Jennifer: In September, a federal grand jury in Hawaii brought an indictment against the president, three executives, and two labor contractors with Global Horizons "on charges that they imposed forced labor on some 400 Thai farm workers, in what justice officials called the biggest human-trafficking case ever brought by federal authorities," according to the New York Times. The workers were recruited from Thailand, and in 2007 they told reporters for the Seattle Weekly about their situation, which involved exorbitant debts, poor working conditions, little to no pay, threats, and document confiscation as a means to compel them to work. According to the indictment, Global Horizons attempted "to compel the workers’ labor and service through threats to have them arrested, deported or sent back to Thailand, knowing the workers could not pay off their debts if sent home." This case is noteworthy both for the size of the case and number of potential victims, as well as for exposing the ways that workers under the H-2A visa program may be exploited and for the ways that force, fraud, and coercion can operate in labor trafficking situations.
Bia: In late December 2010, The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) called for member states to ratify the Trafficking In Persons Protocol, which supplements the UN Convention against Organized Crime. One of the hugely important elements of this protocol is its focus on the rights of the victims and survivors of human trafficking. As much focus and energy goes into preventing the crime from even taking place, we have to deal with the current realities as well.The reality is that people are trafficked. The reality is also that those who escape exploitation are more often than not treated as if they were the criminals rather than the victims. That is unacceptable and it is up to us - as advocates or diplomats or simply empathetic individuals - to ensure that the correct infrastructure and systems are in place to aid the physical, psychological and emotional recoveries of those who survive being trafficked.
Elise: The United States was included in the tier rankings for the first time since the State Department began releasing the annual Trafficking In Persons Report. Previously, the TIP Report relied exclusively on data provided by the DOJ's report to Congress when adding information about the US's anti-trafficking effort. This year, however, Secretary Clinton stated that, "“We have to ensure that our policies live up to our ideals, and that is why we have for the first time included the United States.” The US gave itself a Tier 1 ranking, the highest out of the four rankings a country may receive. The country report mentions that the standardization of data collection in the US has yet to develop, which is why, still to this day, we do not have an accurate representation of what trafficking looks like in the US. What will also be more helpful to understanding trafficking is data collection that reflects the nuances of cases that involve both sex and labor trafficking. Forty-two states have enacted specific anti-trafficking statutes using varying definitions and a range of penalties. Such statutes are only gradually coming into use; during the reporting period, two states obtained their first convictions under anti-trafficking statutes passed in 2003 and 2007. The report also mentions the disparities between states on public benefits that are available to survivors. While there has been a 210 percent increase in certifications of foreign victims over the past five years, there has been no corresponding increase in funding for services. The report goes into further detail about the complications and burden the funding delivery structure also places on service providers; a problem that most directly affects survivors.The report also made a lengthy list of general recommendations that the US should engage in order to improve its response: improve data collection, increase law enforcement training, increase funding to service providers, improve cooperation among stakeholders, make immigrant and migrant workers more aware of their rights.
Jennifer: In October, the U.S. celebrated the Tenth Anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The TVPA and its subsequent re-authorizations are the main federal legislation addressing human trafficking in the US. The law aims to be comprehensive and address "prevention, protection, and prosecution," and is responsible for everything from authorizing the T visa for trafficking victims to making human trafficking a federal crime. A DOJ report on states "The Tenth Anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) gives us occasion to reflect upon the remarkable strides our nation has made in combating human trafficking in the decade since the TVPA’s landmark provisions took effect on October 28, 2000. The enactment of the TVPA sparked a decade of progress toward eradicating modern-day slavery, a national endeavor that traces back to the Thirteenth Amendment’s command. . . Over the last ten years, we have recognized more than ever before that the fight to deliver on the promise of freedom can only be won through broad-based, collaborative efforts to address all dimensions of human trafficking. Among all the advances since passage of the TVPA, perhaps the most notable is the evolution of the strong partnerships between federal, state, local, and international law enforcement, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who assist victims of human trafficking and advocate to bring an end to modern-day slavery." The act was most recently re-authorized in 2008, and will be up for re-authorization in 2011, making this an important time for anti-trafficking advocates in the US to not only reflect but to also look forward.
Laura: The human trafficking landscape in the European Union took a step towards abolition on December 14, 2010 with the European Union’s passing of a new anti-human trafficking directive. Member states, excluding Denmark and the UK, will have two years to adopt and implement the new directive, which replaces the current 2002 Framework Decision on combating human trafficking. Tougher penalties for traffickers include a minimum five year sentence, rising to ten years if child exploitation, threat to life, and/or organized crime are involved. The harsher penalties and improved victim assistance measures were outlined as key measures of the directive however a proactive stance is also being developed. Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Anna Hedh (S&D, Sweden) said, "We also have to work on the roots of human trafficking, such as the demand for services. The human body is not a commodity that can be used and sold for money.” The EU is adopting a multi-pronged strategy to address human trafficking, with a proactive focus on identifying the root cause of the problem. The shift from a reactive to proactive stance is crucial if we are to change the systemic inequalities helping perpetuate the cycle of abuse. The global community’s recognition of the severity of the problem through legislative mandates is a key aspect in the fight to move beyond a culture of ignorance to a culture of action. The new legislation is complemented by the recent launch of the EU’s Anti-Trafficking Website. With each passage of anti-human trafficking legislation we spring forth from the silence and stop the complicity inherent in avoidance of the issue.
Elise: Although the California law SB 657 is directed toward U.S. companies, the bill will undoubtedly have international effects through the thousands of businesses with global supply chains, which will now be required to disclose measures they are taking to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from those supply chains. As Governor Schwarzenegger stated during the signing event, "This legislation will increase transparency, allow consumers to make better, more informed choices and motivate businesses to ensure humane practices throughout the supply chain." Representative Carolyn Maloney is considering introducing a similar bill on the federal level. While consumers do have the power to demand accountability through purchasing power, these laws can help ensure we have the information we need to make those decisions. I am certain 2011 will see more of these types of bills progress and hopefully have the desired effect of preventing some forms of trafficking.