Mayor Mike Bloomberg launched a campaign last week against human trafficking, with posters and a new website to educate the public about modern-day slavery.
“This new public education campaign will play a critical role in raising awareness of the impact of this horrible crime, encouraging New Yorkers to report it and most importantly letting victims know that help is available,” Bloomberg said. “Working together, let’s call an end to human trafficking.”
Human trafficking is described as the recruiting, transporting, selling or buying of people for the purpose of various forms of sexual or labor exploitation.
The city will display posters in the five boroughs on bus shelters through June 13. A new anti-trafficking website can be found at nyc.gov to provide more information.
Deputy Mayor Carol Robles-Roman said human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world, but that the average person doesn’t know how to recognize this form of servitude.
Although human trafficking can be difficult to recognize because it is often kept out of sight, some examples are prostitutes, domestic workers, factory workers, landscapers, restaurant workers and those working in nail salons or janitorial jobs. Victims can be American-born or immigrants.
The city says if you are a victim or want to report criminal activity, call 911. For information or to help, call 311.
Bill Livermore, executive director of the Somaly Mam Foundation and a member of the city Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, said the practice is a multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise nationwide, involving men, women and children. “Public education is part of a comprehensive strategy to eradicate human trafficking,” Livermore said.
His nonprofit group is committed to ending slavery in North America and around the world.
Karen Siegel, a psychologist, presented a stunning display of statistics on sexual exploitation of women during a forum on sex trafficking sponsored by the Center for the Women of New York at Borough Hall in March. “Labor and sex trafficking are the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world,” Siegel said. “It soon will top drug trafficking.”
The mayor’s office utilized research available on its website from the Human Trafficking Resource Center, a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, which operates a 24-hour hotline and disseminates information to the public. The hot-line averages 800 calls a month. “Awareness is increasing and more people are reporting sex trafficking,” said Andrea Austin, a spokeswoman for the group.
The U.S. Department of State estimates 600,000 to 800,000 victims annually are trafficked across borders worldwide. Many taken to the United States do not speak English and are unable to communicate with people who could help them.
According to the Human Trafficking Resource Center, traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to control the victims. Force can involve rape, beatings and confinement. Fraud involves false advertising for jobs in other countries that turn out to be prostitution, and coercion involves threats to people or their loved ones, taking their passports and making them become in debt to the traffickers.
In Queens, Asian women are especially lured here with the promise of a job or a better way of life. Instead, they end up enslaved, owing their traffickers money, without documentation and kept as prostitutes in brothels, illegal massage parlors or on the street.
Human rights groups in Queens applauded the mayor’s campaign, saying that human trafficking has gone on for too long.
Susan Jung, founder of River in the Desert Advocacy Center in Flushing, said the initiative is a good beginning. “The public must be made aware of it,” Jung said. “It’s been going on for years, but is just now getting publicized.”
Her group was organized in 2002 and fights domestic violence as well as human trafficking. Jeng noted that many of the traffickers are the victims’ husbands or mothers. “We call them snake heads in Chinese,” she said, “because they are so awful.”
Jung wants to build a safe haven for victims in Flushing. “Walking down the street in Flushing, you never know who is affected by human trafficking,” she added.
Ann Jawin, founder and chairwoman of the Center for the Women of New York, was elated about the mayor’s campaign. “That’s wonderful,” Jawin said. “It comes at a good time.”
Since February, Jawin’s group has been waging its own battle against sex trafficking by asking Queens newspaper owners to pledge not to accept ads for services that are clearly a front for prostitution.
So far, only Queens Chronicle Publisher Mark Weidler has signed, earning him a Good Guys award from the CWNY on Saturday. He says the Chronicle does not run such ads and will not in the future.
Jawin is continuing to reach out to other Queens papers and if they don’t respond positively, she has vowed to get businesses and libraries to stop distributing them.
Contrary to popular belief, slavery in the U.S. has not ended.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has created the Modern Slavery Museum to travel around Florida to educate people about the horrific realities of modern-day slavery in the state.
Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation describes the many exhibits that create an interactive experience with the visitor in order to truly make an impact. For example, the majority of the museum is held inside a 24-foot box truck — similar to one used to hold twelve farmworkers captive for two years. Visitiors also see many documents or artifacts, including the bloody shirt of a 17 year old boy who was beaten for stopping to drink water.
CIW staff member Greg Asbed explains that, “when you can see the whole history and evolution of four hundred years of forced labor in Florida’s fields assembled in one place, then all the false assumptions about what drives modern-day slavery just fall away. It’s not workers’ immigration status today, or a few rogue bosses, but the fact that farmworkers have always been Florida’s poorest, most powerless workers. Poverty and powerlessness is the one constant that runs like a thread through all the history. In short, you see, it’s not about who’s on the job today. It’s about the job itself.”
CIW does not stop at awareness — the organization is actively working to end slavery. The Campaign for Fair Food was launched in 2001 to get several fast food chains to make sure its ingredients came from slavery-free farms. Currently the campaign targets major buyers and supermarkets to use their purchasing power to reward fair farms and punish “unfair” farms.
Asbed reveals, “There are no farms that you can say are good across the board yet, that could be certified as ‘fair food.’ The industry has a ways to go before it gets there. But you can encourage better behavior by moving your purchases to follow the best behavior, and you can eliminate the worst abuses by making sure growers will lose business, and maybe even lose the ability to do business, if abuses like slavery happen in their fields.”
CIW also targets the public to mobilize for change. The museum exhibit allows visitors to sign up for the CIW email list and send a postcard to Publix, a major supermarket chain in the southeast. There will also be a Farmworker Freedom March on April 16-18 from Tampa to Publix Corporate Headquarters in Lakeland, Florida.
Visit CIW’s site to learn more about its work and see photos and video of the Modern Slavery Museum by clicking here.
A small showing of Harvard came out to hear the Next Harvard Thinks Big Experts talk about the pressing issue of modern-day slavery and human trafficking on the evening of March 24, 2010. The panel consisted of professor Tim McCarthy, the Director of Human Rights and Social Movements at Harvard’s own Carr Center, professor of Sociology Orlando Patterson, journalist and author of A Crime So Monstrous Benjamin Skinner, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern-Day Slavery Siddharth Kara, Katherine Chon, the founder of Polaris Project, an organization fighting for a world without slavery, and the headliner of the event Ashley Judd, actress and YouthAIDS global ambassador with Population Services International as well as a current student in Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
After Professor McCarthy’s long winded introduction of the big-shots of the panel, during which Professor Patterson squirmed, fidgeted, and fought to open his Evian water bottle, the panel was asked to speak of the roads that led them to become crucial figures of the modern slavery abolition movement. The drastically different stories of the panelists underlined the personal significances the cause has had in their lives.
Siddharth Kara, for example, threw his career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch aside to use his background in finance and law in order to start a campaign to research current forms of slavery around the world to eventually gather his research and provide a foundational legal and statistical analysis of the business of modern-day slavery. Ms. Judd related her story and role in the issue of slavery with the composure and charisma of a Hollywood actress, not failing to downplay her celebrity by throwing out how humbled she is to be on the same panels with her heroes and role models. She also warned the moderate number of people in the audience that she would have to dip out early because she had a conference call awaiting her. Judd recalled her experiences in the brothels of Cambodia and Thailand, where her mission was to ensure women trapped in slavery were protecting their health.
Notable tales of the remaining panelists included Chon’s jump to volunteer work after her teacher in high school asked, or more specifically yelled, “What is your passion?” and Skinner’s first encounter with the subject of slaver at a Quaker meeting and later travels to all parts of the globe as part of his journalistic mission to interview different people with roles in slavery.
Professor Patterson, meanwhile, focused on the impact that the history of slavery in Jamaica, his native country, has had on his work. Among his many written works, including three books and features in the New York Times, Patterson was a founding member of Cultural Survival, one of the leading advocacy groups for the rights of indigenous peoples.
The panelists were enlightening in their expertise and undoubtedly allowed the audience members to leave with new knowledge. In addition, they could have left with a trinket or two or a tote bags on sale outside the lecture hall venue whose sale benefited some organization or other. Bracelets for a good cause and a sprinkling of good karma are always a plus.
