Thursday, September 30, 2010

CA Governor signs into law new anti-human trafficking legislation

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today he has signed SB 657by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to help eliminate slavery and human trafficking from product supply chains.

“Human trafficking is a terrible crime that goes against basic human rights and everything our country stands for,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I am proud that in California, we have enacted some of the toughest laws to punish human traffickers and protect their victims. This legislation will increase transparency, allow consumers to make better, more informed choices and motivate businesses to ensure humane practices throughout the supply chain.”

SB 657 requires major retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose their voluntary efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from its direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale.

The Governor has long been committed to eliminating the practice of human trafficking and providing protections for victims of illegal trafficking in California, including:

  • Signing AB 17 to increase financial penalties on those convicted of human trafficking by 400 percent and allow law enforcement to seize assets connected to traffickers, which can greatly increase the financial loss for traffickers. Half of what is collected in fines and seizures will also be made available to community-based organizations that serve underage victims of human trafficking.
  • Enacting legislation to establish human trafficking as a crime and increasing the severity of punishment for those that commit or benefit from this crime. One of the bills, AB 22, made human trafficking in California a felony punishable by up to eight years in state prison.
  • Signing legislation to grant further rights to victims of human trafficking and establishing a pilot program to provide standardized training curricula on the sexual exploitation of minors.
  • Enacting AB 1278 which prohibits contracts that siphon future wages in exchange for the costs of transporting an individual to the U.S.
  • Signing a joint statement in 2006 with then-Mexican President Vicente Fox committing to cooperate on border security solutions including combating human trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Signing SB 1569 to extend crucial support services like Medi-Cal and Healthy Families to victims of human trafficking.  
  • Urging greater cooperation among U.S.-Mexico Border States at the XXVI Annual Border Governor’s Conference to put a stop to this human rights violation and increase awareness through a policy forum hosted by First Lady Maria Shriver, entitled "Human Trafficking...A Unified Call to Action." The forum featured experts from the U.S. and Mexico, including leaders in the fields of law enforcement, international human rights, victim assistance and human trafficking survivors who discussed the impact human trafficking has had on the border region and the collaborative solutions needed to fight it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chinese making huge strides in fighting human trafficking

Beijing – Chinese police freed as of 6 September 10,621 women and 5,896 children abducted for human trafficking since the Public Security Ministry launched a crackdown in April last year. Nationwide, police broke up 2,398 human trafficking gangs and arrested 15.673 suspects, state news agency Xinhua reported.
In order to make it easier to find victims and reunite them with their family, police also set up a database that collects DNA samples of victims and their parents. So far, the database has helped 813 children find their biological parents through DNA matching, the Ministry said.

China’s zero tolerance policy has led to a heavy crackdown on traffickers. Between January and July, 1,238 people were sentenced to either death, life in prison or at least five years in prison, a spokesperson for the Supreme People's Court said. This is 75 per cent more than last year. However, media reports have not indicated how the crackdown has affected the overall problem.

In recent years, media have reported cases involving the abduction of children and the mentally disabled, eventually forced to work, especially in the brick making industry, after being abducted. Police have freed hundreds of such slaves and determined that their captivity was the result of collusion between businesses and local authorities.

Another widespread form of human trafficking is the buying and selling of newborn children, especially for young couples or childless older couples.

In August, Yang Dong, deputy chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, told that the China Daily that between 30,000 to 60,000 children are reported missing every year, but that it is hard to estimate how many of them are trafficking cases.

The situation is especially troubling for the children of migrant workers, who are often handed over to relatives when parents work far from home or even forced to live alone.

Original Story from

Friday, August 20, 2010

Human trafficking ring busted in Los Angeles

BALDWIN PARK -- Police have arrested two men accused of human trafficking after 36 suspected illegal immigrants were found inside a Baldwin Park house believed to have been used as a holding cell.

At around 7:00 p.m., officers form the Baldwin Park Police Department say they received a call from an alarmed man claiming to be an illegal immigrant being held against his will.

Arriving officers saw several suspects fleeing the home in the 5000 block of La Rica Road in Baldwin Park.

After an investigation, officers discovered several men, women and one child being held inside the home.

Police believe they had been in the residence for up to one month.

They were smuggled into the country illegally from Mexico and Central America and were being held until family members paid a certain sum of money, Lt. David Reynoso said.

Image from showing officers outside of slave home

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nail salons front for human trafficking in Ohio

What is described as a multimillion-dollar human-trafficking scheme is operating out of nail salons in Ohio, with immigrants from Southeast Asia - many of them illegal - being forced to work as "indentured servants" in exchange for passage to the U.S.

