

From the BBC:

EU ministers have agreed in principle to a French plan aimed at reforming immigration rules across the union.

"The interior ministers gave their unanimous accord on the principles, the objectives, the presentation and the structure of the pact," said French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux.

The pact aims to make it easier for legal migrants to fill job vacancies in Europe and integrate. With its ageing population, Europe has a continuing need for migrant labour in many sectors.

The French news agency AFP says the pact allows for migrant "regularisations" on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with national laws. It also calls for repatriation agreements with countries where necessary and for the European Commission to draft an EU plan for common EU-wide asylum procedures to be in place in 2012, AFP reports. "We're talking about targeted and coordinated immigration - in other words, which takes account of countries' needs and their ability to host migrants, based on dialogue with the countries of origin," Mr Hortefeux said.

Spain and Malta have been struggling to cope with boatloads of African would-be immigrants in recent years. Meanwhile, the European Commission and human rights groups have expressed concern about the Italian government's plan to fingerprint tens of thousands of Roma (Gypsies) living in makeshift camps across Italy.

The EU has already adopted new rules for detaining and expelling illegal immigrants. The "returns directive", due to take effect in 2010, allows states to hold illegal immigrants for six months, extendable by another 12 months in certain cases.

Earlier this month South American heads of state jointly condemned the returns directive. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans live and work in Europe, many of them illegally.

In 2005, Spain said illegal immigrants could claim work and residency papers if they could present a six-month work contract and evidence that they had lived in the country since August 2004.

Read the full article

"$6,000. I was bought for that price": A South African's testimony

I grew up in a small South African village. I went to college, and became a teacher after graduating. When the government planned to redeploy teachers, I was forced to look elsewhere. I had always dreamed of traveling to different countries, so friends suggested I apply for nanny positions.

A friend introduced me to a woman named Sarah, who offered to arrange a potential nanny position. She promised that it would pay $300 weekly, require less than 40 hours of work a week, and allow me to attend school. I saved for a few months to pay the fee Sarah required, which was twice my monthly salary. When I called back, a man named Francisco returned my message. He told me where to deposit my money, and then directed me to come to Cape Town where he made arrangements for my departure.

I flew to the United States and arrived at Dulles International Airport where my new employers, Pat and her husband David, picked me up and took me to their home. They showed me to my room in the basement. Soon after, Pat explained my new job responsibilities. I was shocked to learn how different they were from those described to me by Sarah in South Africa.

What was supposed to be only daytime childcare turned out to be 24-7 on-call domestic servitude. At 7:00 a.m. I was to get their three kids ready for school. Then, I was to spend about seven hours cleaning the house, making all the beds, scrubbing the bathrooms,doing the laundry, ironing clothes, and a long list of other domestic chores. Around 3:00 p.m. I was to pick the kids up from school, watch them, and keep the house tidy. At 8:00 p.m., the kids went to bed, but I often was assigned other tasks.

I was paid a mere $140 per week, $1.75 hourly if you divide that over 80 hours. In addition, Pat and David monitored all of my calls, and threatened to have me deported or arrested if I reached out to anyone outside the home for help. I could not go back to South Africa because David took my passport and return ticket, demanding that I first repay the $6,000 he spent for me to come to the United States.

$6,000. I was bought for that price.

Nevertheless, I genuinely loved the three children I cared for. Through them I met Elizabeth, a nanny in the neighbourhood who encouraged me to escape. One day, I broke into my employers' bedroom and found my passport. Then I called Elizabeth, who took me to a motel in a small town in rural Maryland. After hiding there for a month, I stayed in random people's homes, and sometimes became homeless for a few days at a time to avoid staying with men who demanded sexual favours from me in return for shelter. There were days when I did not eat, did not sleep, and felt like my world was falling apart. Life lasted like this for months.

Fortunately, a service provider referred me to the Tahirih Justice Center. Tahirih arranged for a wonderful and caring team of pro bono attorneys at Howrey LLP to help me prepare an application for a T visa, which specifically addresses trafficking cases like mine.

In April 2007 I received my visa. Then I got my work permit. I met with Tahirih's social worker, and she helped me to pay for nursing school classes. I look forward to becoming a professional in the healthcare field. I enjoy caring for people. It is a slow process but with the support of my friends and family, including my Tahirih family, I am beginning to recover from my traumatic journey.

Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Tahirih Justice Center 6066 Leesburg Pike, Suite 220 Falls
Church, VA 22041- 703-575-0070; 703-575-0069(f) email:

This article was taken from the latest edition of IOM's Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme's (SACTAP) quarterly bulletin of news, information and analysis on the subject of trafficking in persons in the region, called the EYE on Human Trafficking. Issue 18 of the EYE on Human Trafficking is available online.

This issue contains articles on a radio drama in Mozambique on human trafficking, a study on the high levels of psychological distress among trafficked women, a feature on the role of faith-based organisations in protecting victims of human trafficking, training seminars in Angola to build law enforcement capacity to combat human trafficking, an article on the SADC Ratings of the 2008 US TIP report, and conclusions and recommendations from the MIDSA workshop.

