In the News

Lawmakers Praise Financial Industry’s Human Trafficking Barriers

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently praised the financial industry’s efforts to thwart the work of human traffickers.

The lawmakers are supporting the Senate Banking Committee’s inclusion of a provision in the BRINK Act that would combat human trafficking. The language is based on the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act, which was originally introduced by Warren and Rubio earlier this year.

The legislators said the language requires federal banking regulators to work with law enforcement and financial institutions to address the use of the financial system for human trafficking while establishing an office within the Office for Terrorism and Financial Crimes to coordinate with the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

 

To read the full story by Douglas Clark on Financial Regulation News: Click Here

Judges And Prosecutors Share Best Practices At Global Vatican Trafficking Summit

For two days, judges and prosecutors from all around the world have met in the Vatican to discuss the dangers of organized crime and combat the modern slavery of the 21st century, human trafficking.

It was organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and shows participants that they are not alone when fighting this issue.

JOAN CHARLES

Judge in Trinidad and Tobago
“Just having the platform to really articulate the issues and to hear what other countries have been doing who have been addressing this problem seriously for a very long time is helpful, so I will be able to take it back. We are doing right now continued training and sensitization of the public and of the important state holders how to recognize victims of human trafficking.”

Statistics show that around 24.9 million victims are trapped in this form of slavery. Of these, 81 percent are exploited for labor and 19 percent are sexually exploited. One out of every four victims is a minor, with 71 percent being women and 29 percent male.

To read the full story on Rome Reports: Click Here

In Uganda, Missionary Nun Determined To Tackle Child Begging

Children begging on the streets of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. (Credit: Stock image.)

A Comboni missionary nun in Uganda who’d been out of the country for ten years recently returned to discover a widespread social problem she hadn’t seen before: children begging on the streets, often as part of a human trafficking ring. Working with the Ugandan government, Sister Fernanda Cristinelli is determined to do something about it.

Sister Fernanda Cristinelli, a Comboni missionary, has returned to Uganda where she had served for ten years, to witness a disturbing new phenomenon: widespread begging. According to Fides News Agency, children sit by roadsides all night, “begging for a few pennies.

“They cannot have a hot meal, go to school, play, wash, feel safe and secure. They are children from the Karamoja area, one of the poorest in the northeast of Uganda, who are forced by adults to beg in the capital Kampala,” Cristinelli told Crux.

Cristinelli says her return to Uganda has put her “in front of a phenomenon that I had never seen in Kampala years ago.

“Children aged 3 to 10, and girls from 12 to 14, are begging on the streets, the busiest of the capital, and adult women control them. The little ones jump towards cars in the unpredictable traffic of the streets of Kampala to beg, and the girls, with babies on their shoulders, do the same.

“In addition, these children live in decrepit tents at the edge of the city, in the mud when it rains,” Cristinelli said.

The Daily Mail quotes 32-year old Betty, a mother of five, whose survival and that of her family depends on the capacity of her two -year old daughter, Namuli, to make money begging.

“Like any mother, I feel bad about doing this. But without the money Namuli gets from begging we will die of starvation and have no money to put clothes on our backs. This is the only way we can stay alive,” she said.

To read the full story by Ngala Killian Chitom on Crux: Click Here

Vatican Address to Highlight Bitcoin Use in Slave Trade

The Vatican is soon to host an address on how bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being used in the modern-day slave trade.

To be held today at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) in the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, the talk by Bank of Montreal senior manager Joseph Mari is to provide an overview of the role cryptocurrencies play in money laundering, while highlighting the potential of blockchain to help the unbanked.

The second of a three-day long event, itself part of an even larger effort led by Pope Francis to eradicate slavery entirely by 2020, the address is expected to be given to an audience including the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and other senior church leaders.

Since the Pope was named the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, he has made slavery a top priority of the church, helping inspire the recent PASS efforts, according to an internal document provided to CoinDesk.

In addition to today’s address on blockchain, the group has held other workshops, seminars and plenary meetings culminating in the organization’s “core” recommendation to resettle slaves where they are found, if they so choose, rather than repatriate them.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with CoinDesk, Mari detailed the purpose of his particular address, and the potential bigger picture role it could play in fighting against what the International Labour Organization estimates is a $150 billion
 forced labor industry.