Kevin L. Miller, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, said he expects "indictments and arrests" statewide in the next 60 days or so. State and local law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating, he said.

The legal problems involve human trafficking, illegal immigration, identify theft, fraudulent license testing and potential national security threats, said Miller, who added that he could not provide specifics because of the ongoing investigation.

The matter came up at yesterday's meeting of the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, convened by Attorney General Richard Cordray.

"It's a huge concern in most jurisdictions around the state of Ohio," Cordray said.

The cosmetology board annually licenses 145,000 people who work in nail shops, hair salons and tanning parlors.

"We're talking just in the state of Ohio about thousands of people who have fraudulently got their licenses," Miller said.

He told the commission that immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries, often brought illegally to the U.S. for a price, are given "laundered" false identities, including fake high-school diplomas, driver's licenses, immigration papers and other documents.

The employee then becomes an "indentured servant," working for the employer for two years for little or sometimes no money to pay off their debt. Often, the employees are required to live on the premises. The agency documented one case where 16 licensees lived at the same address.

Neither Miller nor Cordray commented specifically about homeland security issues. However, in his report to the commission, Miller referred by means of background to Najibullah Zazi, an al-Qaida operative who plotted to blow up New York subway stations using chemicals found in nail polish remover and hair dye.

The problem of illegal immigrants working in nail salons has cropped up in the past in Ohio and nationwide, but little has been done.

"It's easy to hide in plain sight," Miller said. "If they can get a driver's license, an address, a place where they went to school, they're all set."

The human-trafficking commission also discussed the need for more training for Ohio law-enforcement agencies. A majority of agencies which responded to a 2009 survey doubted their ability to recognize signs of human and labor trafficking; all wanted more training.

Lt. Matt Warren, head of the State Highway Patrol's criminal intelligence unit and a member of the human-trafficking panel, cited two cases in 2009 when training paid off in rescuing underage girls who were likely to become trafficking victims.

He said a trooper stopped an Idaho trucker for speeding near Athens last year and was suspicious about the 17-year-old girl in the passenger seat. Trained to recognize the signs of human trafficking, the trooper began asking questions and found the trucker was a sex offender who met the mentally challenged teenager online, picked her up in Marion and was transporting her when he was stopped for the traffic violation.

Similarly, a seemingly routine stop rescued a 17-year-old Detroit girl who was being trafficked at truck stops in the Lima and Dayton areas.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

UK says 2,600 women trafficked to brothels

(Reuters) - Almost 10 percent of women working in brothels in England and Wales are migrants who are victims of human trafficking and come mainly from Asia, police said on Wednesday.

A report by the Association of Chief Police Officers into the sexual exploitation of foreign nationals found that 17,000 of the 30,000 women who worked in brothels or other similar premises were migrants

Of these, 2,600 were deemed to have been trafficked, with 2,200 originally from Asia, mainly China. A further 9,200 women were considered to be vulnerable and who might be further victims of trafficking.
The "Setting the Record" report was the result of a year-long study titled Project Acumen, commissioned by ACPO to discover the true extent of trafficking in "off-street prostitution."

"It provides us with a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of how migrant women are involved in prostitution -- how they are influenced, controlled, coerced, exploited and trafficked," said Deputy Chief Constable Chris Eyre.

The government said that in order to tackle the issue it was important they had a better understanding of the problem.

"Human trafficking is a brutal form of organised crime where people are traded as commodities and exploited for profit by criminal gangs," said Immigration Minister Damian Green

"Having any number of people trafficked into the UK is unacceptable, therefore it is vital that we use Acumen to re-focus our efforts both at targeting the criminal gangs that trade in this human misery and in helping victims escape and recover from their ordeal."

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)

Monday, August 16, 2010

FBI busts human trafficking ring in Florida

A 15-year-old Jacksonville runaway is safe and getting therapy after the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says she spent a month as a sex slave.

Ian Sean Gordan and Melvin Eugene Friedman have been indicted on federal felony counts of selling the 15-year-old girl to customers between February 24 and March 31.

Three other men, Oris Alexander English, Alfredo Martinez Riquene and Phillip Anthony Aiken have been arrested for buying the victim from Gordan and Friedman.

A sixth man, Antonio Ford, is charged with having knowledge of the child exploitation and failing to report the felonies to authorities.

