Indian Nun Says Enough To Children Victims Of Human Trafficking

Sister Gracy Rodrigues, an Indian nun and member of the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking, will not be idle before the cry of children victims of human trafficking. In an essay, Rodrigues calls on everyone to put an end to this modern day form of slavery.

Indian nun says enough to children victims of human trafficking
(Credit: Imagens Evangélicas via Flickr.)

MUMBAI, India – Every two minutes, a child is prepared for sexual exploitation.

For Sister Gracy Rodrigues, an Indian nun with the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity (the Canossians), the calls for help by children who are victims of human trafficking can no longer be ignored.

“Today in every corner of the society and the country we hear the cry of the children, ‘I am not safe’,” Rodrigues wrote in an essay titled ‘Children they are, not slaves.’

Rodrigues is a member of the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking (AMRAT), a network of 52 religious congregations who collaborate to find solutions and put an end to this modern-day form of slavery and exploitation.

AMRAT wishes to fight this evil by creating awareness. “From awareness to prayer, from prayer to solidarity and from solidarity to concrete action, until slavery and trafficking are terminated,” Rodrigues writes.

Pope Francis insisted on the need to collaborate and fight what he called a “crime against humanity,” while speaking to members of RENATE – Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation on November 7, 2016.

Francis also made the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, on February 8, the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking.

Speaking at the occurrence this Wednesday, the pope urged governments to give “voice to our younger brothers and sisters who have been wounded in their dignity. All efforts must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime.”

In one such effort, Rodrigues took part in a rescue mission. When she arrived to the “stinking, polluted, dark” place where three children were kept, she was catapulted in a situation that she would never forget.

“They were treated as slaves. They pleaded and cried before us to be taken away, for they were beaten, burnt, kicked, cheated and looted by the pimp owners,” Rodrigues writes. “This experience has left a mark in my heart which will always move me towards justice and love for the less fortunate, the forgotten, the lost, the least and the unknown.”

An estimated 200 million children today are child laborers and Unicef estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. “They are trafficked for sexual exploitation, pornography production, forced marriage, illegal adoption, forced labour, and to become child soldiers,” Rodrigues writes.

To read the full story by Nirmala Carvalho on Crux: Click Here

How to Teach Teens About Human Trafficking

Actor Ashton Kutcher made headlines last week after giving emotional testimony before Congress on his efforts to fight human trafficking.

Victims of human trafficking – modern slavery – perform labor or commercial sex acts by force, fraud or coercion. Many victims are children.

While human trafficking occurs nationwide and to people of all socioeconomic levels, runaway and homeless youth are among the vulnerable, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Recent reports of teenage trafficking have occurred in California, Louisiana and Michigan, among other states.

[Learn how homeless high schoolers face barriers to education.]

“Numerous exploiters have talked about the fact that they do target schools,” says Jeneé Littrell, administrator of safe and supportive schools for the San Mateo County Office of Education in California. “It’s a place where young children are, and young children are vulnerable.”

Teens can go through many typical stages that could put them at risk, like starting to seek external validation as well as independence from the family, says Littrell, who was the lead author of “Human Trafficking in America’s Schools,” a 2015 guide from the Department of Education.

It’s critical for schools to educate staff and students about human trafficking, Littrell says. There could be student victims or others being recruited. Schools are filled with caring adults who have relationships with students who can help young people in need of assistance, she says.

High school officials can use the following strategies to build awareness of human trafficking.

1. Make sure staff understand human trafficking: Teachers don’t need to be human trafficking experts, but they should know what modern slavery is, how it happens in their community, what to look for and who to turn to if there is a student they are concerned about or a victim comes forward.

Some of the warning signs: Students with bruises, tattoos or branding and unexplained trends in absences. For example, if a student is often absent on Monday and Friday it may be because their exploiter is making them travel to different locations.

2. Integrate human trafficking education into the curriculum: Modern slavery lessons naturally fit into a lesson about the history of slavery, says Littrell.

To read the full story by Alexandra Pannoni on US News & World Report: Click Here

Super Bowl Puts Spotlight On Human Trafficking

Tackling human trafficking before the Super Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS — As leaders in Minnesota prepare for Super Bowl 52, part of those plans include ways to stop human trafficking.

There have been many debates about whether or not there is a spike in trafficking during the Super Bowl, with no hard data linking the two. However, many groups fighting sex trafficking say events like the Super Bowl can raise awareness about a year-round problem.

