Tuesday, June 30, 2009

African Union starts campaign against human trafficking


16 June 2009 - Nearly 130, 000 people in sub-Saharan countries, and 230,000 in the Middle East and Northern Africa are in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, as a result of human trafficking. These International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates paint a grim picture of human trafficking in Africa. A greater number of trafficking victims of African origin are found within the continent, while a sizeable proportion constitutes victims who are transported to Western Europe and other parts of the world, according to a recent UN.GIFT report on global trafficking in persons.

The African Union has chosen the Day of the African Child, celebrated today [June 16], to launch AU.COMMIT, an initiative to fight human trafficking in Africa. This campaign seeks to put the fight against trafficking in persons as a priority on the development agenda of the continent. It also calls on African States to build on The Ouagadougou Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, which guides AU Member States in developing and reforming their policies and laws on trafficking in persons.

Many African countries still do not have legislation on human trafficking, or they have laws that criminalize only some aspects of human trafficking (such as child trafficking).

"Such a campaign is badly needed" says UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. "The evidence available tells a woeful tale of how many regions of Africa are highly vulnerable to trafficking. Shockingly, in West and Central Africa, most of the perpetrators are women. Across the continent, many of the victims are children," he adds.

UNODC as the guardian of the world's anti-human trafficking instrument, innovator of the Global Initiative to fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), and provider of technical assistance, supports the African Union initiative. UNODC also collaborates with the African Union under the framework of the implementation of the AU Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention.

From the African Union:

I. Introduction to AU.COMMIT Campaign

Recently, the fight against trafficking in human beings has gained more prominent place in the international and regional forums pertaining to global governance. This is particularly true with regard to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) programme and the Blue Heart Campaign. In addition, the recent Sixth African Development Forum, jointly organized by the UN-Economic Commission for Africa, African Development Bank, and the African Union calls for the popularization and implementation of the Ouagadougou Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings Especially Women and Children (the Ouagadougou Action Plan). Similarly,the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership (Lisbon Action Plan) particularly the Africa-EU Partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment calls for more action to combat trafficking in persons.

II. Justification

The Department of Social Affairs (DSA) of the African Union Commission (AUC) in its 2009-2012 Strategic Plan and 2008 Programme of Activities has provided several initiatives with regard to the popularization and implementation of the AU policies on migration and development, one of which is the Ouagadougou Action Plan.The AU Commission Initiative against Trafficking (AU.COMMIT) Campaign is one of the major Programme of Activities of DSA on Migration and Development for 2009-2012.

At the centre of the AU.COMMIT Campaign is the implementation of the Ouagadougou Action Plan. The Ouagadougou Action Plan urges Member States and RECs to utilize the same action plan as a reference to develop and reform their policies and laws on trafficking in persons. It also requests the AUC in consultation with the International Organization for Migration and other relevant partners, to assist Member States and RECs with its implementation and development of a follow-up mechanism. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission is also to report periodically on the implementation of the Ouagadougou Action Plan. It further calls the International Community to continue providing assistance towards the attainment of the objectives contained in the Ouagadougou Action Plan.

This concept paper provides the major components of the launch of the AU.COMMIT Campaign.

The official launch of the AU.COMMIT Campaign is to be conducted in a such a way that the messages could be heard louder than before, while raising awareness of the AU’s continued commitment towards tackling the problem of trafficking in human beings in a more strategic and programmatic manner. The launch will thus serve to communicate the overall objectives and messages of the AU. COMMIT Campaign through media and press coverage.
The AU Commission believes that through the launch of the AU.COMMIT Campaign on prevention of trafficking, protection of victims of trafficking and prosecution of traffickers, it will be able to contribute its share to the global fight against trafficking in persons.

For the general and specific objectives, participants, expected outcomes, format and activities of launch, as well as a list of working and background documents, please click here.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fighting the Good Fight

*Photo from America.gov

I have to admit that I did not really buy into the idea of the anti-trafficking “heroes” that are listed in the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. I bet if you talked to many of the heroes on the list, they will tell you that they were only doing what they felt they had to do. Please do not get me wrong, I knew these heroes were doing amazing work but I have always found the term a bit cheesy.

However, this year, I was forced to change my mind when Vera Lesko was named a 2009 TIP Report Hero. I met Vera in 2007 while conducting research on human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Albania and the surrounding region. I traveled to Vlora in southwestern Albania to meet and chat with Vera and tour the Vatra (“Hearth”) Center. The Hearth opened its doors in 1997 as an NGO dedicated to helping young people in need.

Vera saw the need to focus on trafficking because this was the biggest problem at the time in that part of Albania for young people, particularly women. As a result, Vatra opened a shelter in 2001, the first shelter for trafficking survivors in Albania. One of the first things that I noticed about this shelter that set it apart from others was the atmosphere. While people were sad, this was not a place of sadness. There was hope in this place and a tremendous force for good, personified by the amazing Vera Lesko.

While the 2009 TIP Report Heros blurb glosses over it, Vera was facing a number of serious obstacles to her work at the time that I met her. Funding for the shelter had all but dried up, she had received some small awards from the US & UK Embassies in Albania but the rent for the shelter and linked apartments was expensive. Further, Vera looked wan and wore a headscarf because she was battling breast cancer. She was having trouble paying her medical bills and had to travel regularly to Italy to get cancer treatments. Vera had also suffered public beatings as a result of her work helping the most vulnerable in society.