"Such trafficking in the nature of this operation was tanamount to slavery," Sheriff John Rutherford said at a Monday afternoon news conference announcing the indictments. "The victim was forced to engage in acts of prostitution in exchange for money, shelter and drugs."

Police would not elaborate on how the girl became involved with the suspects, but say she was held against her will until she was able to escape and call her mother.

Officials from the FBI believe the girl was held in several different locations around Jacksonville during her month in captivity and say it's possible more arrests are made in connection with this case.

"We had a case some time ago involving juveniles that were trafficked down here from Virginia," Mike Williams with the Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit said. "But this is the first local case that we've put together that involves a local citizen. And it's important to point out that human trafficking is not just an international or national problem. It's a local problem. And that's why we're so committed to rooting it out."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Florida woman pleads guilty to charge of sex slavery

LEE COUNTY: A Southwest Florida woman pled guilty to charges relating to sex slavery. NBC2's Stacey Deffenbaugh was the only reporter in court as the woman told the judge what happened.

During the one hour hearing Tuesday, 31-year-old, Naomi Vasquez told the judge she and a co-defendant would give illegal drugs to the victims and make them perform acts of prostitution for money.

Click the links in the "Related Stories" section at the right to read the original article on Vasquez as well other NBC2 articles on sex slavery and human trafficking.
A 19-page plea agreement gives specific details of what happened. Police arrested Vasquez and co-defendant Derek Ned after two undercover operations.

The three victims - all Cape Coral women, ages 27, 25 and 20 - worked with police to set up undercover stings and at the La Quinta Inn in Fort Myers and another location in Bonita Springs.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the defendants were involved in a sex slavery organization that utilized women of Haitian and American descent, forcing them to commit acts of prostitution by threatening the women with serious bodily injury if they did not prostitute themselves.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors outlined the case, saying the women performed as many as 10 acts of prostitution a day.

They received between $150 and $300 and investigators say Vasquez and Ned kept all the money.

The women told police they were afraid to leave because they heard Ned say he was a murderer and he was willing to kill again.

Vasquez is facing 20 years in prison. But in court, prosecutors said they will be recommending the low end the sentence guideline.

As for Derek Ned, prosecutors believe he was the mastermind of the sex slavery business and they will ask for a longer sentence in his case.

By Stacey Deffenbaugh

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anti-Human Trafficking Activists protest against Craigslist in San Francisco

A large group of protesters is gathering outside Craigslist headquarters in San Francisco today to protest what they say is the facilitation of sex trafficking by the popular classified-ad website.

Dozens of human rights and anti-trafficking organizations will participate in the protest, scheduled for noon outside 1381 Ninth Ave.

The groups will be asking Craigslist to remove its "Adult Services" section, which they say encourages sexual exploitation.

Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, said Craigslist has "defied and defeated" state attorneys general, a lawsuit, and members of Congress who have tried to take on the company.

"Nothing seems to get the message to this company that they are contributing to human trafficking in a very significant way, so we are bringing this message to their doorstep," Ramos said.

A spokesperson for Craigslist was not immediately available for comment.

Ramos said the protest will feature picket lines, signs and a handful of speakers, including authors Aaron Cohen and Victor Malarek, and actress Terria Joseph, who is the mother of singer Alicia Keys.

She said she hopes the protest will convince the company to change its policy.

"It's a very simple request: stop hosting these ads, which are being used to facilitate human trafficking," Ramos said.

A group of sex workers is also headed to Craigslist headquarters today for a counterprotest, said Rachel West, a spokeswoman for the US PROStitutes Collective.

The human rights groups are asking for a change that West said would put more women in danger rather than save them from exploitation.

"It's pushing prostitution underground and making women more vulnerable to rape, violence and arrest," she said. "By closing down ways for women to be able to advertise, and working more safely indoors, we'll put women in more vulnerable positions."

Craigslist gets more than 20 billion page views per month, the seventh-highest total worldwide among English-language sites, and has more than 50 million users in the U.S. alone, according to the company's website.

Photo of protest: Tweetpic by Greg Dewar (@njudah)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

5 Ukrainian brothers charged with human trafficking in Philly

Four Ukrainian brothers are under arrest and a fifth is being sought on charges that for seven years they staffed their Philadelphia cleaning business with illegal immigrants kept in virtual bondage by threats, intimidation and rape.

U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said the brothers found the mostly male workers in their native Ukraine, and smuggled them in through Mexico with the promise of a legitimate job.

Instead, they worked 16 hour days cleaning retail and grocery stores and were paid little, if anything. The crimes are alleged to have occurred between 2000 and 2007.