“We did have somebody that did a study for us. Essentially, what information that we did gather is that at any time that there is any sort of event, not necessarily just simply the Super Bowl but any sort of large event that comes into a community, there is an uptick and an increase in trafficking in that area,” said Anastasia Kramlinger, an intervention case manager who works with homeless youth through the Minneapolis-based nonprofit, YouthLink.

Kramlinger is part of a Super Bowl committee working on an anti-trafficking initiative for Super Bowl 52. 

Kramlinger can’t speak about much of the work they are doing right now but said, “What I can say is that Minnesota’s pretty far ahead of the curve as far as anti-trafficking goes throughout the United States. And so what we’re doing is, we have an initiative that we’re putting into place for the Super Bowl for law enforcement, social service agencies, and also for citizens. So that they can have an idea of what to do if they see trafficking.”

To read the full story by Heidi Wigdahl on KARE: Click Here

Eradicate Human Trafficking Once And For All!

Pope Francis on human trafficking - photo: Radio Vaticana

\Statement on the occasion of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking  

On the occasion of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, 8 February, Caritas Europa casts the spotlight on the global tragedy of trafficking in human beings. This scourge affects millions people in the world and generates billions of euros for criminal groups. 

“I was 12 when a friend of the family visited my parents. She said that she knew people in Paris who were about to be parents and they were looking for a teenager who could take care of the baby. They promised that I will be paid and receive an education. I felt I was dreaming. I was on my way to France to study,” told Olivia, who was trafficked and abused as a domestic slave for 9 years in Paris. 

Caritas organisations from across Europe work daily with victims of trafficking like Olivia. But neither Caritas nor civil society alone can seriously challenge the global indifference that feeds trafficking in human beings. Caritas Europa thus calls on European states and the European Union to fully ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. And to do their outmost to tackle the root causes of trafficking.

To read the full story from Caritas Europa: Click Here

Fighting Human Trafficking In Detroit

When some 200 law enforcement officers raided the Victory Inn on Jan. 12, they recovered more than just narcotics.

They also rescued 14 victims of human trafficking who were being provided drugs in exchange for “commercial sex dates” in filthy rooms filled with needles, crack pipes and guns.

And they had expected to find even more victims.

“Traffickers move people, and it just so happened that some of the women were working elsewhere,” said Deena Policicchio, director of outreach and education services for Alternatives For Girls, which joined the operation 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Detroit-based nonprofit serves high-risk girls and women and partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations to offer the victims crises counseling, hygiene supplies, clothing, drug treatment referrals and transportation to safe lodging. WC Safe, a Wayne County nonprofit that helps sexual assault survivors, and the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic also assisted the victims.

“They’re still in trauma and crisis mode,” Policicchio said shortly after the raid.

According to court records, Michael Randol, a 41-year-old convicted felon from Detroit, distributed drugs to women in exchange for sex dates at the motel. One woman described as a frequent Victory Inn resident told police she worked as a prostitute to pay back a man called “Q,” who sold her cocaine and heroin, and to “work off a drug debt she owed” to another man called “T.” She alleged the men had as many as 20 women “working for them.”

Melissa Novock, a WC Safe human trafficking specialist, said a lot of traffickers use drugs to manipulate women who have or develop addictions. But there are a number of reasons women fall victims to trafficking. Some fall behind on rent and need money. Others can’t get a job because of criminal histories. Some become involuntarily controlled.

“(Some)times what happens is a woman is selling herself, a pimp finds her, decides he wants to own her and he’ll just go in a hotel, rape her and then say she is his,” Policicchio said. “…and he will beat her and control her from that day forward.”

Pimps often target vulnerable young girls and women, though boys can be victims, too, Novock said. There’s also a misconception that victims are snatched from malls or bus stops.

“Sometimes that does happen. But a lot of the times…the young girls are not in a great situation,” Novock said, rattling off examples: They’ve been sexually abused, live in foster care or a homeless shelter, or suffer from an abusive relationship. “They’re looking for some type of attention, some type of love and a pimp takes advantage of that.”

Trafficking happens everywhere

While The Victory Inn sits next to a topless bar in an area known for prostitution, authorities say human trafficking occurs everywhere.

“We’re always thinking that this is happening somewhere else or to someone else, but it’s happening in Michigan, and it’s happening in the city and the suburbs,” Novock said.

Policicchio said she went on one raid with law enforcement in an affluent Wayne County suburb. They were looking for women forced to prostitute at a hotel full of families staying there for a soccer tournament.

