Environmental Refugees and Human Trafficking

September 2017

By Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Board Member, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is a collaborative, faith-based network that offers educational programs and materials, supports access to survivor services, and engages in legislative advocacy to eradicate modern-day slavery. 

Following recent climate disasters, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the earthquake in Mexico, members of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking believed it would be helpful to share a module entitled “Human Trafficking and Environmental Refugees” for reflection and discussion.  The module can be found here. 

A brief excerpt from the module states: “In June 2014, the number of refugees worldwide exceeded 50 million children, women and men.  Half of these refugees are children, many travelling alone or in groups.  Millions of these refugees are people displaced because of environmental disasters.   Moreover, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that in the coming years millions of people will be forced to relocate due to effects of climate change, including shoreline erosion, coastal flooding or disruption of normal farming practices. Today analysts predict that this crisis in the making will affect 150-200 million men, women and children by 2050, or roughly one in every 45 persons on earth…

Women and children are especially vulnerable during any forced displacement, and they are at risk for gender-based violence and human trafficking.  Many children are separated from their families during an environmental disaster. According to the UNHCR, children alone represent more than half of the people of concern. These children, unaccompanied by any adult or caregiver, are targets for traffickers. Two months after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, aid agencies warned that up to two million children were at risk of abuse or trafficking.

After Superstorm Sandy, the state of New Jersey allotted more than $1.5 million to bolster human trafficking prevention and treatment services for homeless youth.  Unfortunately, the areas of the world that are most affected by disasters related to climate change are the least likely to have the resources to protect their citizens.”

Sources for the module’s content are:

A second resource was provided in early September by Polaris Project.  The article follows.

Natural Disasters and the Increased Risk for Human Trafficking

September 1, 2017

Brandon Bouchard, Director of Media Relations – Polaris Project

While every human trafficking victim is different, a common thread they share is the presence of a vulnerability that traffickers exploit. Those types of vulnerabilities are rampant in the aftermath of natural disasters. Homelessness is one of the top risk factors reported by survivors to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and we often learn that survivors were recruited by traffickers near shelters or centers helping people in need.

In fact, one of the largest labor trafficking cases in United States history resulted from human trafficking that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. You can read more about that case from the Southern Poverty Law Center here.

As people throughout the United States continue to deal with the horrific hardships stemming from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is critical that a response to potential human trafficking is part of long-term recovery efforts. Local service providers and the organizations in the fight against human trafficking throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Florida need help more than ever as they provide aid to people affected by these natural disasters.

Below are a few organizations partnered with the National Human Trafficking Hotline that we encourage you to donate to, and you can search for more in the Human Trafficking Referral Directory.

  • YMCA of Greater Houston
  • Houston Area Women’s Center
  • United Against Human Trafficking
  • Freedom Place
  • Kristi House
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC) – Miami
  • Catholic Charities – Diocese of Palm Beach
  • More Too Life
  • Selah Freedom

To learn more about the impact climate change is having on human trafficking throughout the world, read this important report from our friends at the International Organization for Migration: The Climate Change-Human Trafficking Nexus”: here

Excerpts from this document note: “Climate change increases the risk of natural disasters and places a strain on livelihoods; it exacerbates poverty and can potentially cause situations of conflict and instability. These conditions, when combined with a mismatch between demand for labour and supply and the proliferation of unscrupulous recruitment agencies, increase high-risk behaviours and other negative coping strategies among affected populations. This may include resorting to migrant smugglers, which in turn makes them vulnerable to trafficking in persons (TiP) and associated forms of exploitation and abuse. The impact of climate change, however, is rarely considered as a potential contributor to human trafficking in global discussions or national level policy frameworks,1 and the nexus remains relatively underexplored.”  (p. 3)

“These incidents of human trafficking in the wake of sudden- and slow-onset disasters demonstrate the necessity of a planned response to address this cross-cutting issue. In general, there needs to be an acknowledgement that human trafficking can be an unintended but direct consequence when migration occurs in the absence of government support and management, after disasters or in the face of slow-onset events.” (p. 9)

Ending Human Trafficking Requires Everyone’s Efforts, Archbishop Says

Ending human trafficking requires everyone’s efforts, archbishop says
(Credit: Claus Tom Christensen via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).)
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, emphasized the importance of “multi-pronged strategies” to prevent human trafficking and aid the affected victims, and he noted the special role of women and religious personnel in offering an avenue of trust. Speaking at the UN, the archbishop said the Catholic Church is collaborating “with both the public and private sectors, including with government authorities” to help fight the crime.

