Four Dangerous Assumptions About Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is subject to complicated legal definitions, but the essence of this crime is straightforward: a person who is trapped in a situation of economic exploitation from which they cannot escape is very likely a victim of trafficking. Someone involved in moving that person into exploitation, or keeping them there against their will, is very likely a trafficker.

The forms it takes are as varied as the potential for profit. Women, men and children are trapped on farms, fishing boats and construction sites; in factories, mines, restaurant kitchens and private households. They are coerced into fighting wars, giving up their organs, marrying into servitude, or acting as commercial surrogates.

Long banished to the outer edges of the human rights agenda, trafficking (or “modern slavery” as advocates prefer) has emerged as a major issue of concern. Each of the past four US presidents, right up to the incumbent, has loudly proclaimed his personal commitment to ending this scourge – as have religious leaderscelebrities and some of the world’s wealthiest individuals. In a radical shift of the legal landscape, the overwhelming majority of countries have, over the past decade, criminalised trafficking. Funding for programmes aimed at fighting trafficking has never been more abundant. At the international level, the issue has been taken up by the UN General Assembly and Security Council. The Sustainable Development Goals commit states to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking”.

But progress against human exploitation has been painfully slow, despite the vast investment of political capital, resources and expertise. In trying to work out what has gone wrong – and what we could be doing differently – it is useful to critically examine some of the basic assumptions on which the anti-trafficking movement is built.

Assumption 1: We’ve got the numbers

Wrong

The hunger for hard data – especially around the number of victims and the profits being generated – is intense and increasing. That is understandable. In our metrics-obsessed world, Bill Gates’ assertion, ”If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist”, rings unsettlingly true. Without being able to paint a clear picture of the size of the trafficking problem, it is difficult to attract attention, to solicit money, to show how well we are doing. Few public figures speaking on this issue have resisted the temptation to cite trafficking statistics that are at best unverifiable and at worst demonstrably false. The anti-trafficking community as a whole has been unconscionably silent about the shoddy research methodologies that regularly produce the wildly varying numbers on which it so heavily relies.

To read the full story by Anne Gallagher on World Economic Forum: Click Here

Follow The Bitcoin To Find Victims Of Human Trafficking

 

bitcoin
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of university researchers has devised the first automated techniques to identify ads potentially tied to human trafficking rings and link them to public information from Bitcoin – the primary payment method for online sex ads.

This is the first step toward developing a suite of freely available tools to help police and nonprofit institutions identify victims of sexual exploitation, explained the computer scientists from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering; University of California, Berkeley; and University of California, San Diego.

Human trafficking is a widespread social problem, with an estimated 4.5 million people forced into sexual exploitation, according to the International Labor Organization. In 2016, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to the group were probably sex-trafficking victims.

The Internet has enabled and emboldened human traffickers to advertise sexual services. Law enforcement efforts to trace and disband human trafficking rings are often confounded by the pseudonymous nature of adult ads and the tendency of ring leaders to employ multiple phone numbers and email addresses to avoid detection. Adding to the difficulty: Determining which online ads reflect willing participants in the sex trade and which reflect victims forced into prostitution.

To read the full story on Tech Xplore: Click Here

Is Your Teen At Risk For Human Trafficking?

Watch out and slow down isn’t the only warning from law enforcement as kids return to classes for the start of the school year.

The Modesto Police Department also advises families to be alert to a different kind of “traffic” risk: human trafficking.

The department joined with the Modesto-based nonprofit organization Without Permission to produce a video that notes a rise in high school-age victims and provides parents with “tools and advice” to protect their children.

The video, posted on MPD’s Facebook page, comes on the heels of a presentation to Modesto City Schools junior high and high school teachers by Detective Steve Anderson of the department’s Special Victims Unit and Debbie Johnson, founder of Without Permission.

To read the full article by Deke Farrow on The Modesto Bee: Click Here

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)

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

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

What Happens to Foreign Human Trafficking Victims in the United States?

At age 19, Indira Karimova became a victim of human trafficking after she was married off to her second cousin and brought to the United States.

After their arranged marriage in Kyrgyzstan, Karimova and her husband moved to America before settling in Tyler, Texas, where she alleges she was subjected to years of abuse.

Living in America and unable to speak English, Karimova said she was in hell with no lifeline to escape.

“It was a horrible experience. I was thinking it’s like a dream,” Karimova said in a phone interview. “I’m going to wake up one day, and I’ll be out of this.”

NBC News does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse, but Karimova agreed to share her story in the hopes it will help other victims come forward.

The United Nations recognizes 21 million people across the globe, like Karimova, are victims of trafficking as it raises awareness on Sunday for World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Smith County arrest records show Karimova’s now ex-husband was taken into custody three times — once in 2013 and twice in 2014 — for assaulting a family member. Karimova’s ex-husband was never convicted of assaulting her. The assault charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to violating the protective order in 2015, court records show.

To read the full story and watch the videos by Kalhan Rosenblatt on NBC: Click Here

The Worldwide Debate About Sex Work: Morality Meets Reality

The streets of Pattaya, Thailand, one of the centers of sex tourism (GSR photo / Gail DeGeorge)
 

Public debate on prostitution can be tough, passionate, even angry.

Advocates for differing views cannot even agree on shared language: Those who defend their way of making a living as sex workers embrace their identity, while those, like Catholic sisters, who decry the term “sex work” as demeaning, argue that there can be no dignity in a relationship where sex is exchanged for money.

“I think all prostitution represents violence against women,” said Sr. Winifred Doherty, who represents the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd at the United Nations.

The passion Doherty and others bring to the topic has been on display during the last year at the U.N., where space for debate about social topics is frequently honored. The topic of prostitution was addressed at several U.N. forums during the March meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women.

And inevitably, the U.N.’s upcoming World Day against Trafficking in Persons on July 30 may prompt debate. The commemoration was designated by U.N. member states beginning in 2013 as necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

To read the full story by Chris on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

Pope Francis Appeals For End To Human Trafficking

2017-07-30 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Franciscalled for increased efforts to end human trafficking on Sunday. The Holy Father’s appeal came in remarks following the Angelus prayer with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square, on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, sponsored by the United Nations.

“Each year,” said Pope Francis, “thousands of men, women and children are innocent victims of sexual and organ trafficking, and it seems that we are so accustomed to seeing it as a normal thing.”

To read the full story and listen to the report from Vatican Radio: Click Here