What you do not read in the TIP Report is that the state police protection for Vatra was taken away. Vera was forced to hire a private security firm, yet another drain on her expenses. The local and national government have gone numerous times to Vatra to check that it is “up to standards” but, as Vera wryly pointed out to me, she helped to write the standards. Even though the government tried to block her work, Vera persevered. She managed not only to keep the shelter open but to expand the scope of her work. I am honored to have had the opportunity to meet Vera and I still marvel at her pioneering spirit.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a hero is “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a [wo]man admired for her achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage.” While I normally eschew this type of terminology, Vera is the very definition of a hero. The amount of courage she has displayed in fighting trafficking is truly awe inspiring. Vera gives me hope that we can make a difference in the fight against trafficking, that we can ultimately win, even when the odds are so severely against us. Not only has Vera shown great courage in fighting trafficking, she has done so in a frequently hostile environment and, what is more, she has inspired others to do the same.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Intervew: Brittany Heenan, Invisible Children

On April 25th, 2009, Invisible Children held The Rescue all over the world (100 cities across 10 countries). The event garnered significant media attention to raise awareness about child soldiers in Uganda. Invisible Children started in 2003 in response to the abducting of children in Uganda who are then enslaved and used as soldiers. I interviewed Brittany Heenan about her experience participating in The Rescue. Brittany is a student at the University of Missouri who is actively involved with Invisible Children and anti-trafficking work.

JK: Can you describe your experiences with the Rescue in your own words?

BH: On April 25th, I drove to St. Louis, MO and met up with 500 others to sleep under the Arch. We waited and waited. We called political leaders like Claire McCaskill. We left notes at the front desk of Taylor Swift's hotel. We made signs and caught the attention of the media. Finally on Sunday we were lucky enough to be rescued by St. Louis Rams football player, Chris Chamberlain.

Immediately, a caravan of devoted Rescue Riders rode to Wichita, KS to wait to be rescued. Finally, over 500 people met at the last city: Chicago, IL. 6 days after abducting ourselves, we choreographed a song and dance to perform outside of Oprah's studio. By this point we were going to be picky. We would not settle for anyone but Oprah or Obama to rescue us.

On the morning of the 7th day of being abducted, we headed back to Oprah's studio at 3:00am. Around 5:00am we surrounded her studio, shoulder to shoulder with peace signs in the air. She drove up and invited the three founders of Invisible Children inside to talk about what was going on. She agreed to give us a spot on her show. Friday, May 1 at 9:00am we were finally rescued!

JK: What did you learn from this experience?

BH: I learned that not everyone is going to understand the point of raising awareness. I learned that getting people involved is not as easy as it seems. But I learned that it doesn't hurt to try to inform these people of the atrocities going on in other countries.

JK: What did you take away from participating in the Rescue?

BH: This was a life altering experience. I realized that "a bunch of kids" just got Oprah's attention. Which means we have finally reached the hearts of America. This was a huge step towards freeing these enslaved children.

JK: What motivated you to participate in the Rescue?

BH: Children all over the world are being forced to do things they don't and shouldn't want to do. I can't imagine me at 8 years old carrying around an AK-47. I hated guns when I was 8. I played with Barbies. Why should a child not be allowed to live the life of a child? I've come to realize that I can change this. Me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

DOJ to Rate US Anti-Trafficking Performance

June 16th, 2009 marked the release of the ninth annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) from the State Department, which adheres to the same format and Tier-ranking system as previous reports. There are more countries on the watchlist and more nations are potentially subject to sanctions for failing to comply with the minimum anti-trafficking standards in US law. However, there is definitely something new this year.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told us, in her introductory remarks, that, for the first time ever, the United States will rank its own performance on anti-trafficking. Secretary Clinton noted, that:

“To coincide with this year’s Global Trafficking in Persons Report, the Department of Justice is releasing its own report, which describes the problem of human trafficking in the United States and offers recommendations for how we can do a better job of fighting it.

We’re grateful for the DOJ's work. It will help us advance our struggle against trafficking in our own country. And we are committed to working with all nations collaboratively. In recent years we’ve pursued a comprehensive approach reflected by the three Ps: prosecution, protection, and prevention. Well, it’s time to add a fourth: partnership.”

The State Department has been praised for the accuracy of the TIP Report. I even heard colleagues of mine in Albania claiming it was more accurate about trafficking conditions in Albania than the information produced by their government. However, a major point of criticism has been that the US has refused to rank its own progress in fighting trafficking in the TIP Report. The release of the Department of Justice report that describes trafficking in the US, along with recommendations for improvement, will go some way towards ameliorating this criticism. Advocates are quite happy that we will finally apply the US ranking system, including ranking the US on the tier system, to the country where it was created.

While this is a step in the right direction, it still is not equivalent to ranking the United States in the TIP Report tier system along with all the other countries. Part of the problem is that this promotes the feeling that the US feels it is an outlier, an exception to the global phenomenon of trafficking. Perhaps the State Department felt that a separate report on the United States would be more comprehensive, which is a valid point. However, this does not preclude the inclusion of the US in the TIP Report. Additionally, what we really need is a report that ranks each individual state in the US because, while there is universally applicable federal legislation, laws are different depending on the state you happen to reside in. Or, if you are like me and live in the nebulous territory known as the District of Columbia, there is even another set of rules.

If we are to believe Secretary Clinton’s words, that partnership with other countries to fight trafficking will become the fourth P of our comprehensive strategy, we need to start reflecting this in our reporting strategy and our conceptualization of trafficking within the United States.