If you’ve had an interest in the issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery for any period of time, you probably have wondered, “How can one human being actually enslave another? What’s going through his or her head?” Now, here’s your chance to know. A South African NGO has filmed a former human trafficker who lured girls and women from Thailand to South Africa with the promise of high-paying jobs and then forced them into prostitution. Check out his story in his own words, with more after the jump. Warning: contains graphic descriptions of violence.
This man might not be your stereotypical trafficker, in part because he seems to have had a change of heart about what he was doing, but his descriptions of the trafficking process are incredibly complex. It starts with false promises, includes enforcement of corrupt police and the graphic physical and psychological abuse that goes on. It’s a very brutal reality described in the starkest of terms.
One of the most interesting parts of the interview was that they were able to anticipate law enforcement raids and simply move the girls to another place. Finding human trafficking victims is incredibly difficult for this exact reason. I have to wonder if this ability to detect and then evade inspection by the police is a common phenomenon among traffickers, or if it was this man in particular who was just highly skilled.
Interviews with human traffickers are rare and hard to get, for the obvious reasons of their criminal activity and the difficulty in identifying and accessing this group. However, as abolitionists we could learn huge amounts of information from talking not just with the victims of this crime, but also with the perpetrators. I hope the information in this interview helps those working against human trafficking on the ground and inspires more NGOs to try and tap into this challenging by useful informational source.
Last year was a banner year for the issue of human trafficking at the Oscars, with Slumdog Millionaire taking home the Best Picture trophy. Slumdog tells the story of a young Indian boy who survives being abducted by a child trafficker, among other things, to eventually win the heart of his true love and enough money to support her on a tv game show. This year, the issue of human trafficking is also present in the film Kavi. But can Kavi follow in Slumdog’s footsteps?
Kavi, nominated for Best Live Action Short Film, is also set in India. It tells the story of title character Kavi, a young boy forced to work making bricks. It has already won the Student Academy Award for Best Narrative Film. Kavi’s category is diverse this year, with films touching on Chernobyl, magic, paper fish, and haunted houses. It may not have the star power or media attention that Slumdog did by this time last year, but Kavi has a lot of heart. The film also focuses much more closely on the realities of child trafficking in India than Slumdog Millionaire did, and aims to educate as much as entertain. Their website offers some great resources for getting involved in the fight against modern-day slavery for those inspired by the film. Here’s the trailer, with more on human trafficking at the Oscars after the jump.
But 2009 was by no means the first year the issue of human trafficking was present at the Academy Awards. In 2006, the short film Fields of Mudan, about child trafficking in China, was nominated but didn’t win. And of course, in 2005, Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar for their controversial song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”. This victory was a slap in the face for the abolitionist community from the Oscars, who had been fighting to get pimps recognized as the exploiters that they are.
So tune in tomorrow and cheer for Kavi to carry on the good traditions of the Academy Awards being a vehicle for bringing attention to human trafficking.
A 39-year-old man charged last year in Edmonton’s first alleged case of human trafficking has been arrested again.
Xiu Sheng Chen is accused of breaching conditions of a court order, police said Friday.
He was arrested Wednesday in New Market, Ont., on a Canada-wide warrant.
Last September, Edmonton police launched an investigation into a suspected bawdy house and human trafficking case involving Sachi Professional Massage and Spa at 175 Street and 100 Avenue, said EPS spokeswoman Lisa Lammi
With the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency, EPS investigators conducted two search warrants in the early morning hours of Sept. 5, 2009, one at the business and another at an apartment on 69 Avenue and 199 Street belonging to a person connected to the business.
A man and a woman were arrested upon leaving the business and four women who remained inside the business were taken into custody. Three of those women – aged 21-41 – were allegedly victims of human trafficking.
Police at the time said that the women were victims of “modern-day slavery.”
Cops said the victims came from foreign countries to work in the massage industry, but instead were stripped of their identification documents, threatened, and forced to perform sex acts 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several weeks.
Mounties said the charges were the first human trafficking charges laid in Western Canada.