Memeger described the brothers as "human smugglers" who kept the workers in "involuntary servitude."

One smuggled immigrant, a woman, was repeatedly raped by the oldest brother "in order to keep her in control" said Memeger. He was identified as Moylan "Milo" Botsvynyuk, 51, who was arrested Wednesday in Germany on an Interpol warrant and will be returned to the United States.

The Botsvynyuks brothers confiscated the victims travel documents, and housed them five or six to a room as they were shuttled between jobs in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Washington D.C.

Moylan Botsvynyuk ran work crews out of a residence on the 3200 block of Aramingo Avenue, in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, court records say. The home, a former retail shop, is in a neighborhood of well-kept row houses. The brothers also housed work crews in other nearby houses.

About 30 victims were brought into the country illegally. Eight of the victims - two women and six men - have been identified and are cooperating with investigators, Memeger said. They will likely be allowed to remain in the country legally.

"They are all recovering from a very traumatizing experience," said FBI Special Agent Ned Conway.

One brother, Stepan Botsvynyuk, 35, was arrested in Philadelphia and was ordered held without bail pending a hearing next week. The other brothers had left the country after 2007 when the cleaning business was closed.

Two of them, Mykhaylo Botsvynyuk and Yaroslav "Slavko" Churuk, 41, were arrested by Canadian police. Dmytro Botsvynyuk is in Ukraine, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

All the brothers were unaware of the investigation until law enforcement officials in the three nations swept in and placed them under arrest, said FBI Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge Douglas E. Linquist.

The cleaning business in Philadelphia operated under a variety of names, and provided night time work crews at large and small grocery stores, and chains including Target, KMart, Walmart and Safeway.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel A. Velez said the large discounters did not hire the immigrants directly, and were likely unaware of their status.

Many of the victims were fresh out of the Ukrainian military and looking for a better life overseas. But upon arrival, the workers were told they owed at least $10,000 to the Botsyynyuk brothers, and had to work for essentially no pay until that debt was considered paid off.

After some workers escaped, the brothers "resorted to. . .threats to the workers families in Ukraine." One worker was told an eight-year-old daughter in the Ukraine would be forced into prostitution.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI, Immigration and Customers Enforcement and state and local police.

The brothers had all entered this country on tourist visas, but overstayed the time limit, law enforcement officials said.

Memeger and Lindquist said the investigation, which started in 2005 with a tip from overseas, was lengthy because of language barriers, fear, and a mistrust of American police after experiences with law enforcement in their homeland.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Human Trafficking in Europe a 2.4 Billion Euro Industry

In Europe, trafficking in humans is a 2.4 billion euro industry. This is according to a new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime:

At any one time, over 140,000 victims are trapped in this vicious cycle of violence, abuse and degradation across Europe with no clear sign of the overall number of victims decreasing. There is a high turnover of 50 per cent of trafficking victims in Europe with up to 70,000 additional victims being exploited every year.

Eighty four per cent of the victims in Europe are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Up to one of every seven sex workers in Europe could be enslaved into prostitution through trafficking. Victims are generally duped, mislead or forced into the service of criminal businesses which subdue and coerce their victims trapping them in a "bubble" of suppression and abuse which is difficult to escape.

The vast majority of victims are generally young women who are subjected to rape, violence or the threat of violence, drugged, imprisoned, have debt imposed on them, have their passport confiscated, blackmailed, subjected to false promises of employment or become victims of feigned love.

In Europe over half of the victims come from the Balkans (32 per cent) and the former Soviet Union (19 per cent), with 13 per cent originating in South America, seven per cent in Central Europe, five per cent in Africa and three per cent in East Asia. Although victims from Eastern Europe tend to be found throughout Europe, victims from South America tend to be concentrated in several European countries. East Asian victims have also been increasingly detected in many European countries and in some countries are the top group being exploited.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Jersey man sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for human trafficking

A West African immigrant was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison today for helping his mother run a human trafficking ring that forced women to braid hair at salons in Newark and East Orange.

Dereck Hounakey, 33, from Togo, stood shackled in a yellow jail-issue jumpsuit as U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares said his crime inflicted untold physical and psychological damage to more than 20 girls and women from West Africa, some just 10 years old.

"The women were forced not only to work for free but to turn over any tips," said Linares, who ordered Hounakey to give the victims $3.9 million in unpaid wages.

Hounakey was charged in 2007 along with three others in connection with the smuggling and forced labor ring run by his mother, Akouavi Kpade Afolabi. She was convicted in October after a trial in which her lawyer argued prosecutors’ mistook a West African-style apprenticeship program as slavery.