Click here to read Secretary Clinton’s full remarks at the release of the 2009 TIP Report.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Interview: Charles Lee, Co-Founder of the Freeze Project

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Charles Lee, co-founder of the Freeze Project, about the project, its aims, and his views on anti-trafficking activism.

What is the Freeze Project?

According to the Freeze Project website, a typical Freeze event looks something like this:
  • Participants will be asked to show up a designated time and place.
  • Participants will then proceed to the “Freeze” space and blend themselves into a crowd as if they were regulars in that particular environments (e.g., malls, events, outdoor shopping areas, etc.).
  • A cue will be given by the director of the Freeze moment.
  • Participants will then stop what they were doing and stay frozen for the next 5 minutes until they receive another cue telling them that the freeze is over.
  • Following the freeze, participants will handout a couple of print material each to people observing them (with or without conversation).
Freeze events have taken place at seven locations in the last year. Lee says that right now people are taking the basic idea, running with it, and making it their own. For many different organizations, the Freeze Project model provides a tool that can be adopted and then adapted all over. The model provides flexibility, allowing organizations to combine a Freeze with other events or activities, or to reshape the Freeze concept to meet their groups’ individual needs.

How did it start?

Inspired by the
Improv Everywhere group of NY, the Freeze Project began as a creative way to raise awareness and mobilize action. According to Lee, the heart of the Project is bringing awareness to social issues, such as human trafficking. Rather than activism efforts that can be intrusive or confrontational, Lee suggests that there is a need for awareness raising events that are more accessible and less alienating.

Why is this movement important?

Originally begun as a social experiment, Lee says that the Freeze project is an easy entry point to pull people in. While it may seem like the main goal of the event is to raise awareness in the spectators, as Lee pointed out to me, the events are especially powerful for participants. After being involved in a Freeze, there is a good chance that participants will never forget the issue of slavery. And from there, Lee says, people are almost compelled to get involved and take further action.

Lee notes that it is easy for people to have compassion from a distance; in the age of Facebook and other similar sites, it’s easy to connect to a cause on a superficial level. For Lee, one of the advantages of the Freeze Project is that it gets people to physically do something, and partially because the events are so memorable, they can be the first step for people to go deeper on the issues- Lee doesn’t want people’s anti-trafficking work to end with participating in a Freeze.

How did you first learn about trafficking?

Lee began studying human trafficking about six years ago after learning about it from friends. Like many involved in the anti-trafficking movement, Lee found that once he learned about modern day slavery, he had to take action.

Lee co-founded
Just 4 One, an organization that focuses on human trafficking, poverty, and orphans. The organization’s human trafficking work ranges from awareness raising campaigns to opening shelters for survivors. Lee’s work focuses on building networks between those who are just learning about slavery and want to do something and those on the front lines. His goal is to connect people to grounded, practical ideas and initiatives that they can engage in.

How can people get involved in the anti-trafficking movement?

Lee’s passion for this work came through clearly when I asked him what people can do to support the Freeze Project and anti-trafficking work in general. His first response was that people need to read up on slavery and learn about human trafficking today. Though it might seem basic, from that knowledge people gain creativity on how to fight the issue. Lee also encourages people to keep modern slavery in the forefront of people’s minds.
On a deeper level, Lee points out that the movement to end slavery needs people from all different professions: from lawyers to writers to social workers to business people to actors to graphic designers who will make fighting slavery their career. Lee also mentioned the need for better prosecutors to convict traffickers, legislators to work on policy, service providers for survivors and people to work on prevention.

Ultimately, the Freeze Project serves as a first step towards creatively engaging a diverse audience to join the fight against slavery.

Visit the Freeze Project website

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Excerpt- The Slave Next Door Pt. I

Ron Soodalter


It is important to look at the federal government’s actions – both positive and negative – in its relatively new war against human trafficking in America. Many federal officials have taken on the task of rooting out and prosecuting traffickers, as well as coordinating with service providers and victim advocates providing care for survivors. We’ll speak with representatives of some of the federal agencies whose job description has been expanded to include modern day slavery, and get a sense of how they feel the campaign is going. We’ll also examine some cases that seem to stand in direct contradiction to the anti-trafficking position taken by the government – cases in which administration politics and inaction have actually increased human trafficking on American soil - both here and abroad. One of the worst of these cases involves tax-payer money supporting slavery as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Bringing democracy to Iraq – on the backs of slaves

First Kuwaiti General Trade and Contracting Co., a billion-dollar construction company, was hired to build the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad – after no American company would agree to the government’s terms. The project is worth $592 million to First Kuwaiti, and encompasses a 104-acre, 21-building complex, making it the largest U.S. embassy in the world. When completed, it will be six times larger than the United Nations, and the same size as Vatican City. From the beginning First Kuwaiti had difficulty in fulfilling the terms of its contract. Serious problems piled up: faulty wiring, fuel leaks, and poor construction. Some of the problems were determined to be “life safety issues.” And while the day-to-day fire fight was going on in Baghdad, a war of words was being waged between the State Department in Washington, who defended their contractors, and those on the ground in Iraq, who were suffering from substandard work, and delays.