Human trafficking has only been in the Criminal Code since 2005.
LEARN MORE ABOUT, AND COMMIT TO ENDING, HUMAN TRAFFICKING
To combat human trafficking, it will take a community of educated citizens, concentrated prevention efforts, strong and implemental laws, increased national and international cooperation, and a human rights centered approach to assisting victims of this horrible crime.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are young children, teenagers, men and women.
Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders worldwide. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.
After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and is the fastest growing.
Many victims of human trafficking are forced to work in prostitution or the sex entertainment industry. But trafficking also occurs in forms of labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude, restaurant work, janitorial work, sweatshop factory work and migrant agricultural work.
Traffickers use various techniques to instill fear in victims and to keep them enslaved. Some traffickers keep their victims under lock and key. However, the more frequent practice is to use less obvious techniques including:
Debt bondage – financial obligations, honor-bound to satisfy debt;
Isolation from the public – limiting contact with outsiders and making sure that any contact is monitored or superficial in nature;
Isolation from family members and members of their ethnic and religious community;
Confiscation of passports, visas and/or identification documents;
Use or threat of violence toward victims and/or families of victims;
The threat of shaming victims by exposing circumstances to family;
Telling victims they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities;
Control of the victims’ money, e.g., holding their money for “safe-keeping”
In October 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) made human trafficking a Federal crime. It was enacted to prevent human trafficking overseas, to protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the U.S., and to prosecute traffickers of humans under Federal penalties. Prior to 2000, no comprehensive Federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking or to prosecute their traffickers.
What We Do
Victim Identification and Public Awareness
Rescue and Restore Campaign
Anti-Trafficking in Persons (ATIP) leads the Health and Human Services (HHS) Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking public awareness campaign, which established Rescue and Restore coalitions in 24 cities, regions and States. These community action groups are comprised of NGO leaders, academics, students, law enforcement agents, and other key stakeholders who are committed to addressing the problem of human trafficking in their own communities.
Rescue and Restore Regional Program
The Rescue and Restore Regional Program serves as the focal point for regional public awareness campaign activities and intensification of local outreach to identify victims of human trafficking.
Each Rescue and Restore Regional partner oversees and builds the capacity of a local anti-trafficking network, sub-awarding 60 percent of grant funds to grassroots organizations that identify and work with victims.
By acting as a focal point for regional anti-trafficking efforts, Rescue and Restore Regional partners encourage a cohesive and collaborative approach in the fight against modern-day slavery.
Street Outreach Grants
ATIP funds Street Outreach grants to support the identification of human trafficking victims among other vulnerable populations that the grantee organizations are already serving. These populations include homeless and at-risk youth, women and girls exploited through commercial sex, and migrant farm workers.
Assistance for Victims of Human Trafficking
Certifications and Eligibility Letters
HHS is the sole Federal agency authorized to certify adult foreign victims of human trafficking. Similarly, it is the sole Federal agency authorized to provide Eligibility Letters to minor foreign victims of human trafficking
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within HHS issues all Certifications and Eligibility Letters. Certification grants adult foreign victims of human trafficking access to Federal benefits and services to the same extent as refugees.
Likewise, Eligibility Letters grant minor foreign victims of trafficking access to Federal benefits and services to the same extent as refugees, including placement in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program, which provides specialized, culturally appropriate foster care or other licensed care settings, according to children’s individual needs.
Trafficking victims who are U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) do not need Certification or Letters of Eligibility to be eligible for similar benefits and services.
Per Capita Services Contract
ATIP funds comprehensive support services to victims of human trafficking through a per capita services contract designed to centralize services while maintaining a high level of care for victims of human trafficking. The contract is designed to provide “anytime, anywhere” case management to assist a victim of trafficking to become certified, and to provide other short-term necessary services after Certification, through a network of nongovernmental service organization subcontractors in over 100 locations throughout the country.
Working in concert with the HHS Rescue & Restore public awareness campaign, per capita subcontractors are reimbursed for each human trafficking victim served under their case management. This per capita system ensures the provision of efficient, high-quality services to victims of human trafficking. It also streamlines support services in order to help victims of human trafficking gain timely access to shelter, legal assistance, job training and health care, enabling them to establish lives free of violence and exploitation.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline for the human trafficking field in the United States and is reached by calling 1-888-3737-888 or emailing NHTRC@PolarisProject.org.