Mari said of the audience:

“Blockchain and cryptocurrency needs to be on their radar, it needs to be recognized as something that is current, is being utilized and the quicker the learning curve is surmounted, the quicker we can start working towards the risks that are presented.”

Mass education

The day’s proceedings are scheduled to kick off with the celebration of mass by H.E. Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who is also the bishop of Argentina and chancellor of PASS.

Following chancellor Sorondo’s blessing at Casina Pio IV in Vatican City, Mari is scheduled to present the most recent results of Project Protect, founded two years ago to teach AML officers how to identify patterns in their own transactions that might be evidence of human trafficking.

To read the full story by Michael del Castillo on Coin Desk: Click Here

Hotline Focuses Awareness Of Human Trafficking In Latino Communities

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has reportedly received 2,200 calls concerning sex trafficking with connections to Mexico or Latin America since it was set up in  2007. 

Polaris, the organization that operates the hotline, plans to target these demographics, with emphasis on the Houston area, in its latest anti-trafficking campaign, according to a news release from the group.

In partnership with Hispanic Communications Network, a social media marketing company serving U.S. Hispanic communities, Polaris will be releasing all-Spanish public service announcements, social media strategies, celebrity endorsements and survivor testimonies throughout the next few months, geared toward raising awareness in the Hispanic community nationwide, according to the Polaris news release.

 “When communities are equipped to recognize the signs of sex trafficking and know there’s a trusted resource available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they can play a critical role in the fight against this crime,” said My Lo Cook, Polaris’ strategic initiatives director for Mexico, in the release.

To read the full story by Jasmine Davis on Chron : Click Here

Lighting up the darkness of trafficking

by Sister Michele Morek

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking pray outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 9. (Michele Morek)

Trafficking victims live among us. They may grow our food, make our clothes, serve us in a restaurant, do our hair or nails, or build our electronic devices.

Trafficking occurs in every state in every nation. The number of networks of sisters working against trafficking around the world is an impressive force, but the problem of trafficking is getting worse: In the United States alone, there was a 35 percent increase in sex trafficking reported in 2016, according to Polaris, while labor trafficking reports rose by 47 percent.

Catholic sisters all over the world have been increasing their efforts to fight trafficking. One effective anti-trafficking group is the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT). It was my good fortune to be a charter member of the first board of directors, since I was doing anti-trafficking advocacy at the United Nations at the time.

The 15 sisters on the board are from different congregations and from all over the country, but they do have one thing in common: They are engaged in a wide variety of ministries that involve work against human trafficking.

Some of the board members offer services for survivors of trafficking: rescue, protection, education, rehabilitation. Others create newsletters, maintain websites, act as the justice representative for their congregations, or do advocacy in Washington, D.C., in their state capitals, or with local officials. All have created prayer services and educational resources for their congregations or other organizations they belong to; many of these resources and prayer services can be found on the organization’s website.

The organization was legally incorporated within the past year, so the original informal board is now the first official board. We met Oct. 8-10 at the Washington Retreat Center, a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement. The meeting was devoted to planning, capacity-building and setting the vision for the next three years in leadership, membership, program and services.

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking board meeting in October (Michele Morek)

The second night of the meeting, we board members gathered in front of the White House for a prayer service. Holding candles and posters, we prayed for homeless youth. (In March, a month after vowing to end human trafficking, President Donald Trump proposed through his budget to eliminate the Interagency Council on Homelessness.) We also prayed for people on the move, especially the 22 million refugees. The president wants to wall them out, deport them, ban then and turn them away.

As we prayed, other people would slip in, indicating their support by whispered word or expression. A Hasidic Jewish family, a tourist couple and several others hovered quietly around the edges of our group. An evangelical minister walked into the middle of the circle and with extravagant gestures to heaven loudly called down the blessing of God, to which we all enthusiastically agreed, “Amen!”

Many religious congregationsindividuals and coalitions are members of our anti-trafficking coalition, but everyone has access to anti-trafficking resources on the website: curriculum, teaching modules, faith resources, newsletters, video, information about slave-free goods and services, and suggested actions.

Besides providing a networking tool for members and a source of education for everyone, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking was founded to be the official U.S. representative of a global network of sisters working against human trafficking. The global umbrella group, Talitha Kum (from Jesus’ Aramaic words, “little girl, get up”), works with its director and with national and regional coalitions of sisters around the world that are engaged in anti-trafficking work.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently mentioned our group in its anti-trafficking newsletter, noting, “U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking utilizes social media to showcase positive efforts and victories of women and men working tirelessly to combat trafficking.”