Boondoggles, pork barrels, and shoddy work are scandalous, but it was another, uglier issue that brought First Kuwaiti to the world’s attention. Some of their contract workers had been trafficked to Iraq against their will, held by force, and paid little or nothing. First Kuwaiti – and by association, the U.S. Department of State – were using slave labor to build the embassy. Taxpayers were footing the bill. The idea of a U.S. subcontractor trafficking enslaved workers into the country where we are waging a war to introduce freedom and democracy, is unthinkable. And yet, in case after case, the construction company hired workers, normally through sub-contractors, from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Turkey, and the Philippines under false pretenses. Falsely promised work in Dubai, they were landed in a combat zone. Once in Iraq contractors confiscated the workers’ passports, forced them to live in squalid conditions, and to work long hours for little or no pay. And, says journalist David Phinney, “It was all happening smack in the middle of the US-controlled Green Zone—right under the nose of the State Department….”

The Slave Next Door by Ron Soodalter and Kevin Bales:

Tens of thousands of people from every part of the globe (including U.S. citizens) are living in slavery today in America. They are controlled by violence, paid nothing, and forced to work until they die, escape, or are rescued. Authors Ron Soodalter and Kevin Bales describe this horrific condition in their definitive book,
The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, which presents for the first time, a comprehensive and compelling account of modern-day slavery in the Land of the Free.

Excerpt- The Slave Next Door Pt. II

Ron Soodalter


The issue came to light after the murder of 12 Nepali workers who had been “recruited under false pretenses from rural villages…before being trafficked illegally into Iraq.” En route to a U.S. base in Iraq, all twelve were kidnapped and executed by insurgents. The subcontractor had “sent them into the war zone, and along one of the most dangerous roads in the world, in what basically amounted to taxi cabs.” Ali Kamel al-Nadi, the man who allegedly assembled the unprotected caravan, commented when asked about the incident, “If they were my workers, maybe I should be compensated for losing them.”

Despite the fact that foreign workers had been complaining of abuses since early 2003, the problem was first flagged in a news report in late 2005. The report provoked a flurry of base inspections by the government. In April 2006, the Pentagon, without naming any of the subcontractors to Halliburton/KBR, concluded that “doing business in this way” was common in Iraq and Afghanistan. The confiscation of workers’ passports kept the laborers from leaving Iraq, the report stated, or from seeking jobs with other contractors. No penalties were assigned to the contractors. Nonetheless, the Pentagon ordered that all passports be returned, and that such practices “cease and desist” immediately.

They didn’t. In July 2007, two American civilian contractors who had worked on the embassy testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by California congressman Henry A. Waxman. One of the two, native Floridian John Owens, had worked for 27 years building U.S. embassies around the world, sometimes in areas troubled by violence and corruption. But after working for seven months as a foreman in Iraq, he quit. “I’ve never seen a project more fucked up. Every U.S. labor law was broken,” he said. Owens testified that the workers’ living and working conditions were “deplorable,” and described how they were “verbally and physically abused,” forced to live in cramped trailers, denied basic needs like shoes and gloves, made to work 12-hour days, seven days a week, with time off only for prayer, and “had their salaries docked for petty infractions.”

The second contractor to testify was Rory J. Mayberry. He told the committee that First Kuwaiti managers had asked him to escort 51 Filipino workers onto a flight to Baghdad. The plane, Mayberry recalled, was an unmarked 52-seater – “an antique piece of shit.” Mayberry noted with surprise that “all of our tickets said we were going to Dubai,” whereupon a First Kuwaiti manager told him not to let any of the laborers know they were going to Iraq. John Owens recalled the same experience when he saw the workers’ boarding passes: “I thought there was some sort of mix up and I was getting on the wrong plane.” In Mayberry’s words, the workers were “kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work on the U.S. Embassy.” After their passports were taken in Baghdad, they were “smuggled into the Green Zone.”

Excerpt- The Slave Next Door Pt. III

Ron Soodalter


Mayberry, an emergency medical technician, was horrified at the number of injuries and ailments among the 2,500 or so foreign laborers. Infected, unattended, sores and unbandaged wounds were common. There was a lack of disinfectant, hot water, any form of hygiene. Prescription pain killers, he testified, “were being handed out like a candy store…and then people were sent back to work... I told First Kuwaiti that you don’t give painkillers to people who are running machinery and working on heavy construction and they said, ‘that’s how we do it.’” After he requested an investigation into the deaths of two laborers as a result of what he believes could have been “medical homicide,” Mayberry was fired.

Owens confirmed the inhumane treatment. He testified that health and safety measures were non-existent, and that serious injuries took place as a result. When he advised workers to seek medical help for their injuries and illnesses, he was accused by the firm’s managers of “spoiling the workers and allowing them to simply skip work.” At one point, 17 laborers tried to escape by climbing over the wall; they were recaptured - with the help of a State Department official - and put in “virtual lockdown.”

First Kuwaiti responded in writing that the charges were “ludicrous.” State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard disputed the charges in a follow-up hearing, stating that his “limited review” and two visits to Baghdad had failed to verify the claims: “Nothing came to our attention that caused us to believe that trafficking-in-persons violations” – or any other serious abuses – “occurred at the construction workers’ camp at the new embassy compound.” In a written submission the anti-slavery organization Free the Slaves pointed to serious flaws in Krongard’s report. They noted that the State Department’s own Trafficking in Persons Report for 2007 revealed “a structure conducive to trafficking in persons” throughout much of the Middle East. This includes sponsorship laws that give employers control over workers’ ability to leave the work site, their job or the country. The TIP report observed “employers commonly do not provide workers with documents legitimizing their employment in the country … and refuse to sign exit permits allowing victims to leave the country, effectively holding the worker hostage.” Most damning, the Free the Slaves submission showed that while Krongard had gone to investigate a charge of human trafficking, he failed “to recognize the significance of, and appropriately characterize as warning signs: … the contractor’s practice of holding employee passports; terms of employment that raise concerns about exploitation, including the amount of payment relative to national standards, payment by the month rather than the day or hour, and a 14 day workweek, with no days off; the requirement to prepay recruitment, travel or other fees before obtaining control of earnings; and the fact that most workers interviewed either originated in countries whose laws prohibit work in Iraq, because of the strong possibility of abuse, and/or whose countries are identified by State’s TIP report as having a significant number of victims of severe trafficking to the Middle East.”