For subscriptions, further information or enquiries, please contact

Customs Officials Advertising to Help Human Trafficking Victims


*Note: Human trafficking does not equal human smuggling.

SAN DIEGO – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are trying to reach out to human smuggling victims through advertisements featured in major cities, including San Diego. Advertisements posted on billboards and transit shelters with the slogan, “Hidden in Plain Sight” were put on display in June around San Diego county.

The goal is to educate the public about the existence of human trafficking in the country and urge them to report such crimes, officials said. “These victims are domestic servants, sweat shop employees, sex workers and others lured here by the promise of prosperity, then forced to work without the ability to leave their situation,” Miguel Unzueta, special agent-in-charge in San Diego, said in a news release.

In addition to San Diego, advertisements have been posted in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, Baltimore and New York City. Displays are also planned for Houston Miami and Washington D.C. People can make anonymous tips to ICE agents at (866)347-2423.

Philippines: Life Imprisonment for the Country’s 11th Human Trafficking Convict


By Gemma Bagayaua

A Batangas court recently sentenced a woman to life imprisonment after finding her guilty of trafficking minors for sexual exploitation.

Apart from the prison sentence, Batangas Regional Trial Court Judge Florencio S. Arellano also ordered the accused to pay a fine of P2million apart from P50,000 for moral damages to each of her victims in a decision promulgated June 30, 2008.

The verdict was the culmination of a three-year case that began in March 2005, when the woman was nabbed by authorities at the Batangas pier while accompanying seven girls.

The suspect in this case is only the 11th person convicted of human trafficking since the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act was enacted in 2003.

The accused and her victims were en route to Sabang, Puerto Galera when a security guard on duty at the passenger terminal noticed the “young looking” girls and tipped off authorities.

The girls later told authorities they were recruited by the accused in Quezon City and Mandaluyong City, and were initially promised employment as waitresses in Batangas City. En route, they learned that their actual destination was Sabang Disco in Puerto Galera were they were supposed to work as Guest Relations Officers (GROs) with instructions to entertain guests and have sex with them in exchange for large sums of money.

At the time, two of the victims were minors—aged 15 and 16. We’re withholding the names of both the accused and the victims due to the law’s provisions on confidentiality.

Read the full article

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Philippines: Anti-Trafficking Movement Hails Landmark Conviction

From the Visayan Forum Foundation:

A multi-sectoral network against trafficking in the Philippines led by Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) hails a landmark verdict handed down by a local judge in Batangas City last June 30 against a female trafficker who was sentenced serve life imprisonment and pay two million pesos for violating the anti-trafficking law.

Judge Florencio Arellano found the trafficker guilty of qualified trafficking defined under Section 4-A of RA 9208 known as Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 based on the complaint of two victims, who were then minors. They testified that they were supposed to be recruited as sex workers in Puerto Galera contrary to the original promise of being employed as waitresses in Batangas City.

Last March 2005, the victims, including two other minors and three women, were rescued by Batangas port security guards who later alerted the law enforcement to investigate on the trafficker who failed to explain the suspicious nature of the recruitment and present necessary details of the travel.

The court also ordered the trafficker to pay fifty thousand pesos for moral damages to each of the two victims who pursued the case with the assistance of the local anti-trafficking task force authorities and the half-way house protection services of VFFI.

VFFI President and Executive Director, Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda considers the promulgation as a “landmark conviction because the court gave weight to the testimony of the victims that their trafficker, during the initial stages of the recruitment, forced to check on their virginity and ages then told them they are fit to work as guest relations officers and that foreigners would demand them highly for sex-related services.”

“The court interpreted this as trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, even if the victims have not actually landed into prostitution. This should serve as a stern warning against traffickers that authorities are ready to warn, help and protect vulnerable victims as they pass through hotspots so we can prevent further exploitation,” says Flores-Oebanda.

The case was handled by the International Justice Mission (IJM) and the Batangas City Prosecutor’s Office with the support of the Batangas Anti-Trafficking Task Force.

Prior to this conviction, the Batangas Regional Trial Court has already sentenced two traffickers to six months of community services after pleading guilty to Section 11 of RA9208 for “use of trafficked persons.” According to Department of Justice tally, there have only been 11 convicted traffickers in seven cases under the RA 9208 in the country.

VFFI, a non-government organization established in 1991, works for the welfare and security of marginalized migrants, specifically the trafficked women and children and the domestic workers or kasambahays. VFFI provides assistance to trafficking victims through the halfway houses it operates in Manila, Batangas, Matnog, Davao, and Zamboanga.

VFFI will soon open the doors of three more halfway houses at the ports of Iloilo and Surigao and at the Manila International Airport . Trafficking victims are also given psycho-social services, trainings and legal assistance to name a few.

More info on VFFI