To read the full story by Stephanie Steinberg on The Detroit News: Click Here

Vatican Meeting Calls Organ Trafficking A Crime Against Humanity

Vatican City – Nearly 80 doctors, law enforcement and health officials from around the world vowed to fulfill the directive of Pope Francis to combat human trafficking and organ trafficking in all their condemnable forms.

View of Saint Peter's square at the Vatican (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi / MANILA BULLETIN)
View of Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi / MANILA BULLETIN)

After a conference on organ trafficking at the Vatican, participants signed this week a statement agreeing to unite in fighting the crime of organ trafficking, submitting 11 proposals for implementation by healthcare and law enforcement professionals around the world.

The creation of the statement was one of the main objectives of the Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Participants in the summit gave reports on the issue and how it is currently being combated in their respective countries.

“We the undersigned pledge our commitment to combat these illicit and immoral practices,” the statement, published Feb. 9, reads.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only about 10 percent – or 120,000 – of the estimated 1 million organ transplants needed are performed each year. This data was presented to Pope Francis in 2014, and is an example of the demand for organs creating, in large part, the drive for illegal trafficking.

To read the full story by CNA/EWTN News on Manila Bulletin: Click Here

Reps. Cohen, Kinzinger, Cárdenas and Wagner Introduce Bipartisan Human Trafficking Bill

January 31, 2017 Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) today introduced the Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness Act. This bipartisan legislation would provide health care professionals at all levels training on how to identify and appropriately treat human trafficking victims. It is a companion to a Senate bill also introduced today by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Susan Collins (R-ME). January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Human trafficking is a hidden crime that impacts hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S., and many of these victims end up in a health care setting while being exploited,” said Congressman Cohen. “Our bill aims to ensure health care professionals are trained to identify victims of human trafficking and provide them with critical, victim-centered health care.  Our bill also enables health care providers to implement protocols and procedures to work with victims, service organizations, and law enforcement so that victims can get proper support and perpetrators of human trafficking are brought to justice. I would like to thank Reps. Kinzinger, Cárdenas and Wagner for joining me in introducing this bill in the House and Senators Heitkamp and Collins for introducing this bill in the Senate as we recognize National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”

“It’s critical that healthcare providers are trained to recognize human trafficking cases and have the proper procedures in place to help those most vulnerable,” said Congressman Kinzinger. “I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the SOAR Act, which I believe will have a significant impact towards identifying cases of human trafficking and helping assist more individuals across the country from falling victim to this heinous crime.”

“In the last decade, Los Angeles has become one of the top three hubs for human trafficking,” said Rep. Cardenas. “While we’re making strides in dismantling this industry, we must do more. Ensuring that health professionals are able to address and recognize human trafficking is crucial in our fight. This legislation will help meet that goal, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort.”

“Education and awareness are critical in the fight to end human trafficking. That is why I spent time with both trafficking survivors and healthcare providers in St. Louis this fall to discuss how they can better identify trafficking victims. The SOAR Act will provide healthcare providers on all levels with the appropriate training and tools necessary to identify and report potential cases of human trafficking,”said Congresswoman Wagner. “With tens of thousands of victims being trafficked in the United States each year, I am happy to work with my colleagues across the aisle to introduce and quickly pass this legislation.”

“This month when I spoke with a mother whose young daughter was terrorized on a near daily basis after being trafficked for sex, I asked her what she thought needed to change going forward. Her answer was simple – health care professionals need the training and the tools to recognize and protect victims of sex trafficking, especially children like her daughter,” said Senator Heitkamp. “Today, Senator Collins and I are reintroducing our bipartisan bill to make sure health providers – sometimes some of the only people victims interact without their trafficker in the room – can identify and get help for victims of sex trafficking. Our nation recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness this month – and by training health professionals to spot potential victims – we can expand awareness in the medical community so they are prepared to intervene and have a clear process on handling the situation. By building on the success of pilot training programs of about 60 doctors, nurses and others in Williston and New Town, we can strengthen our community and nationwide network that unmasks and effectively combats human trafficking, protects victims, and prevents these crimes from proliferating in our towns.”

“Every state in America is affected by the evils of sex trafficking. Human traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable, often homeless or runaway children. Identification is the first, and frequently missed, step in helping victims and stopping these atrocities,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation would bolster the current success of the U.S. Health and Human Services pilot program by expanding it and greatly increasing the number of our health care providers who will have the training to protect victims and expose these heinous crimes.”

The Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a pilot program to combat human trafficking to be known as ‘Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond to Health and Wellness Training.’ While human trafficking victims are often difficult to identify, a reported 68 percent of trafficking victims end up in a health care setting at some point while being exploited, including in clinics, emergency rooms and doctor’s offices.  Despite this, out of more than 5,680 hospitals in the country, only 60 have been identified as having a plan for treating patients who are victims of trafficking and 95 percent of emergency room personnel are not trained to treat trafficking victims. The SOAR Act will help close the gap in health care settings without plans for treating human trafficking victims.

Press release originally found on the website of Representative Steve Cohen: Click Here

3 Nonprofit Leaders Speak On Their Top Priorities To Eradicate Human Trafficking

StockSnap IO

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time when national leaders, nonprofits and public advocates continue to speak up and speak out against the injustice of human trafficking nationally and internationally. Human trafficking comes in many forms – commercial sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, labor trafficking and more – all experienced across the globe, with experts estimating that at least 21 million are victimized worldwide, with some estimates as high as 45 million.

Although the fight to end trafficking continues with much work to do, nonprofits and advocacy organizations have been growing, reaching more people in education, prevention and direct service work. A widespread shift in cultural understanding of trafficking has helped the movement continue to grow into a national outcry of advocacy for new laws, better prosecution of perpetrators, ending demand and caring for survivors.

Progress Made in 2016

According to national leaders from organizations like Polaris, Shared Hope International and Love146, 2016 was a year of growth in the movement, leading to momentum the organizations hope will continue bringing justice to survivors everywhere in 2017 and beyond.

Linda Smith, former congresswoman and founder and president of Shared Hope International states the top achievement for the organization in 2016 was the number of states that improved their laws relating to child sex trafficking. The organization launched The Protected Innocence Challenge in 2011 where states were graded A-F on their laws related to domestic minor sex trafficking. According to Smith, when the challenge started over six years ago, 26 states received F grades. In 2016, no states received F’s, signaling a nationwide improvement in how states are addressing the issue.

According to Bradley Myles, the CEO of Polaris, 2016 was the most successful year for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which the organization operates. In 2016 alone, more than 53,000 calls were reported, which helped uncover over 7,500 cases of human trafficking, identifying more than 8,500 victims. Additionally, Myles reported that more than 4,600 calls came directly from survivors – an all-time high for the organization – which signals more survivors are calling directly and are successfully receiving the appropriate resources on both a local and national level.

Rob Morris, the president and cofounder of Love146, reports 2016 was a year where collaboration among organizations in the anti-trafficking movement was widely experienced. “We see it in the collaborative efforts between government, nongovernmental organizations, law enforcement, service providers and the everyday citizen,” Morris states, referencing the most recent Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Morris shares the organization has recently partnered with hotel chains, educating staff on trafficking and how they can make strides towards prevention. “It goes back to the idea of encouraging people to do what they love — companies have expertise and connections and audiences that can help support us and the movement. We enjoy being creative about what that collaboration can look like,” Morris shares.


To read the full article by Tori Utley on Forbes: Click Here

An Invitation To Pray For The Victims Of Human Trafficking

Caritas organisations and supporters are invited to pray for the child and adolescent victims of human trafficking on 8th February.

This day marks the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on which Caritas joins with the Vatican and a variety of religious orders to remember children who have been trafficked and reflect on how we can help them.

Trafficking Prayer Day
Caritas in Italy provides cooking courses, a prevention practice to keep migrants safe and out of human traffickers. Photo by Stefano Schirato for Caritas

Caritas president Cardinal Luis Tagle has urged us all first and foremost to have compassion for the victims of trafficking. He said in a recent homily, “The mercy of Jesus is on families, on mothers and parents losing their children to violence, to vices, to human trafficking, to new forms of slavery, children who are being kidnapped, sold to prostitution, their body parts harvested in an international business of body parts.”

To read the full story from Caritas International: Click Here

Collaboration Boosts Sisters’ Anti-Trafficking Efforts

A woman code-named “Blessing,” a Nigerian victim of human trafficking, was working as a prostitute on the streets of Italy in the fall when police arrested her and took her to a detention camp because she had no documents.

Italian sisters who belong to an anti-trafficking group called Slaves No More visit this detention camp every Saturday and encourage the young women to come to them for assistance upon their release from the camp. While at the camp, the Italian sisters gave Blessing the contact information for St. Louis Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem, director of Bakhita Villa, a safe house in Lagos, Nigeria.

On Oct. 12, Blessing learned she was to be unexpectedly deported that day. She managed to get word to the Italian sisters, who called Ebegbulem. The next morning, Sisters of St. Louis met Blessing at the cargo section of the Lagos airport. There were about 40 deported women and 60 deported men in the plane.