For his part, Chairman Waxman was also dissatisfied with Krongard’s methodology and conclusions. The inspector general, said Waxman, “had followed highly irregular procedures in exonerating the prime contractor, First Kuwaiti Trading Company, of charges of labor trafficking.” On September 18, 2007, Waxman began an inquiry into accusations that Krongard had repeatedly hindered fraud and abuse investigations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The allegations were supported by information from several of Krongard’s current and former employees, some of whom sought whistleblower status to protect them from punishment for malfeasance. Congressman Waxman stated to Krongard, “One consistent element in these allegations is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than act as an independent and objective check on waste, fraud and abuse on behalf of U.S. taxpayers.”

The Slave Next Door Released Today 6/18

If I could condense all of the fantastic information and insight put into The Slave Next Door by Ron Soodalter and Kevin Bales into a training session, no one would ever leave without having a much greater understanding of the complexities of human trafficking, the wide profiles of victims and traffickers or the history and current status of the modern counter-trafficking movement in the U.S.

Bales and Soodalter tackle some of the most difficult issues embedded in the counter-trafficking movement with discernment and respect for the dozens of victims and field experts interviewed for the content. Topics such as prostitution, government and NGO relations, policy and legislation, the seeming pervasiveness of slave-made goods in a consumer culture, among many others receive balanced consideration and attention. It takes a purposeful sensitivity to discuss these issues and do so without demonizing every element of our society that either at one point has or still is involved in modern day slavery; and yet this book is able to bring together a wide range of cases and arguments to provide the reader with constant stimulus to rethink what trafficking is and how we tackle it with a multi-sector approach. This includes the heroic actions of ordinary citizens in the past, and a detailed message about what people can do to take action now. Although the actions may seem a heavy burden, and any actions that individuals take should always be informed by what is already going on in the community, there is a lot to take away from the material in the action-oriented sections.

This book will be a tremendous asset if you want to better understand human trafficking in the United States. Some, if not most of the information will shock you, particularly the stories of how people have been lured and exploited everywhere from the quiet suburbs to sleepy rural areas to busy city neighborhoods. Some, if not most of the information will force you to look inward and reflect on which societal and individual habits in the U.S. contribute to an environment conducive to trafficking. In the end, you will be more informed as a member of your local and international community, which, from my perspective, was the ultimate goal of the book.

To purchase a copy, please visit the following sites:
Barnes and Noble

And please re-visit HTP today to catch an excerpt from The Slave Next Door!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

State Department Video Coverage of 2009 TIP Report Release

Please find a link to HTP's previous post and the full report here.

New York Assembly Passes Law Vacating Prostitution Convictions for Sex Trafficking Victims

A Press Release from the Sex Worker's Project at the Urban Justice Center:

Anti-trafficking Advocates Call for Swift Action on Bill in the Senate

NEW YORK CITY (June 16, 2009) – Today the New York State Assembly took a critical step toward enabling victims of human trafficking to wipe away prostitution convictions resulting from coerced involvement in sex work. A.B. 7670, introduced by
Assemblymember Gottfried, Chair of the Committee on Health, passed the Assembly unanimously this afternoon. The bill has now been referred to the Senate, where an identical bill introduced by Senator Tom Duane is pending before the Senate Codes Committee.

“In our experience, people trafficked into prostitution are often repeatedly arrested, in some cases up to ten times, in police raids on brothels and other sex work venues, convicted of prostitution, and even sentenced to jail without the police or courts recognizing that they need help,” said Andrea Ritchie, Director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center (SWP). “As a result, these trafficking victims often carry with them the burden of a prostitution conviction for conduct they engaged in against their will.”

“Even after they have escaped their abusers, it is extremely hard for people who were trafficked into sex work to start a new life with a long “rap sheet” of prostitution convictions,” added Sienna Baskin, a staff attorney with the SWP who worked with a broad coalition of anti-trafficking advocates to build support for the bill. “Unfortunately, a conviction for prostitution leaves them with significantly fewer options for legal employment, potentially shut out of public housing, vulnerable to eviction from private housing, and at risk of loss of custody of their children. For immigrants, a record of prostitution can be fatal to an application for residency or citizenship. This bill would allow victims of trafficking to clear their records and start fresh.”

“This is really a common sense, humanitarian measure,” Ritchie emphasized. “What victims of trafficking need most is the stability that housing, employment, and legal immigration status provide. They should not suffer ongoing punishment, in the form of the widespread collateral consequences of a prostitution conviction, for acts they committed unwillingly under coercion.”

“Trafficking victims deserve real chance at a safe and stable life once they have escaped their abusers, free of the lifelong stigma and civil consequences of a prior conviction for prostitution,” Baskin said. “We are extremely grateful to Assemblymember Gottfried and Senator Duane for their vision and compassion in introducing this measure on their behalf.”