The once-prosperous jewelry and textile merchant recruited young women from impoverished villages in Ghana and Togo with the promise of a better life in America. But once they arrived, Afolabi, Hounakey and the others forced them to braid hair for up to 14 hours a day. She used beatings and threats of voodoo curses to intimidate them into surrendering every dollar — every 50-cent tip — they earned.

"They lived off of the back of these young women," Assistant U.S. Attorney Shana W. Chen said.
Hounakey pleaded guilty in August and, like the others, has been custody since his arrest. He is a permanent legal resident of the United States and could be deported upon his release from prison.

Afolabi is scheduled to be sentenced in September and faces up to 20 years in prison. Her ex-husband, Lassissi Afolabi, and a fourth man, Geoffry Kouevi, both pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

India remains a major hub for human trafficking

India is a major hub of human trafficking in forced labor and sexual exploitation, especially of children, noted the U.S. State Department in a report released June 16.

India’s major cities and towns with tourist attractions — including religious pilgrimage centers, such as Tirupati, Guruvayoor and Puri — continue to be focal points for child sex tourism, noted the Trafficking In Persons report, annually issued by the State Department. For the seventh year in a row, India remained on the Tier 2 Watch list, receiving one of the lowest rankings.

Nearby Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were also placed on the Tier 2 Watch list, while Pakistan received a Tier 2 ranking, indicating it was at least partially in compliance with the international Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act.

“This report provides in-depth assessments and recommendations for 177 countries, some of whom are making great progress toward abolishing the illicit trade in human beings. Others are still doing too little to stem the tide,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while releasing the report last week.

“Behind these statistics on the pages are the struggles of real human beings, the tears of families who may never see their children again, the despair and indignity of those suffering under the worst forms of exploitation,” she said, adding, “Through this report we bear witness to their experience and commit ourselves to abolishing this horrible crime.”

Citing reports by international agencies, the Web site DNA India notes that the trafficking of minor girls has become a $1 billion-a-year industry with a 30 percent increase from previous years; Mumbai has emerged as one of the leading markets. A fair-skinned minor — as young as eight — fetches about $2,500 per night, while a dusky-skinned child is sold for about $2,000 per night. Victims are denied food and water if they do not perform with the clients, notes DNA India, adding that beatings are a regular part of the child prostitute’s life.

Women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh are also subjected to forced prostitution in India.

In India forced labor constitutes the largest part of the trafficking problem. Men, women and children in debt bondage are forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, embroidery factories or agriculture. Children are forced to work as factory laborers, especially in carpet factories where their tiny fingers are prized for the intricate weaving work, or as domestic servants and beggars.

Forced domestic work is particularly a problem in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Orissa.

“The Indian government has not demonstrated sufficient progress in its law enforcement, protection or prevention efforts to address labor trafficking,” noted the TIP report, adding, however, that the country was making significant efforts to end sex trafficking, particularly in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and the Indian Embassy in Oman have begun to address the issue of migrant workers subjected to forced labor in other countries, noted the report.

State and central governments must strengthen their law enforcement capacity against labor trafficking and limit traffickers’ opportunities for bail, noted the TIP report, adding that higher criminal penalties must be levied against traffickers and the “clients” of child prostitutes.

The involvement of public officials in human trafficking remains a problem in India, noted the report. Corrupt law enforcement officials protect brothels and brothel keepers. In several recent cases, lawyers representing pimps and brothel managers were able to obtain the release of child sex-trafficking victims from protective shelters. The girls were subsequently put back into prostitution.

The full TIP report can be viewed online at

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Portland man sentenced for sex trafficking of minor

( - PORTLAND, OR—Donnico T. Johnson, 39, was sentenced to 188 months in prison on June 21, 2010 by U.S. District Judge Michael J. Mosman, after pleading guilty on March 11, 2010, to one count of a superseding indictment charging him with sex trafficking of a minor. Johnson was also sentenced to five years of supervised release.

The federal case arose in the fall of 2008 when a 15-year-old minor victim provided information to law enforcement about how she was recruited by an associate of Johnson’s and enticed to travel from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon to engage in prostitution. Johnson, who regularly drove from Seattle and Portland to work female prostitutes, agreed to transport the minor to Portland.

During her stay in Portland, Johnson drove the victim to stores where she could purchase a cell phone and lingerie. Later, he helped post commercial sex advertisements for her on Craigslist, and transport her to and from areas of high prostitution for dates with paying customers.