Work against trafficking is not a single-issue ministry for the sisters, as trafficking has many root causes:

  • Poverty and lack of decent work drive men and women to seek work to support themselves and their families. Desperate parents may sell their children. Most trafficked people work in commercial sex trades or forced labor. They are also exploited through involuntary domestic servitude, bonded or debt labor, child soldiering, begging, crimes, forced marriage and organ removal.
  • Migration puts refugees and other people on the move into harm’s way, making them vulnerable to traffickers. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, there are more than 65 million people currently displaced worldwide, more than at any time since World War II.
  • Political upheaval is a major cause of forced migration as desperate people flee from persecution or violence. Trafficking is the end result of complex interconnected social factors.
  • Climate change disasters and other natural disasters can be causal factors for all the issues above, increasing poverty, migration and political instability.
Sisters from U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking pose in front of the White House during a prayer service outside Oct. 9. (Provided photo)

The logo of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is particularly apt: It shows a green shoot growing out of the darkness from behind prison bars. It is coming out crooked at first, but as it leaves the cage, it straightens and grows up toward the light. All sisters who have worked with survivors of trafficking can see the victims’ journey in that little shoot. We are all doing what we can to light up the darkness and take away the bars.

 

This story first appeared on Global Sisters Report

 

November Monthly Reflection

Hope is a Way of Life

by Anne Victory, HM

With all of the recent crises—multiple hurricanes leaving millions without the basics of life, earthquakes killing thousands, devastating forest fires, senseless gun violence, reckless political maneuvering—I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, drained, exhausted. Add to that the fact that these disasters are likely to make the vulnerable more susceptible to human trafficking, and I truly feel almost paralyzed. Can I—and others who work for justice—make any difference in the face of such chaos? Is this what is meant by compassion fatigue? I suppose it could be.

As I was pondering these things, I was challenged last Saturday when I attended a Walk for Freedom event on Public Square in Cleveland where I staffed my organization’s (Collaborative to End Human Trafficking) informational display. A passerby came up and asked what the display was all about. When I told him, he responded that it’s really hopeless, that slavery has been going on for centuries, and essentially that I have no business trying to change things. “That’s just how things are. Rape is a fact of life, and forced labor is woven into the economy. While it’s probably wrong, it’s also hopeless to try to change things! You don’t really expect to make a difference, do you?”

I was a bit taken aback, since so many others who were present that day expressed gratitude for our efforts to raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking and to connect services on behalf of victims. After a moment, I responded, “Of course, we can make a difference! I believe that things can change. I think it’s worth the effort. I may never know how my presence, my words, or my actions help another person. That doesn’t mean that I should not try. If I –and so many of my colleagues—don’t speak out for the voiceless, that’s when we fail.” Sadly, he walked away unconvinced. Perhaps that was his way of letting himself off the hook, or maybe he is just too discouraged.

As I pondered this encounter, I also recalled the opportunity I had to speak about human trafficking with some refugee women recently at Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services. They came from Somalia, Swaziland, Congo, Iran, Nepal, and other countries. They spoke Swahili, Somali, Nepalese, Arabic and some small amount of English. They are eager to get settled in this new land and want to provide a new life for their children. They expected that they would now be safe from harm now that they are in the United States.

As I slowly presented information on human trafficking with the help of interpreters, I watched as their eager faces began to show concern and even fear. It seems that every one of these women knew well that this crime happened routinely in their countries of origin, but they never expected to find it here. In their effort to become self-sufficient, they want to gain employment, but now they hear that some employers may not be reputable. What can they do? Who can help? They expressed fear, especially for their children, who learn so much more quickly and assume, like all teenagers, that they are invincible! My short presentation offered them clues regarding the “red flags,” and local phone numbers to call for help. I left these sessions hoping that, while I had instilled a level of fear, I had also empowered them with tools and resources that will help keep them and their families safe in their new country.

I also left inspired by the courage of these strong women who have already endured so much—war, years in refugee camps, mistreatment, and unspeakable abuse. I respect their resiliency, their willingness to start over in a new land with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their immense hope for their families. So is there any reason why I should not continue trying to make a difference on this important issue in the face of other crises that may indeed cause even more people to become vulnerable? I can’t think of any legitimate excuse!