The bill, the brainchild of Assemblymember Gottfried, has broad support in the Assembly, with more than 30 Assemblymembers signed on as cosponsors or multi-sponsors. It also enjoys broad support in the anti-trafficking movement among service providers and advocates, as well as among the legal profession, law enforcement, and sex workers rights organizations. It is one of several bills whose passage SWP has identified as critical to promoting and protecting the rights of individuals involved in the sex industries, whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion. More information on SWP’s legislative agenda is available at

No vote on the bill’s Senate counterpart, S.B. 4429 is currently scheduled, although supporters hope that it will pass before the end of the current legislative session.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Role of State Policy to Combat Trafficking

In December 2008, Congress reauthorized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a piece of federal legislation designed to fight human trafficking and protect victims and survivors. With this federal legislation in place, state-level officials may feel that state laws and policy are superfluous.

After doing various awareness raising, lobbying, and advocacy visits to state senators and representatives in Missouri, I know first-hand about this belief on their part. However, states have an incredibly important role to play in addressing human trafficking.

State legislation is necessary for a number of reasons. Perhaps most obviously, state anti-trafficking laws are needed for situations where cases cannot be prosecuted federally. Those situations tend to be rare, though, and state laws cannot stop there. Policy at the state level can address local contexts and needs in ways that federal policy cannot, and federal policy without state support is often mere rhetoric.

In her article “The Role of the State Attorney General in Combating Human Trafficking,” Johanna Coats acknowledges that state efforts have trailed federal efforts. She also argues that state-level policy and resources are needed for combating trafficking in persons, particularly for identifying victims. A 2007 State Report Card from the Center for Women Policy Studies, though, mainly gave out Fs to states for their anti-trafficking efforts (less than 4% were As).

At the same time, states have implemented innovative legislation to address human trafficking. In 2007, Texas passed a bill to require that all establishments that sell alcohol – aside from restaurants – post information about human trafficking and trafficking hotlines. This bill was introduced because so many victims were being transported through these establishments. Since one of the main challenges facing anti-trafficking work today is simply identifying victims, similar bills that take into consideration the local context could lead to great strides in finding and helping victims.

Minnesota State Rep. Lesch introduced a bill this session that would require public training and education about trafficking. States can and should take action, and in some cases they are; more efforts that are attuned to the local context are needed, though. Ultimately, states cannot abdicate responsibility for fighting human trafficking to the federal level. States are in a unique position to combat human trafficking, and I urge you to be informed about state policy and legislation, and to take action. Polaris Project and the Center for Women Policy Studies monitor human trafficking legislation, and both groups have more information about this topic.

2009 US TIP Report Released

From AP:

US expands human trafficking watchlist
By Matthew Lee

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Tuesday expanded the U.S. watchlist of countries suspected of not doing enough to combat human trafficking, putting more than four dozen nations on notice that they might face sanctions unless their records improve.

The State Department's annual "Trafficking in Persons Report," the first released since President Barack Obama took office, placed 52 countries and territories — mainly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East — on the watchlist. That number is a 30 percent jump from the 40 countries on the list in 2008.

Several previously cited nations were removed from the list, but new countries cited for human trafficking problems include Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iraq, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates.
The report also placed the Netherlands' Antilles, a self-governing Dutch territory in the Caribbean, on the watchlist.

"With this report, we hope to shine the light brightly on the scope and scale of modern slavery so all governments can see where progress has been made and where more is needed," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said as she released the 320-page document.

Inclusion on the watchlist means those countries' governments are not fully complying with minimum standards set by U.S. law for cooperating in efforts to reduce the rise of human trafficking — a common denominator in the sex trade, coerced labor and recruitment of child soldiers.

If a country appears on the list for two consecutive years, it can be subject to U.S. sanctions.
Seventeen nations, up from 14 in 2008, are now subject to the trafficking sanctions, which can include a ban on non-humanitarian and trade-related aid and U.S. opposition to loans and credits from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The penalties can be waived if the president determines it is in U.S. national interest to do so.

Those 17 countries include traditional U.S. foes like Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, but also American allies and friends such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Malaysia, another U.S. partner, was added to the list of worst offenders as were Zimbabwe, Chad, Eritrea, Mauritania, Niger, and Swaziland.

"The ninth annual Trafficking in Persons Report sheds light on the faces of modern-day slavery and on new facets of this global problem. The human trafficking phenomenon affects virtually every country, including the United States. In acknowledging America’s own struggle with modern-day slavery and slavery-related practices, we offer partnership. We call on every government to join us in working to build consensus and leverage resources to eliminate all forms of human trafficking."--Secretary Clinton, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009


White vans
ditch border town—swerving
shepherds rushing west

in the desert dusk

where lightning glitters

like moths crowding

the moon, gagging

the dune

gust. Two girls per

cage—counting crucifixes

out the window,

the soul sections inscribed

across the border’s net

where a panorama

of cacti silhouette


like eyewitnesses

dodging a charge.

Internship opportunity with the Somaly Mam Foundation

Marketing/ Business Intern

Location: Home-based, Detroit area, Michigan, United States
Organization: Somaly Mam Foundation
Area of Focus: Children and Youth, Human Rights and Civil Liberties, Women's Issues
Skill(s): fundraising
End date: December 12, 2009
Language(s): English
Start date: June 12, 2009
Last day to apply: June 30, 2009
Paid or unpaid: Unpaid

We are looking for two full-time, intelligent, and driven undergraduate, graduate, or post graduate interns to assist on an international human rights campaign. The ideal candidate will have a background in marketing, business, fundraising, and research. An interest in law is also helpful. The ideal candidate will leave near Ann Arbor and/or Detroit, have their own laptop, with access to internet and email. The candidate should also be familiar with Power Point. Most of the work will be home-based, but there may be some travel involved to the Detroit area. The internship is unpaid.