Ebegbulem took Blessing to Bakhita Villa, where she still lives, receiving counseling, taking computer classes, and building the skills she will need for a productive life. In 2016, the Bakhita Villa sisters rescued nine victims, including Blessing.

Looking back on my 14 years in community leadership and five years of working with anti-trafficking groups at the United Nations, I think the work against trafficking and the support of its victims are the most powerful issues that unite women religious today. It is all of “one piece” with issues of migration, violence against women and children, and many of the other social justice ministries we pursue.

According to the U.N., there are 2.4 million trafficking victims worldwide at any given time. However, exact numbers are difficult to find because trafficking is “chameleon-like” and overlaps with forced marriage, migration and other social phenomena. Sometimes people don’t even know they are trafficked.

(GSR graphic / Toni-Ann Ortiz)

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime recently published its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons for 2016. In the preface to this report, Yury Fedotov, executive director of the office, said, “Perhaps the most worrying development is that the movement of refugees and migrants, the largest seen since World War II, has arguably intensified since 2014. … Within these massive migratory movements, are vulnerable children, women and men who can be easily exploited by smugglers and traffickers.”

The report states that in 2014, while most victims of trafficking were still female (71 percent), the percentage of trafficked men and boys had risen in the last 10 years.

This year, the focus is on children who are exploited through trafficking. The United Nations estimates that almost one in every three victims of trafficking is a child; UNICEF reported that 30 million children have been sexually exploited over the last 30 years.

Talitha Kum at the jubilee celebration for the International Union of Superiors General (Courtesy of Talitha Kum-Rome)

Long before trafficking became widely known as a “popular cause,” sisters were forming local, national and international networks against trafficking. In the 1990s, they began integrating their networks. In 1998, the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) agreed to initiate “greater collaborative efforts against trafficking in persons.”

They studied the issue, produced training materials for member congregations, and developed more joint efforts against trafficking. A training program developed in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration led to regional networks being established in Italy, Albania, Nigeria, Romania, Thailand, Brazil, Portugal, Philippines and South Africa, according to the UISG website on anti-trafficking efforts.

In 2009, UISG created an organization called Talitha Kum (from Mark 5:41, when Jesus says, “Little girl, get up”) to serve as “the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking, with a representative at the UISG,” according to the Talitha Kum website. Talitha Kum continues to provide training courses and materials, to set up new networks, and to collaborate with other organizations working against trafficking in persons. There are 17 regional Talitha Kum member networks in more than 70 countries and on five continents.

The sisters’ regional and national organizations provide a supportive network for many smaller groups and ministries of sisters already engaged in a variety of anti-trafficking activities. One example of how the networks resulted in stronger advocacy groups is the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, which has allied with the Australian government and receives government funding for its activities against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

“One of the most positive results of our work … is the breadth and depth of collaboration that is now taking place,” said Humility of Mary Sr. Anne Victory, a member of the national U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking working in the Cleveland area.

An anti-trafficking protest in South Africa (Courtesy of Kadir Van Lohuizen (NOOR))

“What started as a collaborative effort of seven religious congregations in the area to raise awareness through education and advocacy,” Victory wrote in an email to GSR, “has extended to a wide variety of social service providers, health care systems, law enforcement, the courts and others who share in awareness-raising and also address the real needs of victims along with efforts to prevent this crime.”

There have been some positive international gains, such as the adoption of the U.N. Agenda for Sustainable Development, with some goals and targets directed at trafficking in persons. In 2016, the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants produced a groundbreaking New York Declaration that addresses the consequences of large movements of refugees and migrants.

The U.N. has taken many steps to bring attention to the crime of trafficking in persons and designated July 30 as the U.N. World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The Vatican also has been actively working against human trafficking: Pope Francis dedicated his message for the World Day of Peace 2015 to this theme, making it a priority of international diplomacy for the Holy See.

The pope has spoken about trafficking to international religious and church leaders, diplomats, police chiefs and mayors, social scientists and scholars, judges, and various conferences throughout the world. And he has not just been talking. He has hosted conferences, spearheaded the 2014 Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery, and catalyzed the creation of the Santa Marta Group, which brings together Catholic leaders and international law enforcement officials to battle trafficking.

(GSR graphic / Pam Hackenmiller)

Anti-trafficking days are also observed in the United States. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration designated Feb. 8 as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking. Former President Barack Obama designated January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the U.S. National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed annually on Jan. 11.

To read the full article by Michele Morek, OSU, on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

Michele Morek, OSU, is a member of the Board of Directors for US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.