This case was investigated by the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force ( OHTTF ) and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kemp L. Strickland.

The OHTTF was created in May of 2005. Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the task force provides a comprehensive collaborative approach to combat human trafficking through partnerships between federal, state, local law enforcement, social service providers, and other government and non-government agencies. For more information about OHTTF visit To provide a local tip on a human trafficking please call Multnomah County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Keith Bickford at ( 503 ) 251-2479. You can also report human trafficking tips to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Human trafficking concerns regarding the World Cup alarmist?

A new report from a South Africa university says warnings by NGO and church organizations there would be a massive increase in human trafficking in the country during the World Cup greatly exaggerated the problem.

Loren Landau, director of the Forced Migration Studies Program, tells VOA that warnings that tens of thousands would be trafficked during the World Cup were alarmist and not substantiated by the evidence. He adds that the evidence shows that during the 2006 World Cup in Germany a total of five people were trafficked - when predictions had suggested 40,000 would be.

In its research, the program, based at Johannesburg University of the Witwatersrand, determined that the number of trafficked individuals in South Africa per year is around fifty. Landau tells VOA that exaggerating the problem is harmful in several ways, including that millions of dollars which could be spent on more serious problems, is going to a relatively small trafficking problem.

"Not to say those [trafficked] people didn't need help, but in an area where there is massive sexual violence, where there is massive labor exploitation, where there is smuggling and exploitation on the [borders] that has nothing to do with trafficking, those are all issues where that money would be better spent," she said.

Landau says exaggerating the issue inevitably leads to criminalizing people who should be protected.

"One I think it further criminalizes sex-work - there is a lot of sex-work in southern Africa undoubtedly, some of that is voluntary, in fact much of that is voluntarily and not all of it has to do with trafficking and exploitation. Second it criminalizes migrants, and it considers this issue as an issue of law enforcement rather than sort of an economic, normal kind of issue," said Landau.

Researchers found that migration for sex work is often merged with trafficking, and that in fact most foreign sex workers, whether legal or not, are in South Africa by choice. Landau says some may have become sex workers because other work was not available to them, and that many sex workers are exploited - but that most have not been trafficked.

Landau notes that there are many reasons why the issue of trafficking is so often exaggerated, and not the least of them is because of its emotive impact.

"This is an issue as I've suggested that appeals to people's emotions - they are afraid of what is happening, it is obviously not a good thing; and it appeals I think to the savior mentality of a lot of western countries, and a lot of westerners about trying to fix the problems of the third world," she said.

Landau says if migration to South Africa was made easier and sex-work decriminalized it would greatly reduce the opportunities to exploit foreigners and ensure that in time they are able to contribute more to the economy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Italian and Romanian authorities bust major human trafficking ring

BUCHAREST - Italian and Romanian authorities have dismantled a human trafficking network which sexually exploited more than 150 women including minors in the peninsula, police said Friday.

"There was a joint action in Italy and Romania today" to detain "procuring and human trafficking suspects", a statement from the Romanian police said.

Authorities detained 14 people in several regions of Romania in response to European warrants issued by a court in Milan. Police identified a 15th suspect already imprisoned in another affair.

In Italy, 26 people were also held Friday, an Italian liaison officer said in Bucharest.

Fifty-seven people, most of them Romanians, were involved in the network. Several Italians, an Albanian and an Egyptian were also part of the gang, the officer added.

According to authorities, the network had "recruited, transported and forced into prostitution" over 150 women in Monza, Milan and other Italian cities.

People detained in Romania will be brought before the Appeal court in Bucharest, which must decide on their arrest, a spokeswoman for the Romanian police told AFP.

© Copyright (c) AFP

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cuba denounces US criticism on human trafficking

HAVANA — Cuba reacted angrily Tuesday to its inclusion on a U.S. list of countries that could be sanctioned for failing to fight human and child trafficking, calling it a "shameful slander" and part of Washington's efforts to justify its trade embargo.

Cuba is one of 13 countries put on notice Monday that they are not complying with the minimum international standards to eliminate the trade in human beings and sexual slavery, and could face U.S. penalties.

Compiled by President Barack Obama's administration, the list also includes Iran, North Korea, and Myanmar. Another 58 countries were placed on a "watch list" that could lead to sanctions unless their records improve.

Cuba was singled out for allegedly not doing enough to prevent the trafficking of children who work as prostitutes on the island, mostly serving foreign tourists. It also said some Cuban doctors have complained that the government leases out their services to foreign countries as a way of canceling Cuba's debt.