To apply:
Please email sbeasley@somaly.org. In the title of the email, please write: "Marketing/Business Internship" Please attach your resume to the email, and provide a brief description of your background in marketing and business in the body of the email.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Schumer Promises New Authority to Feds in Smuggling Cases

*Picture from Senator Schumer's Bio

Please read the release below carefully
Schumer Promises Napolitano He Will Propose Giving Feds New Authority To Seise 'Stash' Houses Used By Human Smugglers
Current 'Civil Forfeiture' Laws Allow Government To Confiscate Property Used In Drug Smuggling, Money Laundering and Child Porn Cases, But Not Human TraffickingIn Meeting
With DHS Secretary, Senator Commits To Pursuing Fix For Loophole As Part Of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Planned For Later This Year
GAO Report Recommended This Step Four Years Ago In Order To Disrupt Human Smuggling Networks
WASHINGTON, DC—At the urging of the Obama administration, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) announced Wednesday that he would push, as part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill he plans to propose in the coming months, to give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) new authority to seize property linked to human trafficking crimes.

Schumer, the Chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, made the commitment at a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who requested that Congress deal with this issue. Under current law, federal authorities are prevented from taking a home used to stash illegal immigrants unless the owner is first found guilty of a crime. Schumer’s proposal would allow the house to be seized based instead upon a showing that it was being used to facilitate a crime. This is the same standard that applies in drug smuggling, money laundering and child pornography cases. Schumer called this update to the law “critical” to the nation’s border security efforts.

“Right now, a loophole in the law is making it harder to shut down safe houses being used to smuggle illegal immigrants. It makes no sense that the government has this authority in drug smuggling cases, but not with human smuggling. This policy needs to be fixed right away, and we will be sure to include it in our comprehensive reform bill. It will put a serious dent in the operations of the Mexican cartels that deal in human trafficking.”

Gaining the expanded authority, known as “civil forfeiture,” has been a priority for federal law enforcement officials since the Bush administration. While authorities have the ability to seize vessels and vehicles through a civil proceeding, they cannot seize homes in this same manner. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, a division of DHS, has long complained that this distinction has frustrated their efforts to crack down on human traffickers who use “stash houses” as way stations along their smuggling routes. A 2005 report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concurred, noting that “a concern for investigators is lack of adequate statutory civil forfeiture authority for seizing real property, such as ‘stash’ houses, used to facilitate the smuggling of aliens.” Despite the report’s recommendation that Congress update the law to expand civil forfeiture authority, it has ever been taken.

But on Wednesday, Schumer assured Napolitano he would begin drafting legislative language to expand the agency’s powers right away and add it to the comprehensive immigration reform bill he is drafting. He predicted the measure would gain bipartisan support.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I'm not sure if Schumer understands the difference between human smuggling and human trafficking. It is clear the author who wrote this AP article doesn't, which is where I originally found this release and became frustrated with the lack of distiction.
It's not to say that both cannot happen in the same case: victims can be smuggled and trafficked, but he hardly makes the distinction or the connection in his release. If the distinction cannot be made in the law, then we're in a lot of trouble. This would easily confuse someone who was unfamiliar with the difference between smuggling (a crime against the state) and trafficking (a crime against the individual). Not to mention the fact it makes me nervous that we are giving broad powers to agencies that have not been completely trained on human trafficking and run the risk of re-traumatizing victims when agents can't recognize the difference. I guess I am judging a bit early in the process of what this legislation would actually mean, but this "promise" does not start on a good note with me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Newest Contributer to HTP!

My name is Gardner Mounce and I'm a creative writing and philosophy major at the University of Memphis. I first became interested in the subject of human trafficking when, like others, I began to research online and learned of human trafficking's global prevalence and, more recently, its local presence in Memphis. I immediately called together the members of the arts group I'm involved with (continuumarts.com) and began hosting a series of open mic benefits around the city to raise money and awareness. I have always been passionate about art and am a strong believer in its ability to unite people if beauty and truth are allowed to transcend it, especially in areas concerning human rights.

I hope to offer a new perspective to HTP that helps further enrich its terrific efforts. My posts will generally carry a photo and poem of mine, the photo reflecting some aspect of the poem. The poems will vary in their direct relation to human trafficking as a theme, and will likely explore subthemes such as childhood, lost innocence, human dignity, etc.

Wisconsin Couple Re-sentenced in Trafficking Case

From the DOJ:

Wisconsin Couple Sentenced for Forcing a Woman to Work as Their Domestic Servant for 19 Years

Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife, Elnora Calimlim, both medical doctors in Milwaukee, Wis., were each sentenced today to 72 months in prison for forcing a woman to work as their domestic servant and illegally harboring her for 19 years in their Brookfield, Wis., residence.

The defendants, initially sentenced on Nov. 16, 2006, to four-year prison terms each, were re-sentenced today, after the Court of Appeals identified legal errors in the initial sentencing and remanded to the trial court for re-sentencing.

On May 26, 2006, Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and Elnora Calimlim were convicted by a Milwaukee federal jury for using threats of serious harm and physical restraint against a Filipina to obtain her services, in violation of federal law. Jefferson Calimlim Jr. was convicted of harboring an illegal alien.