NEW YORK CITY – At a United Nations gathering in New York City, a Holy See official stressed the need for a multi-pronged approach in fighting human trafficking and aiding victims.

“The issue of trafficking in persons can only be fully addressed by promoting effective juridical instruments and concrete collaboration at multiple levels by all stakeholders,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher told global leaders at a United Nations event on Tuesday.

Gallagher is the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States. He spoke at a High Level Leaders Event hosted by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, entitled, “A Call to Action to End Forced Labor, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.”

The archbishop emphasized the importance of “multi-pronged strategies” to prevent more of these crimes and aid the affected victims, and he noted the special role of women and religious personnel in offering an avenue of trust.

“Experience has shown that many victims are wary of trusting law enforcement authorities, but that they confide their stories more easily to religious personnel, especially religious sisters, who can build their trust in the legal process and provide them safe haven and other forms of assistance.”

 

To read the full post by Perry West of the Catholic News Agency: Click Here

ASU Class Empowers Health-Care Professionals To End Human Trafficking

A patient enters an examination room. She is young —14, maybe 15. She is walking gingerly; wearing sneakers, baggy jeans and a sweatshirt — in 104-degree weather. A few steps behind her is another young woman, a little older, early to mid-20s maybe. She hands over a clipboard with the patient’s medical information and introduces herself to the attending nurse practitioner as the patient’s aunt.

A quick scan shows the document is missing an address and contact information. The aunt quickly explains that they are both staying with some friends in the area until they find a new apartment. The patient remains silent; eyes cast downward; she looks nervous. She speaks softly, offering just a few words about a sore throat and discomfort in her lower back when the nurse practitioner asks what brings her in today.

Standing in a corner of the room just a few feet away, the aunt’s anxious glances alternate between the back of the patient’s head and the examiner’s questioning lips. Bruises dot the patient’s arm when she rolls up her sleeve to allow a blood pressure cuff to be wrapped around her upper arm. The nurse practitioner casually asks how she got the bruises on her arm. A tense silence fills the room. The aunt shifts her weight before reminding the patient of her recent mishap with the boxes they were moving.

The patient’s eyes meets the nurse practitioner’s eyes.

What the nurse practitioner decides to do next could be life-altering for all of the actors in this scenario. And that is just what Samantha Calvin hopes will happen after students take her new class through Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation this fall.

To read the full story by Suzanne Wilson on the Arizona State University site:Click Here

‘Buyer Beware’: Brown County Human Trafficking Sting Results In 35 Arrests

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) — The Brown County Sheriff’s Office has a message for people looking to purchase sex in our area: “Buyer beware.”

That’s what Chief Deputy Todd Delain said Thursday during a news conference on a recent human trafficking sting in the county.

“If you’re a buyer looking for sex in Brown County, buyer beware. You might be dealing with a law enforcement officer that’s looking to arrest you,” Delain says.

Thirty-five men were taken into custody over the course of a 4-day operation, between Monday, July 17, and Thursday, July 20.

The arrests were made in conjunction with the Green Bay Police Department, De Pere Police Department, Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department, Brown County Drug Task Force, Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“About 99.9 percent of the stuff we do is on the internet, whether it be Backpage, Craigslist, or any other escort internet websites that we use,” says Sgt. Matthew Wilson, Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

 

To read the full story on 7 WSAW: Click Here

Pathfinder Center Opens Doors To Human Trafficking Victims

CENTRAL SOUTH DAKOTA — In the least likely of places, Lisa Heth found the place where she could finally provide refuge for human trafficking survivors.
What was formerly a run-down motel, is now a brightly decorated, long-term shelter for women and children — and the first of its kind in South Dakota.

The Pathfinder Center, which formally opened its doors early last week, has 13 bedrooms uniquely decorated by a variety of organizations and individuals who provided sponsorship.

One bedroom has a queen-sized canopy bed covered in a delicate, white-ruffled comforter, while another is brightly painted pink and yellow with affirmations written on the wall. And another bedroom, Heth designed herself, has hand-painted blue feathers outlining the ceiling.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Heth, executive director of the Pathfinder Center. “Every room is different, specifically for each woman’s various needs. What works for one may not work for everyone.”

The center is located in central South Dakota, but the specific city and location are being withheld from the public for the safety of the women.

