Washington DC has made September its Human Trafficking Awareness Month thanks to efforts by the District of Columbia Task Force on Human Trafficking, which was established five years ago with the DC Police Department and the DC US Attorney’s Office.
September will highlight in an effort to educate the public about the Task Force’s main goals:
- To facilitate a anti-trafficking efforts in the DC area through community outreach, proactive investigations, law enforcement training, intelligence sharing, and more formalized partnerships between law enforcement organizations and non-governmental organizations.
- To identify citizen, resident and transnational victims of both sex and labor trafficking.
- To provide comprehensive services to trafficking victims.
- To increase the prosecution of traffickers.
Laura Kenney writes about a recent case of moder-day slavery for the StyleList.
A West African immigrant has pleaded guilty to running a human trafficking operation that forced women to braid hair for up to 14 hours a day in Newark and East Orange NJ, reports the New Jersey Star Ledger.
In a case prosecutors equated to modern day slavery, Lassissi Afolabi, 46, told a judge he headed a ring that smuggled victims from villages in Ghana and Togo. He brought twenty women, age 10 to 19, to New Jersey, where he seized their passports, forbade them to learn English and make friends, and planted them in salons where they were forced to work up to 14 hours per day, 7 days a week.
The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released yesterday, says the global economic crisis is boosting the demand for human trafficking because of a growing demand for cheap goods and services. It cites the International Labor Organization, which estimates that at least 12.3 million adults and children are victims of forced labor, bonded labor and sex slavery each year.
“A striking global demand for labor and a growing supply of workers willing to take ever greater risks for economic opportunities seem a recipe for increased forced labor cases of migrant workers and women in prostitution,” it says.
It predicts that the economic crisis will push more businesses underground to avoid taxes and unionized labor, which will increase the use of forced, cheap and child labor by cash-strapped multinational companies.
The report surveys the efforts of 175 countries in their fight against trafficking and slavery. The countries are then ranked, and negligent countries face sanctions by the United States. The United States, however, is not ranked among them. This year, however, the Justice Department did issue a report on efforts to combat trafficking efforts in the United States. According to the report, in 2008 the FBI opened 132 trafficking investigations, made 139 arrests and obtained 94 convictions.
Next year, the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report will rank the efforts of the United States to combat slavery and trafficking within its own borders.
Information from CNN. Read the article here.
In a podcast at Georgetown Law by Nguyen Dinh Thang, the executive director of Boat People SOS discusses the global problem of human trafficking and address the latest developments in the fight against human trafficking in Vietnam and elsewhere.
You can hear it here (Quicktime).
Yesterday President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Luis C. de Baca as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department.
President Obama said, “I’m grateful that this fine public servant has agreed to join my administration, and I am confident that with Secretary Clinton he will be an indispensable part of our team as we work tirelessly to stand up for human rights and the rule of law. I am confident that his unique experiences and proven ability will make him a strong advocate for our values and for justice around the globe.”
De Baca is Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, on detail from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. His portfolio includes national security, intelligence, immigration, civil rights, and modern slavery issues. At the Justice Department, de Baca served as Chief Counsel of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. During the Clinton Administration, he was the Department’s Involuntary Servitude and Slavery Coordinator and was instrumental in developing the United States’ victim-centered approach to combating modern slavery. He has investigated and prosecuted human trafficking cases in which victims were held for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, farm labor, domestic service, and factory work. De Baca received the leading honor given by the national trafficking victim service provider community, the Freedom Network’s Paul & Sheila Wellstone Award, and has been named the Michigan Law School’s Distinguished Latino Alumnus.
Read more about de Baca…
According to A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons launched today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking is the norm.
The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour (18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Read the full report (PDF).
An excellent look into the lives of modern-day slaves in California by Gendy Alimurung for the LA Weekly tells the story of two women who came to the United States in search of the American dream and came face to face with the cruelty of modern slavery.
The girls next door never rest. They work day and night and weekends taking care of the old people, and they never, ever leave the eldercare home on Vernon Street, hidden in plain sight inside an ordinary suburban tract house in Long Beach with light-tan stucco, white trim, burgundy awnings, a two-car garage and an American flag waving in the front entryway. Like the home’s owners, the girls are Filipino, with dark skin and dark hair. They might be pretty, if not for their miserable expressions.
Jokingly, the man next door asks the girls, “Do you ever get a day off?”
No, he finally realizes, they never do.
The man, who refuses to be identified in the article gets the Feds involved. This is California, where stars are made and it shows. When the Feds raid one of the traffickers’ homes, neighbors wonder whether another episode of Dexter is being filmed. The reality is far more disturbing.
Housing victims at traffickers’ own residences, it seems, is the norm. A profile of typical traffickers emerges. They engender mutual mistrust among the victims and instill what FBI agent Tricia Whitehall calls, in an affidavit filed in federal court, “a climate of fear” — fear of law enforcement, fear of reprisals if they stop working. Traffickers keep large sums of cash on hand. Most are vigilant record keepers — of money wires both international and domestic. Records are often written in code and by hand. They take photos of their victims. They take custody of their victims’ identification documents and passports. However futile it sounds, sometimes victims keep their own records of debt payments so they can reconcile them with their oppressors’ records.
“They are soiling what America is. They were exploiting these girls and writing off electricity, gas, water.” [A neighbor tells the LA Weekly] Can you imagine calling that a small business?”
Many do. Several years ago, Nena Ruiz, a Filipino woman working as a domestic servant for a vice president of legal affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment sued him and his wife for enslaving her. She worked 18 hours a day performing what one paper described as “strange household chores,” which included microwaving chicken nuggets and cutting up bananas and pears for the couple’s dogs. Ruiz, meanwhile, was fed leftovers and slept in a dog bed. A jury awarded her $825,000 in back wages and punitive damages. In another instance, Elma Manliguez was paid 6 cents an hour to work under slavelike conditions as a caregiver for the family of a Merrill Lynch executive in New Jersey. They settled with her for $175,000. Then last year, a Milwaukee jury awarded close to $1 million in compensation to a Filipino woman who worked illegally for 20 years for a Wisconsin physician couple.
This is modern slavery in our country. Read more here.