"Cuba categorically rejects these allegations as false and disrespectful," Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director of the Cuban Foreign Ministry's North American affairs office, said in a statement sent to the foreign news media Tuesday.

She said the allegations are all the more offensive because the communist government has concentrated its limited resources on protecting women and the young, providing far more for the most vulnerable members of society than most nations in the region.

While Cubans receive low wages, the island offers free education through college, free health care and heavily subsidized housing and transportation. Crime rates and drug usage are extremely low in a country where the state maintains near total control.

"These shameful slanders profoundly hurt the Cuban people. In Cuba, there is no sexual abuse against minors, but rather an exemplary effort to protect children, young people and women," Vidal Ferreiro said. She said Cuban laws "put us among the countries in the region with the most advanced norms and mechanisms for the prevention of abuse."

Cuba has been included as one of the worst offenders on the State Department human trafficking list since 2003. It is also on a separate list of countries that the U.S. deems to support terrorism.
The latest report notes that Cuban laws against trafficking appear stringent, but that the country has not provided enough evidence to show they are being enforced.

Interestingly, the report does not concentrate on Cubans seeking to emigrate to the United States, a diaspora which has meant vast profits for traffickers, who can charge thousands of dollars for illicit transportation to the U.S., often through Mexico.

It was not clear what sanctions, if any, Cuba could face. It is already the target of a 48-year trade embargo, which bans the sale of most American goods on the island. American tourists are not allowed to vacation in Cuba, depriving the Caribbean hotspot of what would likely be its top source of visitors.

Cuba refers to the embargo as a blockade, and rightly or wrongly blames it for most of its economic woes. While many countries criticize the country's treatment of political prisoners and lack of democracy, the embargo is rejected each year in a lopsided U.N. vote.

Many had hoped relations between the United States and Cuba would improve under Obama, but the two sides have made little progress. The relationship has soured most recently over the December arrest of a U.S. contractor whom Cuba accuses of spying. He has been held without charge for more than six months.

Vidal Ferreiro said Cuba's inclusion on the trafficking list is political.
"It can only be explained by the desperate need that the U.S. government has to justify, under whatever pretext, the persistence of its cruel blockade, which has been overwhelmingly rejected by the international community."
Cuba was not the only country in the region to react strongly to the report.

Guyana, which received slightly better marks than Cuba, said the report hurts its friendship with the United States. The Dominican Republic is also included on the list. The country's official in charge of monitoring human trafficking, Frank Soto, called the list "a lie with no merit."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

US includes itself in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report

In the ornate Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room at the US State Department-before a standing-room-only crowd that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as "one of the biggest we’ve had here”-Clinton recognized Laura Germino, the antislavery campaign coordinator for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), as an "anti-Trafficking Hero.” In the ten years that the award has been given to individuals who have shown an extraordinary commitment and leadership in the fight against slavery, Germino is the first US-based recipient.

The occasion was the release of the State Department’s 10th Annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Clinton said the report provides "in-depth assessments and recommendations for 177 countries” on how to reach the goal of "abolishing the illicit trade in human beings.” In another first, the report includes an assessment of trafficking in the United States.

It reads in part that "the United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, debt bondage and forced prostitution. Trafficking occurs primarily for labor and most commonly in domestic servitude, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, construction, health and elder care, hair and nail salons, and strip club dancing…. More investigations and prosecutions have taken place for sex trafficking offenses than for labor trafficking offenses, but law enforcement identified a comparatively higher number of labor trafficking victims as such cases often involve more victims.”

Clinton described the significance of including the United States in the TIP report.

"This report sends a clear message to all of our countrymen and women: human trafficking is not someone else’s problem,” she said. "Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn’t exist in our own community.”

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, a longtime federal prosecutor and now director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, agreed. "In our first Trafficking in Persons Report, we cited the US only as a destination or transit country, oblivious to the reality that we, too, are a source country for people held in servitude,” he said. “We have an involuntary servitude problem now just as we always have throughout history.”

Which is exactly why Germino was honored along with eight other activists from Brazil, Burundi, Hungary, India, Jordan, Mauritania, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. Germino and her colleagues at CIW have helped the US Department of Justice prosecute seven slavery operations in Florida over the last fifteen years, resulting in the liberation of over 1,000 farmworkers, as the plaque presented to Germino attests.