Heth, who is executive director of Wiconi Wawokiya, has been working with trafficking and domestic violence victims for the past 25 years. Wiconi Wawokiya is a nonprofit victim services organization located on the Crow Creek Reservation in central South Dakota.

She first got the idea to open the center in 2015. A seemingly random phone call from a motel owner led Heth to the bank to ask for a loan to turn the motel into a shelter. Almost two years later, Heth is ready to open the shelter for services.

“These women should come into these rooms and feel the love that went into decorating them. To know that someone out there cares about them,” Heth said.

To read the full article and watch the video by Libby Leyden on The Daily Republic: Click Here

Immigrants Are Among Most Vulnerable To Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a nearly $32 billion industry and more than 27 million people are victims of the illicit business on an international scale, according to the Polaris Project, which is tasked with fighting human trafficking in its various forms.

The Administration for Children and Families, which works with the Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that human trafficking is the second fastest growing black market activity.

In 2013, the state’s Human Trafficking Policy Task Force found that immigration plays a unique role in the underground world.

“Undocumented workers are often particularly vulnerable to abuse due to their lack of immigration status and fear of deportation,” a report by the task force stated.

Additionally, many who are the victims of trafficking for forced labor or sex slavery have trouble getting the services they need.

“Other realities inherent to victims of human trafficking, such as a survivor’s criminal history, lack of housing history, and/or immigration status, may make it difficult or impossible for survivors to qualify for government services,” the agency’s report said.

New tactics are recommended to law enforcement by the agency, which encourages authorities to explain to potential victims that questions about trafficking are not intended to determine somebody’s immigration status.

New legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker at the beginning of August is aiming to allow police in Massachusetts to hand over illegal immigrants suspected of crimes, including human trafficking, to federal authorities.

To read the full story by Bradford Randall: Click Here

Conference Connects Human Trafficking To Opioid Epidemic

2017 SART human trafficking conference
Marlene Carson, founder of The Switch national anti-trafficking network, speaks on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, during the Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking in Our Neighborhoods conference held at St. Francis University in Loretto.

LORETTO – A vulnerable drug-addicted teenage girl is kept for hours in a dingy hotel room being forced to have sex with a series of strangers who learned about her services by searching on the internet.

Her compensation at the end of the ordeal might be some heroin and a little bit of money.

It is a scene many local residents would associate with far-off foreign countries where corrupt law enforcement systems turn a blind eye toward women being kidnapped, smuggled across borders, and held hostage. But that type of exploitation is actually taking place in communities all throughout Pennsylvania, including the Johnstown region.

In an attempt to draw attention to the issue, the Cambria County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) held the Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking in Our Neighborhoods conference for social workers, law enforcement officers and others on Monday at Saint Francis University.

To read the full article by Dave Sutor on The Tribune Democrat: Click Here

How The New Anti-Trafficking Bill Will Help To Curb The Human Trafficking Epidemic

Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded the measure that recently passed the House of Representatives. Here’s why.

The House of Representatives recently approved a new anti-trafficking bill (H.R. 2200) which allocates over $500 million over the next four years for domestic and international programs to support victims and persons vulnerable to human trafficking. This is an encouraging step to enhance efforts by the U.S. government in preventing human trafficking, protecting trafficking victims, and prosecuting traffickers. Named for the famed American abolitionist, the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act” reauthorizes funding for programs within the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor, and State, and the U.S Agency for International Development, highlighting the importance of tackling this growing problem through multiple channels.

The fact that H.R. 2200 passed with no recorded opposition is a testament to the fact that human trafficking is being increasingly recognized by both political parties as a serious national and international problem. Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded this bill, and several other anti-trafficking bills passed by the House this year, as strong statements that the U.S. is committed to the fight to end modern slavery. These efforts also reveal the complexities of combating human trafficking, with the bill advocating for a more comprehensive response — one that approaches the problem from several levels.

INCREASED RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS

This bill places more emphasis on the prevention of trafficking compared to the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was reauthorized by Congress four times by overwhelming majorities in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013. Not only will H.R. 2200 bolster the identification of trafficking victims through more educational programs, but it will provide funding to increase programs that provide victims with more assistance, such as trauma-informed care or long-term housing options.

Community-based organizations that provide services for victims are notoriously overtaxed and often struggle to meet the needs of all groups that seek services. As a result, crucial resources such as shelters and psychological counseling are scarce. This bill will help organizations to better meet victims’ needs.

