Caught In Modern-Day Slavery, She Thought She’d Die. Could This Idea Help Others?


It was close to midnight on the coast of Libya, a few miles west of Tripoli. At the water’s edge, armed Libyan smugglers pumped air into thirty-foot rubber dinghies. Some three thousand refugees and migrants, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, silent and barefoot, stood nearby in rows of ten. Oil platforms glowed in the Mediterranean.

The Libyans ordered male migrants to carry the inflated boats into the water, thirty on each side. They waded in and held the boats steady as a smuggler directed other migrants to board, packing them as tightly as possible. People in the center would suffer chemical burns if the fuel leaked and mixed with water. Those straddling the sides could easily fall into the sea. Officially, at least five thousand and ninety-eight migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, but Libya’s coastline is more than a thousand miles long, and nobody knows how many boats sink without ever being seen. Several of the migrants had written phone numbers on their clothes, so that someone could call their families if their bodies washed ashore.

The smugglers knelt in the sand and prayed, then stood up and ordered the migrants to push off. One pointed to the sky. “Look at this star!” he said. “Follow it.” Each boat left with only enough fuel to reach international waters.

In one dinghy, carrying a hundred and fifty people, a Nigerian teen-ager named Blessing started to cry. She had travelled six months to get to this point, and her face was gaunt and her ribs were showing. She wondered if God had visited her mother in dreams and shown her that she was alive. The boat hit swells and people started vomiting. By dawn, Blessing had fainted. The boat was taking on water.

In recent years, tens of millions of Africans have fled areas afflicted with famine, drought, persecution, and violence. Ninety-four per cent of them remain on the continent, but each year hundreds of thousands try to make it to Europe. The Mediterranean route has also become a kind of pressure-release valve for countries affected by corruption and extreme inequality. “If not for Italy, I promise, there would be civil war in Nigeria,” a migrant told me. Last year, after Nigeria’s currency collapsed, more Nigerians crossed the sea than people of any other nationality.

The flood of migrants is not a new phenomenon, but for years the European Union had some success in slowing it. The E.U. built a series of fences in Morocco and started paying coastal African nations to keep migrants from reaching European waters. Many migrants spent years living in border countries, repeatedly trying and failing to cross. Muammar Qaddafi saw an opportunity. In 2010, he demanded that Europe pay him five billion euros per year; otherwise, he said, Libya could send so many migrants that “tomorrow Europe might no longer be European.”

To read the full story by Ben Taub on The New Yorker: Click Here

Why All Faiths Can Unite To End Modern Slavery

(CNN)Slavery — turning human beings into property used up for profit — is a heinous offense repugnant to all faith communities.

This was captured beautifully in the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders, representing Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. The Declaration calls modern slavery a crime against humanity.
The concepts of empathy for our fellow human beings, and the obligation to respect the rights and dignity of others, are themes found in all the world’s major faith traditions. Many of history’s great civil rights advancements have been started and nurtured by religious leaders and activists. This is also true of the anti-slavery movement. Ending slavery unites all faiths and no twisting of texts can obscure that fact. That is why faith leaders are at the forefront of the effort to eradicate modern slavery.
Maurice Middleberg, executive director, Free the Slaves

Shockingly, slavery persists at a massive scale. The most conservative estimate places the number of slaves at 21 million; there are estimates of as high as 36 million. And slavery is a big business — the International Labor Organization estimates that the profits from slavery are $150 billion a year.
About a fifth of slavery is sex slavery, but most slavery consists of forced labor in seemingly ordinary businesses — farms, mines, stone quarries, fishing boats, construction and brick kilns. The majority of slaves are women and girls; about a quarter of all slaves are children.
Slavery stems from vulnerability. Overwhelmingly, slaves come from the poorest, most stigmatized and most marginalized communities in the poorest countries in the world. Slavery exists in every country and traffickers unfailingly prey upon those who are the most defenseless.
Religious faith and the debasement of human beings cannot be reconciled. That is why people and communities of faith are mobilizing and must continue to lead a shared effort to end slavery once and for all. The following is a quick look at faith voices raised against slavery.