According to evidence presented at trial, Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife recruited and brought the victim from the Philippines to the U.S. in 1985 when she was 19 years old. In September 2004, federal law enforcement officers responding to a tip removed the victim, then age 38, from the Calimlim’s residence through the execution of a federal search warrant. The victim testified that for 19 years she was hidden in the Calimlim’s home, forbidden from going outside and told that she would be arrested, imprisoned and deported if she was discovered.

"Our Constitution promises freedom to all," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The defendants denied the victim the basic right to her freedom. The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting those who prey on vulnerable members of our society and hold them in modern-day slavery."

"Human Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery and is simply not acceptable. No person should ever be forced to live in fear, virtual isolation and servitude," said Acting U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Jacobs for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. "The prosecution of human trafficking offenses is a top priority of the Justice Department, and our office is committed to aggressively pursuing these cases."

In Fiscal Year 2008, the Department brought a record number of human trafficking cases, including both the highest number of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases ever brought in a single year.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Johnson and Trial Attorney Susan French of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. The case was jointly investigated by the Milwaukee Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI.

We use this case a lot when we conduct trainings in Western New York, specifically because the jury was able to convict two people for trafficking and maintaining control of one woman for 19 years. It shows that juries are able to understand the element of this crime that is often most difficult to prove: force, fraud or coercion. Essentially, what was the intent of the trafficker and the mindset of the victim? In this case, to prove that the traffickers were able to keep control for 19 years means this was an exceptionally well-organized case and important to the counter-trafficking movement in general both on a court and law enforcement level, and on the level of average citizens who took part in the jury.

On the down side, this woman was held and forced to serve this couple for 19 years and her traffickers are now only serving 6 years each. Despite the positive fact that this couple was actually convicted for trafficking (as in the infrequent situation that traffickers are actually convicted of the exact crime as opposed to other related charges), the traffickers lose their freedom for not even half of the time they deprived the survivor of her freedom. This speaks to the way US law treats labor trafficking cases. Time to reconsider?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Putting a Price on the Cost of Forced Labor

From the VOA:

The International Labor Organization says criminals are making $20 billion a year from forced labor and that figure is substantially higher when profits from sexual exploitation are factored in. A new report launched by the ILO in Geneva finds the impact of the global economic and jobs crisis is worsening the forced labor problem.

New data from the International Labor Organization finds criminals now are making five times more in profits from forced labor than they did four years ago. At that time, the ILO reported they were making huge profits of $32 billion a year. That included $28 billion from sexual exploitation.

Roger Plant, heads the ILO's Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor, tells VOA illicit profits from forced labor are likely to be much more now.

"In 2005, we looked at $4 billion of profits outside the sex industry. We are now saying, we have a loss to the workers of $20 billion outside the sex industry. So, we are likely to be dealing with a much more serious problem, "he said.

That would add up to $52 billion, if the profits of sexual exploitation were the same.

The ILO calls forced labor a global problem. It says this form of modern slavery operates in multinational companies in industrialized countries, not just in the informal sector of developing countries.

The U.N. agency reports more than 12 million people around the world are trapped in all forms of forced labor. Between 40 and 50 percent are children under the age of 18. Plant says child labor is a particularly serious problem in West African countries. He adds the whole issue of forced labor has not received enough attention in Africa.

"For us, forced labor is a serious crime," added Plant. "It has to be dealt with through adequate penalties and it has to be strictly enforced. Sometimes in Africa, we found that there is a strong focus on slavery. But, sometimes quite low and weak penalties for a slaver. We also have got countries in West Africa where there has been a legacy of slavery and slavery-like conditions. These are quite serious problems that need to be strictly addressed."

The report finds people are forced to work very long hours under bad conditions for no pay or very little pay in a wide range of industries. It says forced labor is appearing in electronics, automobiles and modern textiles, as well as in brick kilns, small fishing boats and backward agriculture in developing countries.

In times of economic and financial crisis, it says migrants, including young women and children are more exposed to forced labor. Under conditions of hardship, the study notes vulnerable people will take more risks than before.

Click here for the Full Report.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Special Invitation to "Red Light" hosted at Japonais by Marie Claire

From the Redlight Children Campaign:


Thursday, June 4
111 E. 18th Street NY, NY

Join us at this red carpet, high profile cocktail event, featuring Japonais’ signature dishes, open bar from William Grant Portfolio, and entertainment provided by Dj Serg. Francky L’Official will style the Geisha hostesses with additional clothing and makeup design by Welden Layne and Vincent Oquendo from Artists by Next Agency.

Tickets at $40 in advance, $50 at the door.

VIP tickets including table service and gift bags $250.

All tickets include Japonais’ signature hors d’oeuvres and open bar from William Grant selection, 7-9PM.


$250: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=5441661

For VIP tables and corporate sponsorship payment information please contact Charlotte@priorityfilms.com

Proceeds benefit the RedLight Children Campaign, a non-affiliated 501(c)3 organization targeting all forms of child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and slavery. For more information please visit www.redlightchildren.org.

In conjunction with an extensive awareness and education campaign, RedLight Children works to create and implement more effective programs to decrease modern day slavery. Child sexual exploitation is a global epidemic affecting over 2 million children worldwide.

In the United States nearly 500,000 children, some younger than 10 years old, are being forced to work into the world of prostitution.
Most recently, the US State Department and Condoleezza Rice recognized RedLight Children for their work combating global human rights violations, awarding founder Guy Jacobson and RedLight Children the prestigious Global Hero anti-trafficking award.