ENHANCED PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR CHILD TRAFFICKING

H.R. 2200 brings attention to the importance of preventing future exploitation. One important area of focus is the prevention of child sex trafficking in the United States. Through more age-appropriate information in human trafficking to students, school teachers, and staff, we can raise awareness of the tactics used by traffickers to manipulate and exploit victims. School officials are well-positioned to help recognize warning signs of children who are most vulnerable to trafficking and to prevent them from being exploited. With increased awareness regarding the signs of trafficking, school officials can also be called upon to report potential trafficking cases to authorities.

To read the full story by Mellissa Withers of University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine on Reuters: Click Here

Human Trafficking Survivor Helps Educate Healthcare Providers In SW Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. With recent raids for suspected human trafficking on more than a dozen massage parlors in Springfield, the disturbing issue has hit home. Many in Springfield spent the afternoon learning more about human trafficking at a conference that has been planned for several months.

180 people registered for CoxHealth’s free human trafficking conference Friday afternoon. They got to hear firsthand from a sex trafficking survivor. Kris Wade was 18 and at a Chicago train station for only minutes, when she says a man offered her a place to stay and a meal. 
Before she knew it, she was under the control of a motorcycle gang that forced her into prostitution.

Wade shared some of the things that made her vulnerable to traffickers. 
“I just really had no respect for authority and like a lot of 18 year old kids, I considered myself queen of the universe and pretty much knew everything in the world there was to know. And I think that couple with my undeveloped teenage brain and my risk taking, thrill seeking capabilities, that made me vulnerable to these guys,” says Wade.

Wade’s advice for parents is to build trust-based relationships with your kids from a young age, and teach them to say no and not show vulnerability to bullies, which is what pimps and traffickers are. Wade also says, “Their kids need to know that they love them unconditionally, that if they get in trouble, it’s ok to tell their parents if they’re in a difficult situation. Parents need to support their kids no matter what.” She says her parents were loving and supportive, which she says ultimately helped her get away from the trafficking.

Wade is now the president of The Justice Project in Kansas City, working to combat trafficking. She and other presenters focused on teaching those in healthcare to look for signs like torture injuries, tattoos showing ownership, burns, and multiple STDs.

To read the full story by Linda Russell on KY3: Click Here

September Monthly Reflection

A prayer for the ones left behind

By Michele Morek, OSU

On May 25, International Missing Children’s Day, I was reading a Prayer for Missing Children by Jane Deren (Education for Justice) when I was struck by a thunderbolt of conscience.

It was a lovely prayer, praying for missing children, including those kidnapped, trafficked, lost as refugees, or lost in conflicts. But it did not only pray for the children. It remembered the suffering parents or other loved ones, comparing their anguish to the suffering of Mary and Joseph when they lost their son on a trip to Jerusalem. (Luke 2:42)

It made me realize—with some shock and shame—that while I often think of and pray for people who are trafficked or kidnapped, I rarely go deeper and think of the others affected: the parents, spouses, friends, and wider community.

I had reason to feel guilty, because I should know better. My friend and sister in religious life was kidnapped, and I know firsthand the sorrow and panic of those left behind: community, friends, classmates and family. Not only the immediate worry and pain, but the pain which persists for years as we witness the continuing suffering of our loved one—manifest in PTSD, nightmares and flashbacks—or if they are still missing, imagine what they might be going through and wonder if they are still alive.

A doctor with expertise in dealing with kidnapping and torture victims came for a healing session with my religious congregation, and explained that a kidnapper / trafficker / torturer does not only hurt a single victim, but victimizes the whole community of family, friends, or religious congregation.

Think of a mother’s anguish, fleeing from war and violence, as she suddenly realizes that a child is no longer with her. Think of a father’s pain when a child is kidnapped or trafficked, as he takes on an additional burden of guilt.

Now imagine the silent suffering of a family living in extreme poverty, who may have sold the child to traffickers in order to feed the rest of the family, or so that the child’s life would be “improved.”

When we pray for trafficked persons, let us remember to pray for those left behind, and to pray that somehow the world might learn how to address the extreme inequality that leads to poverty and violence.

Further Study:

Read Luke 2:42 and imagine how it would look in modern-day headlines.

Check this resource for nonprofit organizations seeking to provide support services for families with missing members. In addition, many states have their own agencies providing support services for such families.

Michele Morek OSU