The NHTRC operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. The NHTRC works to improve the national response to protect victims of human trafficking in the U.S. by providing callers with a range of comprehensive services, including crisis intervention, urgent and non-urgent referrals, tip reporting, and comprehensive anti-trafficking resources and technical assistance for the anti-trafficking field and those who wish to get involved.
The NHTRC is able to connect community members with additional tools to raise awareness and combat human trafficking in their local areas, as well as guide service providers and law enforcement personnel in their work with potential trafficking victims.
To perform these functions, the NHTRC maintains a national database of organizations and individuals working in the anti-trafficking field, as well as a library of available anti-trafficking resources and materials.
- This is an ongoing pledge that should be fulfilled as often as possible.
Attention to human trafficking has focused in recent years on sexual exploitation, but one of every five victims is estimated to endure forced labor in factories or on farms. The Obama administration has recognized that reality and is to be commended for bringing to justice two farm owners who conspired with others to hold 44 men from Thailand in forced labor through debts, threats and restraint.
Brothers Alec and Mike Sou, co-owners of Aloun Farm on the Ewa plain, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to conspiring to commit forced labor. Each faces up to five years in prison for their roles in a labor trafficking operation.
The Justice Department should honor the Thai government’s request that it take care of the workers who were victims of the scheme. The workers, most of them married with children, secured loans to pay the recruitment fees, using their homes and subsistence farmlands as collateral.
Slavery became illegal in the United States 145 years ago, but President Barack Obama said in Tokyo two months ago that the industry has become a vast “transnational problem.” He urged countries to put a “stop to this scourge of modern-day slavery once and for all.”
The Sou brothers were accused of lying on visa applications to import the workers. California businessman Matee Chowsanitphon admitted having brokered the agreement in a trip to Thailand in 2003 and escorted the workers to Hawaii the following year for a price of $5,500 per worker. Once they arrived, the Sous took their passports, put them to work at paltry wages and restricted their contact with others.
“Holding other human beings in servitude against their will is a violation of individual rights that is intolerable in a free society,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights.
In the past fiscal year, his division brought the highest number of labor trafficking cases to court in a single year, according to a Justice news release.
“Labor traffickers prey on vulnerable victims and their dreams of a better life,” added U.S. Attorney Florence T. Nakakuni. “Those who conspire to hold workers in forced labor undermine this country’s promise of liberty and opportunity. We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the freedom, rights and dignity of others.”
Farm workers are especially vulnerable, since they are denied by federal labor law the right to organize and form unions or receive overtime pay, while minimum wage and workplace safety protections are hardly enforced.
The Sou brothers are not likely to be the only employers in Hawaii to have exploited foreign workers. The Justice Department should use the Sous’ case as a starting point for an extensive crackdown on employers that enslave their workers in Hawaii.
Earlier this month The Times of India published a story about an Indian worker, Habib Hussein who escaped Saudi Arabia after months of abuse.
Hussein sold his lands in India to pay for the agent who brought him into Saudi Arabia in the hope of earning a better living for his family. At first, he was forced to graze goats during the day and work as a cleaner at an airport during the night. He worked for 14-18 hours per day without receiving any money. Afterward, Hussein was sold, along with other Indian workers to a sponsorship agent in Medina. There he worked for over 15 hours per day.
Hussein described a modern-day slavery system: “Indian labour is sold in Saudi like cattle and thousands of Indians from UP and Bengal are suffering there. They are helpless without their passports”.
Hussein survived on money of tips he received for helping visitors coming into Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj. For six months he ate nothing but one meal per day. He desperately wanted to return to his family and pregnant wife and from the little money he earned from tips he saved up enough so that he can buy a plane ticket. However, his passport was held by his sponsor and whenever he asked for it back he was “kicked and thrashed” by the employer.
Unable to exit the country legally, Hussein hid in the bathroom of an Air India flight and was able to return home that way.