Category Archives: modern slavery

Human Trafficking in Hair Salons

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.


Greater Cincinnati Human Trafficking Report Findings Released

The Greater Cincinnati Human Trafficking Report is the first of its kind. A year-long study of human trafficking in Cincinnati and the Tri-state area, led by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has found, based on some 140 interviews with law enforcement personnel, judges, social workers, healthcare providers, government leaders and other affected parties, several areas of concern:

  • Lack of awareness about the problem both in the general public and among people who deal with it, such as police officers, judges and first responders
  • Inadequate legislation
  • Lack of training to help law enforcement identify victims.

More than 90% of the report’s interviewees say they are aware of trafficking happening locally, and just under half said they or their organizations have encountered victims directly. The report does not state the exact number of confirmed cases in the area, but it does note that many cases go undocumented.

“Trafficking cases are underreported both locally and nationally,” said Deborah Lydon, an attorney from Dinsmore & Shohl who helped spearhead the study. “Our first responders and social service providers acknowledged that they need better training to identify cases.”

In addition to inadequate training, the report says that existing laws and regulations covering trafficking are not streamlined and often come with weak penalties. States in our region also treat the crime differently: In Kentucky and Indiana, trafficking is a distinct crime, but in Ohio, it’s not.

The report offers two main conclusions for how the region should prepare for dealing with human trafficking: Focus on public awareness and training, and use benchmark statutes from other cities that would define
trafficking as a crime.

The Freedom Center was assisted on the project by more than 30 volunteers in the community including attorneys, law students, paralegals, and individuals from non-profit organizations interested in justice issues.

Read the press release.

Tafficking In Men On The Rise

Trafficking tends to bring to mind images of women in sex slavery. Images of men held in slavery are more rare. According to the latest report by the U.S. State Department, trafficking in men is significantly on the rise. In 2006, men made up six percent of trafficked adults. By 2008, that figure had risen to 45 percent.

According to a piece on The Houston Chronicle, Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, attributed the increase to an uptick in labor-trafficking cases. Seventy-six percent of all human-trafficking victims certified in 2008 were victims of labor trafficking, he said, while sex trafficking accounted for 17 percent. Five percent of victims were subject to both forms of trafficking.

Maritza Conde-Vazquez, a special agent with the Houston FBI who specializes in human-trafficking cases, said there has been an increase locally in the number of male human-trafficking victims, primarily from Central and South America. The majority of the cases, she said, involve forced labor at construction sites or in agriculture. She said she could not discuss details of the cases, which are still under investigation.

Conde-Vazquez also attributed the growth in the number of male victims in part to an overall increase in human trafficking. The State Department estimates that 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year, but the vast majority are never identified as victims.

Maria Trujillo, executive director of Houston Rescue & Restore Coalition, which helps human-trafficking victims, said the actual number of male victims is most likely significantly higher than reported.

“Male victims are really under-reported,” Trujillo said. “I think there’s just a bigger stigma for men. Some see (reporting) it as losing face, or just take it as their lot in life.”

Virginia Man Forces Some 24 Women Into Slavery

In October of last year, Soripada Lubis was taken into custody for forcing almost two dozen women into slavery.

The story is familiar: he promised them a way to stay in the country after their visas had expired or lured them away from legal employers with financial rewards, confiscated their passports and threatened kill their families in Indonesia and alert immigration officials if the women tried to run. He put them to work as live-in housekeepers at other homes in the area. Given the weekends off, Lubis charged them between $300 and $350 monthly, to live in his one-story home, where they often had to share beds.

It been reported that the scheme has been going on since at least 2000 and that during the last five years, Lubis has made more than $90,000.

Authorities learned of Lubis in 2006, when a relative of a woman living in his basement contacted U.S. diplomats in Jakarta, Indonesia, seeking help. Over the next two years, authorities met with four women who said they had lived with Lubis at various times starting in 2001.

Soripada Lubis was charged with conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants and released on bail, with the order to stay at his residence.

On February 25, Lubis plead guilty today to harboring illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. His wife, Siti Chadidjah Siregar, a citizen of Indonesia, pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal agents who were investigating the scheme.

Lubis faces up to 10 years in prison as well as an order to pay restitution. Siregar faces up to five years in prison at sentencing.

Read more in Forced labor operation busted by Freeman Klopott at The Washington Examiner and on the Examiner.

The Recession’s Silent Victims

The Wall Street Journal echoes what I’ve been saying:

In today’s global economic downturn, there’s at least one business that’s expanding: modern-day slavery.

That’s the main message of the U.S. Department of State’s annual report on Trafficking in Persons, released last week in Washington. The document is always a disturbing read, but it is especially so this year. Between April 2008 and March 2009, State found an uptick in slavery in almost every corner of the world.

Human bondage is by nature a shady business, so it’s impossible to attribute any one factor to this trend. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who heads State’s study, points to the increasing desperation of poor people to find work and the eagerness of unscrupulous employers to cut costs. The International Labor Organization estimates that private enterprises or agents made $31.6 billion in 2005 from forced-labor victims.

Hillary Rodham Clinton on Human Trafficking

In a piece for The Washington Post, Secretary of State Hillary Rhodam Clinton discusses the battle against slavery in the world and at home:

To some, human trafficking may seem like a problem limited to other parts of the world. In fact, it occurs in every country, including the United States, and we have a responsibility to fight it just as others do. The destructive effects of trafficking have an impact on all of us. Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, breaks up families, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. It undermines our long-term efforts to promote peace and prosperity worldwide. And it is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights.

The Obama administration views the fight against human trafficking, at home and abroad, as an important priority on our foreign policy agenda. The United States funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries, as well as 42 domestic task forces that bring state and local authorities together with nongovernmental organizations to combat trafficking. But there is so much more to do.

The problem is particularly urgent now, as local economies around the world reel from the global financial crisis. People are increasingly desperate for the chance to support their families, making them more susceptible to the tricks of ruthless criminals. Economic pressure means more incentive for unscrupulous bosses to squeeze everything they can from vulnerable workers and fewer resources for the organizations and governments trying to stop them.

Recession to Increase Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

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.