Christian abolitionism took root in the 17th century. In England, prominent Anglicans joined forces with Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and other faith groups to form the world’s first anti-slavery movement. Together, they forged a moral consensus to ban the trans-Atlantic slave trade and then outlaw slavery itself throughout the British Empire. Today, Christians worldwide regard slavery as immoral and unjust. “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society,” says Pope Francis. “It is a crime against humanity.”
· The epistles of St. Paul condemned slave traders and called for slaves to be treated as “brethren.”
· Quakers believed that everyone, including African-American slaves, was “equal in the sight of God.”
· Men and women of faith often led slave revolts on colonial plantations, and many revolts occurred during Christian festivals.
· In the 1800s Quakers and other religious groups assisted the Underground Railroad, helping thousands of slaves to escape southern states in the U.S.


Muslim voices have called for the abolition of slavery since ancient times. The Quran teaches that all people are equal, like the teeth in a comb. The Prophet Muhammad declared: “There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of these three, one is he who enslave a free man, then sells him and eats this money.”
· Sura 90 in the Quran states that the righteous path involves “the freeing of slaves.”
To read the full story by Maurice Middleberg, on CNN: Click Here

In U.S. Restaurants, Bars And Food Trucks, ‘Modern Slavery’ Persists

A new report highlights victims of human trafficking in the food industry, from farm workers to restaurant bus staff, cooks and wait staff. Some victims are exploited for both sex and labor. Juanmonino/Getty Images

They come from places like Vietnam, China, Mexico and Guatemala, lured by promises of better-paying jobs and legal immigration. Instead, they’re smuggled into the U.S., forced to work around the clock as bussers, wait staff and cooks, and housed in cramped living quarters. For this, they must pay exorbitant fees that become an insurmountable debt, even as their pay is often withheld, stolen or unfairly docked.

In restaurants, bars and food trucks across America, many workers are entrapped in a form of modern slavery. That’s according to a new report by Polaris, an organization that fights human trafficking and helps survivors.

In the report the group offers a detailed portrait of human trafficking as it occurs in the U.S., breaking it down into 25 distinct business models, from nail salons to hotel work and domestic service.

“Because human trafficking is so diverse … you can’t fight it all at once and there are no single, silver bullet solutions. You have to … fight it type by type,” Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, told reporters on a press call. “We see this report as a major breakthrough in the field.”

He called the report the largest data set on human trafficking in the U.S. ever compiled and publicly analyzed. The Polaris team analyzed 32,208 reports of human trafficking, and 10,085 reports of labor exploitation processed through its hotlines for victims between 2007 and 2016. The goal: to identify profiles of traffickers and their victims — and the methods they use to recruit and control them — across industries, in order to better thwart them.

Janet Drake, a senior assistant attorney general in Colorado who has prosecuted human trafficking cases, called the new report “a game changer.”

To read the full story by Maria Godoy on : Click Here

‘A Gift To Human Traffickers’: Report Warns Of Dangers Of Trump Immigration Policy

Study claims hardened stance on immigration leaves undocumented migrant workers at greater risk of modern slavery and human rights abuses 

Undocumented farm workers from Mexico at work on a farm in California
Undocumented labourers from Mexico at work on a farm in California. Analysts warn the new immigration policy will put such workers at greater risk of exploitation and debt. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s hardline approach to immigration has been branded a “gift to human traffickers” amid concerns that stricter deportation and border regulations will push undocumented migrant workers underground, putting them at greater risk of slavery and human rights abuses.

The new administration’s immigration policy – which hinges on the construction of a US-Mexico border wall and immediate repatriation of illegal immigrants – will force criminal networks to use more costly and potentially more dangerous trafficking routes by air and sea, say global risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft.

