Friday, January 30, 2009

OVC Web Forum on Labor Trafficking

This week, the Office for Victims of Crimes hosted a live web forum for victim service providers on labor trafficking. The Forum's guest hosts included Florrie Burke, the cochair of the Freedom Network (USA), a national network of service providers, attorneys, and other advocates who work with trafficked and enslaved persons and provide regional trainings throughout the country, and Katherine Kaufka, the executive director of the International Organization for Adolescents, and previously managed the counter-trafficking project at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Guests were allowed to submit questions and the hosts provided answers. Many of the questions and answers were quite specific to people working directly in victims services, however the forum is available to anyone to look at. With the permission of the OVC, here are some of the questions and answers.

Are statistics related labor trafficking available?

All statistics related to human trafficking are subject to interpretation. It has been difficult for researchers to get accurate numbers as the numbers are pulled from a variety of sources. Most of us think there are much higher numbers of trafficked persons than recorded. Many cases of labor trafficking are not recognized as such because investigators might not screen for trafficking, but look for labor violations or documents of residency only. Look at the reports from the ILO, the DOL, and other government reports to get some idea of the numbers being used. -Florrie Burke

Are statistics even accurate? Other than cases identified through the police involvement, what are the statistics based on?

Statistics are also gathered from Dept. of Justice --they count prosecutions. Health and Human Services counts certified victims, Vermont Service Center counts T Visas issued. For survivors who don't access these services or follow up on legal and immigration remedies--no count! -Florrie Burke

Particularly in labor cases, it is likely that law enforcement will encounter male victims. Since historically most victims of human trafficking are female (in my experience), I'm curious as to what you view as any special considerations for male trafficking victims. Thanks.

Please also look at a previous response about the differences with sex trafficking and labor trafficking survivors. I am glad you asked the question as male victims are often overlooked. They have issues of responsibility to family back home (females do also) and they have often suffered severe shame for being duped into a situation. This occurs with women too, but the effects often show up differently. Male victims do well if they are able to learn about the law and about their rights. They are often not comfortable receiving social services, but do have practical needs that must be attended to. Engaging them as full partners with a lot of control over their service plan is helpful. Finding emergency housing is a challenge and we need to be careful to avoid putting them in danger (homeless shelters.) Many male survivors have been able to become advocates and labor activists as a way to cope with their situation. I do not in any way mean to impart a sexist response here. I used some generalizations. I do, however, see differences in a response to male survivors. Cultural considerations are key. -Florrie Burke

To add to the previous comments, I think because of the perception that victims are usually female, boys and men sometimes get overlooked. I've worked with boys who encountered several first responders (i.e. local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, govt agency, service provider, etc.)before being identified as a victim of human trafficking. -Katherine Kaufka

What changes, if any, would you like to see happen on the Federal level regarding this topic? Do you think Obama being in office will make a difference?

On that note, I heard that a new TVPA was signed just recently. Do you see any issues that might come up with the new one?

We see advances already being made since the recent reauthorization of the federal law. President Obama has rescinded a previous directive that prohibited any agency receiving federal funds in other countries from working on reproductive rights. This is helpful for those NGOs in source and transit countries to do their prevention work on human trafficking. There needs to be better accountability, more transparency and more attention to the issue here in the U.S. and we are hopeful it will happen with the new administration. -Florrie Burke

The TVPRA 2008 was signed into law in Dec 2008. It provides enhancements for victim protections, greater transparency and accountability re funding, and sentencing enhancements (plus more - too much to type)! I hope that this administration will uphold enhancements to the TVPA, and keep agencies responsible for various provisions of the Act accountable. -Katherine Kaufka

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