I feel compelled to continue speaking out for those with no voice, no power. Like the stories of the Old Testament prophets, I am reminded that a prophet’s role is not to be successful but to be faithful. How can I, so very blessed with freedom, faith, education, the support of a loving family and community, turn away in despair over the condition of our world? What about those who really suffer every day of their lives because they lack the basics? Who will speak for them if I don’t?

I recall that the Constitutions of my congregation, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, challenge me to demonstrate that “hope is a way of life . . .” (Art. 17). Standing on the shoulders of so many people of good will who have gone before me and now stand in solidarity with me, I pray that I and we will overcome our compassion fatigue and be ones who offer hope in these most challenging times.

 

UN Secretary General: Human Trafficking Not Taken Seriously

(CNSNews.com) – Speaking at a modern day slavery event at the United Nations hosted by the UK, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that “decision makers around the world” don’t take the problem of human trafficking seriously.

“Why were we able to arrest drug lords but not lords of human trafficking? If I want to be cynical, I can justify it. When I was in government, I thought that my children could be victims of drugs but never thought they could be victims of human trafficking. That’s probably why decision makers around the world never took this problem seriously,” he said.

“I must say that in my youth, I thought that slavery as such had disappeared from the world and that those not-so-fantastic pages of our history were lost. The truth is that we are seeing today dramatic new forms of force labor, human trafficking, and modern slavery,” he said.

Human trafficking is “a multinational industry,” Guterres said, “with people being taken from one place in the world, moving through other countries, and finally ending up in other places where they are submitted to forms of modern slavery, with financial and logistical mechanisms that need a very solid organization, which means we are dealing with multinationals of crime and with powerful people.”

Guterres pledged his “full support” to the UK’s initiative to end modern slavery and to committed do everything he could “to mobilize the UN and its different bodies.”

“We need to mobilize people and make them understand that the human suffering associated with these situations is absolutely unbearable, and the criminal nature of those handling these activities is absolutely unacceptable in the modern world,” he said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who hosted the event, said they had “a long way to go” to end “forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking by 2030.”

To read the full story by Melanie After, on CNS News: Click Here

Human Trafficking: Ohio Looks Beyond Traditional Law Enforcement

 

According to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s “Governor’s Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force Report” released in January, there are at least an estimated 3,000 minors at-risk for human trafficking in the state of Ohio.

Human trafficking is defined on the Human Trafficking Task Force website, www.humantrafficking.ohio.gov, as a form of modern-day slavery in which criminals profit from the control and exploitations of others. Trafficking takes place in one of two forms: labor trafficking — compelling people to provide labor or services; and sex trafficking — forcing individuals to perform commercial sex acts.

“Both use force, fear and coercion to keep victims working against their will,” according to a news release. “Both types occur in Ohio.”

In 2015, Ohio ranked fourth in the nation for calls for the numbers of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline number. In 2012, Ohio ranked 11th in the nation, according to the governor’s task force report.

“Over the last several years, Ohio’s calls to the national hotline have increased. More specifically, 4.8 percent (1,066 calls) of the total calls made to the national hotline came from Ohio in 2015, compared with 3.4 percent (459 calls) of the total in 2012,” the report stated.

To read the full story by Kristi Garabrandt on The News-Herald: Click Here

Teaching Medical Workers To Recognize And Help Human Trafficking Victims

A medical worker listens as Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, who oversees a sex-trafficking intervention and research program at Arizona State University, discusses warning signs so health care workers can help victims. (Photo by Tanner Stechnij/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Phoenix has been identified by the Department of Justice as a major human trafficking destination but a local hospital is training health care workers to spot and help the men and women who have fallen victim to prostitution.

 Personal accounts, prevention measure and treatment methods were part of a September training at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Holly Gibbs survived sex trafficking as a teenager.

“At the age of 14, a man in a shopping mall convinced me to run away from home to become a model or musician. In reality, what he did was he forced me into prostitution in Atlantic City, New Jersey,” said Gibbs, Dignity Health’s Human Trafficking Response program director. “I was trafficked for two nights before I was recovered by law enforcement.”

Watching for victims of fear, violence

Gibbs and other seminar speakers told health care workers to watch for physical and psychological signs of human trafficking.

“There are so many red flags that can indicate sex or labor trafficking,” Gibbs said. “Anything from physical assault, sexual assault to signs of bruising in various stages of healing.”

To read the full story by Tanner Stechnij on Cronkite News: Click Here