According to a report by the company, the controversial stance adopted by the White House towards migrant workers and immigration will be a major driver of human rights risks for business in 2017.

Developed countries are warned that human rights abuses are surfacing closer to home for western companies just as legislation strengthens and scrutiny of business practices increases.

Saket Soni, executive director of the membership organisation National Guestworkers Alliance, said the Trump administration’s new regulations will only exacerbate existing problems and proves that the US government is “part of the problem”.

“Trump’s policies are a gift to human traffickers,” said Soni. “We know firsthand what Verisk Maplecroft’s report confirms: criminalising immigrants makes them more vulnerable to forced labour, human trafficking, and modern-day slavery. Trump’s mass criminalisation will drive immigrants further into the shadows, where increasing numbers of them will face forced labour conditions.”

The report, entitled Human Rights Outlook 2017, draws on Verisk Maplecroft’s portfolio of global human rights data and its interactions with multinational companies to assess the top 10 human rights issues affecting business in the year ahead.

“The US is already classed as ‘medium risk’ in our index measuring modern slavery around the world, and the commodity risk that we’ve done shows that there are already extreme risks for migrants, including those on farms harvesting apples or citrus fruits,” said Maplecroft’s principal analyst, Alexandra Channer.

“There’s already a significant problem for undocumented workers in certain industries in the US. So the impact of these policies will be worsening an already serious issue, which we could see potentially widen to different industries, for example the transportation and hospitality sectors.”

To read the full article by Kate Hodal on The Guardian: Click Here

The Fight Against Sex Trafficking Is Bigger Than Backpage

Editor’s Note: Andrea Powell is founder & executive director of FAIR Girls, a D.C. based organization providing safe housing and emergency and long- term services to survivors of human trafficking. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)On January 9, after an investigation lasting over 21 months, a Senate subcommittee published a scathing report, finding that classified ads website knowingly facilitated online child sex trafficking on the “adult” section of its website.

According to the report, Backpage did so by, among other things, filtering the text of advertisements to screen out words like “rape,” “schoolgirl” and “lolita” before posting them, to conceal the intent of the ads. Backpage also did not remove these advertisements or report them to law enforcement.

These findings are no surprise to FAIR Girls, where approximately 90% of the young women and girls we serve — some as young as 14 — were sold by their traffickers on Backpage.

It also is consistent with first-hand accounts. For example, the mother of a 14-year-old girl sold on Backpage reported to the Senate subcommittee that her daughter had been trafficked through the website, and that even after she was recovered, ads containing explicit photographs of the girl were still being shown on the website.

She said she requested numerous times that the ads be taken down, and although Backpage eventually removed the photos, it did not do so immediately.

Following up on its findings, on January 10, the Senate subcommittee was scheduled to question the company’s CEO, owners, general counsel, and COO. Backpage executives refused to testify. The day before that hearing, the website closed its “adult” section in the United States.'s adult section now redirects to this page’s adult section now redirects to this page

Shedding Light on Human Trafficking

On this day when we celebrate an activist for hard won civil rights, we focus on slavery in America, victims of an industry that traffics in human beings. The Department of Justice reports 83 percent of those enslaved are American citizens of every age. The Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking is Mandy Bristol-Leverett. She spoke with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams about the issue.

Williams: Define human trafficking. What exactly is it?

Bristol-Leverett: Human trafficking by both state and federal definition is the use of force, fraud or coercion to entrap, imprison, abuse or exploit someone else, another human being.

Williams: And we’re not just talking about prostitution, right?

Bristol-Leverett: Right. We typically see two forms of human trafficking in the U.S. In the U.S., the number one form of human trafficking is sex trafficking. Number two is labor trafficking. There are generally six forms of human trafficking globally. We have had even organ trafficking cases, but that’s not as predominant as it is overseas. So we’re looking at those two forms predominantly — sex and labor trafficking.