CdeBaca introduced Germino who spoke on behalf of all of the TIP Heroes.
"In the early 1990s, Laura began to not just give a voice to escaped slaves, but traveled to Washington on her own dime to hold the federal government accountable to investigate and prosecute these cases. And when I say ‘federal government,’ I mean me,” he laughed. "There have been many cases exposing servitude for both sex and labor in Florida. And the Coalition of the Immokalee Workers and Laura Germino have always been there. They’ve been important partners and, more importantly, an independent and pressing voice as they uncover slavery rings, tap the power of the workers, and hold companies and governments accountable.”

Holding companies accountable was a theme not only voiced by CdeBaca but also Clinton-and not just the primary perpetrators of slavery but the corporations that use those companies in their supply chains. That concept has been the driving force behind CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, demanding that companies take responsibility for the conditions of their supply chain in order to alleviate the poverty and powerlessness at the root of the agriculture industry. It is the central argument CIW has waged in successfully obtaining pay raises and enforceable code of conduct agreements from the four largest fast food companies in the world, the two largest food service companies, and the largest organic grocer. (Watch out Publix and other grocers, you’re next.)

So when the Secretary spoke these words-"It is everyone’s responsibility. Businesses that knowingly profit or exhibit reckless disregard about their supply chains…all of us have to speak out and act forcefully”-you could almost feel the chills traveling up the spines of the hundreds of activists from all over the world who packed the room. Some broke into grins, cameras flashed.

“Now you have Secretary of State Clinton saying we need to have corporate responsibility in the supply chain,” Germino later told me. “That’s huge. We have to get to the point of prevention where slavery doesn’t happen anymore, and right now the most effective way to get that done is through market consequences. Any corporate buyer of fruits and vegetables who still is not willing to take ownership of this issue has no excuses left.”

When Germino took the stage she thanked the other award recipients for their “unflagging courage and grace and progress made under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances in which you work overseas.” She pledged that together they would continue “our collective fight to wipe slavery off the face of this earth.”

She delivered a hopeful message in citing the progress that has already been made.

“Twenty years ago, there was no State Department TIP Report. There was no Justice Department Anti-Trafficking Unit. There was no Trafficking Victims Protection Act, no freedom network of NGOs,” she said. “There was no admission yet by this great nation that the unbroken threat of slavery that has so tragically woven through our history, taking on different patterns, but always weaving the horrendous depravation of liberty-that it was a constant…. So when we struggle with our frustration at the pace of change, we remember those days and realize how far things have come in such a short time.”

With a nod to the Secretary, Germino offered that “it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a whole community to fight slavery.”

Germino recognized her colleagues at CIW-and that wasn’t just lip service. In many years of working for and covering NGOs, I’ve never seen one that operates so efficiently as a collective-in the decisions they make, the actions they take, the wages they earn, and the shared credit for victories. CIW simply doesn’t distinguish its parts from the whole.

I think that’s a key reason this community-based organization in tiny Immokalee, Florida is able to have such a powerful national impact. It’s why parked outside of the State Department during the ceremony-and on the National Mall today and tomorrow-was CIW’s Modern Day Slavery Museum. And it’s why one of CIW’s many heroes found herself standing in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room, hearing the central tenets of CIW’s fight against slavery echoed by the US Secretary of State.

By Greg Kaufmann:

Monday, June 14, 2010

US warns nations failing in fight against human trafficking

The United States is warning more than a dozen nations, including Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Burma, of possible sanctions for failing to meet minimum international standards to fight human trafficking.

In its annual report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department designated 13 nations as "Tier 3," meaning their governments are not following international standards to fight trafficking and could face penalties if their records do not improve.

The report says 12.3 million adults and children around the world are currently victims of forced labor, bonded labor or forced prostitution.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the report is a "catalog of tragedies" the world cannot continue to accept. She said human trafficking crosses cultures and continents, and the entire world has a responsibility to bring these crimes to an end.

The report says trafficking in Burma remains a serious concern because the military allegedly engages in unlawful conscription of child soldiers and continues to be the main perpetrator of forced labor.

In North Korea, the report says the most common form of trafficking involves North Korean women and girls forced into marriages or prostitution in China.

The report also says women in Iran are trafficked for forced prostitution and forced marriages. It says Iranian and Afghan children living in Iran are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.

The 2010 report evaluated 175 countries and ranked them by their anti-trafficking efforts.

Other nations receiving the failing status for their lack of anti-trafficking efforts are the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Kuwait, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

For the first time, the report, which is in its 10th year, also includes a ranking of U.S. anti-trafficking efforts. The report says most trafficking in the United States involves foreign victims trafficked primarily for labor. But it also says more U.S. citizens, both adults and children, are victims of sex trafficking.