Williams: You’re enlisting the public’s help in your cause. What are the signs to look for that someone’s being trafficked?

Bristol-Leverett: Well it depends on the kind of trafficking, because sometimes it can look like a tattoo of a boyfriend’s name. It could look like someone who just starts skipping school or has a controlling boyfriend or someone in their life, they’re not allowed to be alone. They’re very controlling, texting constantly wanting to know where they are, that sort of thing. In the case of foreign nationals that they don’t have documentation of their own if they’re living on the premises where they’re working. It’s ultimately being controlled by someone else.

Williams: How many people in New Jersey are enslaved in this?

Bristol-Leverett: That’s a tough question because we don’t have unified numbers and comprehensive numbers. We have great organizations gathering those numbers, but a lot of organizations that are gathering numbers answer different questions. For example, our national human trafficking hotline number, their stats cover the number of calls, not cases. Our state service provider, our state sponsor service provider, they deal with cases but sometimes they’re people coming back through the system so it can represent more than one. And then they’re not the only service providers serving New Jersey. Then of course we talk about law enforcement and you know how many prosecutions, that’s a very low number. Not because there aren’t people to be prosecuted, but sometimes proving that force, fraud or coercion is difficult so they might charge them with other charges like child endangerment and that sort of thing so it doesn’t get chalked up as a human trafficking case, but they get just as many years in jail sometimes as if they had charged them with human trafficking.

Williams: What is your organization doing to prevent it and combat it?

To read the full article from NJTV NEWS: Click Here

Survivors Present Recommendations On How To End Human Trafficking

NPR’s Kelly McEvers speaks with Evelyn Chumbow, a survivor of human trafficking, about the report she and other survivors put together for the U.S. government with their recommendations for how to stem human trafficking in the U.S.


Today the State Department is releasing new recommendations on how to end human trafficking, what they call slavery in the 21st century. And here’s what makes the report different. It’s written by 11 people who survived human trafficking and are now members of the U.S. Advisory Council on human trafficking.

Earlier today I talked to one of them. Her name is Evelyn Chumbow. She was born in Cameroon. When she was 9, a woman came and told her uncle that Evelyn could move to the U.S., live with a family and go to school. And at first she told me she was excited.

EVELYN CHUMBOW: I was told that I was coming to America, and the first thought in my mind was, woo-hoo, I’m going to come marry Will Smith (laughter). And…

MCEVERS: You’re going to come marry Will Smith.

CHUMBOW: (Laughter) That was my first thought, you know, because back in Cameroon, I used to watch a lot of television show, and I assume that is how America was. You know, I was watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “The Cosby Show,” “90210,” you know? So I just was, like, just imagining myself being in that lifestyle that they were living. But when I came here, that’s not what happened.

To read or listen to the full interview by Kelly McEvers of All Things Considered on NPR: Click Here

Hawaiian Seafood Caught By Low-Paid Foreign Crews Confined To Boats

Pier 17 doesn’t even show up on most Honolulu maps. Cars whiz past it on their way to Waikiki’s famous white sand beaches. Yet passing tourists, let alone locals, are unaware that just behind a guarded gate, another world exists: foreign fishermen confined to American boats for years at a time.

Hundreds of undocumented men are employed in this unique U.S. fishing fleet, due to a federal loophole that allows them to work but exempts them from most basic labor protections. Many come from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations to take the dangerous jobs, which can pay as little as 70 cents an hour.

With no legal standing on U.S. soil, the men are at the mercy of their American captains on American-flagged, American-owned vessels, catching prized swordfish and ahi tuna. Since they don’t have visas, they are not allowed to set foot on shore. The entire system, which contradicts other state and federal laws, operates with the blessing of high-ranking U.S. lawmakers and officials, an Associated Press investigation found.

The fleet of around 140 boats docks about once every three weeks, occasionally at ports along the West Coast, including Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, but mainly at Piers 17 and 38 in Honolulu. Their catch ends up at restaurants and premium seafood counters across the country, from Whole Foods to Costco, and is touted by celebrity chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi and Masaharu Morimoto.

Americans buying seafood from Hawaii are almost certainly eating fish caught by one of these workers, who account for nearly all the fleet’s crew.

A single yellowfin tuna can fetch more than $1,000, and vendors market the catch as “sustainable seafood produced by Hawaii’s hard-working fishermen.”

But workers such as Indonesian Syamsul Maarif aren’t protected or compensated like locals. He was sent home to Indonesia after nearly dying when his boat sank 160 miles off Hawaii. He lost everything, and said it took four months to get his pay.

“We want the same standards as the other workers in America, but we are just small people working there based on the contract that we signed,” he said. “We don’t have any visa. We are illegal, so we cannot demand more.”

Over six months, the AP obtained confidential contracts, reviewed dozens of business records and interviewed boat owners, brokers and more than 50 fishermen in Hawaii, Indonesia and San Francisco. The investigation found men living in squalor on some boats, forced to use buckets instead of toilets, suffering running sores from bed bugs and sometimes lacking sufficient food. It also revealed instances of human trafficking.


To read the full story by Martha Mendoza & Margie Mason of the Associated Press on Honolulu Star Advertiser: Click Here

Why human trafficking is a public health problem

Trafficking survivor and advocate Margeaux Gray with her guide dog, Junebug.


(CNN)You might think that when a trafficking victim escapes, their life is saved. In reality, though, survival is much more complicated.

My journey of survival began nearly 20 years ago, and continues to this day.
It is marked by hurdles, as well as by surprising gifts like losing my sight, discovering art and receiving life-changing, holistic, trauma-informed care. It has also been marked by our nation’s failure to call trafficking what it is: a public health problem.

Road to recovery

Just last week, the State Department released the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which ranks countries based on whether and how well they are addressing modern slavery. While now is a prime time to talk about the survivor’s journey to recover from the horror of being held captive physically and emotionally, this key issue will likely be left out of most conversations.
Instead, most discussions will focus on law enforcement issues like how well countries, including the United States, track down and prosecute traffickers, and how to use threat of prosecution as a deterrent.

While law enforcement is important, so is providing adequate support for trafficking victims’ recovery. And, in that regard, we are failing. We are failing because we have not identified human trafficking as the public health issue it is. You see, trafficking is not a short-term affliction—it affects a survivor’s whole life, families and even entire communities.

That failure has negatively affected my life (and the lives of countless others) time and again, while I was repeatedly trafficked as a young child, and in the years since becoming physically free from trauma. The primary failure occurred during my ordeal. Though I often visited the doctor for numerous unexplained, very grown-up health problems, not one asked whether I was being abused.

Later, I struggled with the physical and psychological wounds resulting from more than a decade of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of my trafficker.

Blindness was just one of the costs. I have also struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an eating disorder, peripheral neuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. While I eventually received beneficial health services, it was largely because of my blindness.

Reemerging into the world

For example, blindness brought me Junebug, my guide dog for the blind. Even after I was technically “free” from my trafficking situation, PTSD left me feeling incredibly anxious and unsafe in public.

After losing my eyesight, I felt even more vulnerable, and didn’t want to leave my house. The trusting bond I developed with Junebug changed my life, and allowed me to reemerge into the world.

My blindness also brought me to Louisville, Kentucky, where I could access tremendous health and psychological services that the government provides for vision-impaired people. I didn’t realize until recently how truly fortunate I am to have ended up here.

I have been receiving therapy from a professional trained in trauma-informed care for the first time. Trauma-informed caregivers are trained to understand, recognize and respond to the effects of all types of trauma and help survivors heal physical, psychological and emotional wounds, and rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.

To read the full story by Margaux Gray and watch the video on CNN: Click Here