Category Archives: trafficking

Healthcare networks launch anti-human trafficking training

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Stock image. Credit: HTWE/Shutterstock

– A new partnership is aiming to expand training for medical professionals on how to identify and assist victims of human trafficking.

Global Strategic Operatives for the Eradication of Human Trafficking (Global Strategic Operatives) announced a new collaboration and partnership with the Selah Way Foundation, a global network of leading anti-sexual exploitation service providers at a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, one of the co-founders of Global Strategic Operatives, told CNA that the organization decided to go into the medical field because studies have shown that about 88% of victims of human trafficking seek medical treatment at some point while they are being trafficked.

As a member of the Order of Malta, a lay Catholic religious order, O’Hara-Rusckowski said she considers her work in combating human trafficking to be an ideal way to live out the three charisms of the order: caring for the sick, caring for the poor, and defending the faith.

“My whole life right now is living out my faith,” she said. “I can’t think of any better way of taking those charisms and really combining them to live out my faith.”

A pilot program has already begun at six hospital systems located around the country–Baptist Health in Florida, Advocate Aurora Health in Illinois, Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey, Harris Health System in Texas, Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, RWJ Barnabas Health in New Jersey, and Northwell Health in New York. These locations were chosen due to higher-than-average rates of human trafficking in their areas.

Staff members at hospitals in these healthcare systems have been trained to spot signs that a person may be a victim of human trafficking.

Representatives from each of the six hospital systems, Homeland Security Investigations (a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), as well as Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Ross Spano (R-FL), spoke at the press conference in praise of Global Strategic Operatives.

Karen Stanford, the manager of the emergency department at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, told CNA that the reality of human trafficking was brought home to her after her daughter was approached by a potential trafficker two years ago. Her hospital is part of the Advocate Aurora Health system.

“We live in a gated community, and so it was a bit of a shock,” she said. The experience prompted her to reach out to Paula Besler, vice president of Selah Freedom, looking to bring some sort of educational program to Lutheran General to better identify survivors of human trafficking.

“Then we had this awesome opportunity to partner with CommonSpirit Health, who brought some of their tools forward. And then we were able to fly in survivors to provide us with education and disbanding some of the [misconceptions] that were barriers to identifying,” said Stanford.

CommonSpirit Health is a Catholic health system that received a grant in 2019 to help combat human trafficking. It partners with Global Strategic Operatives.

As a healthcare professional, Stanford told CNA that there is a tendency to be “non-judgemental,” which has resulted in some red flags going unnoticed.

“If somebody comes in [to the emergency room] who we are suspecting is using drugs or prostituting, we’re oftentimes thinking that it is a choice, when the reality is, and what we’ve learned so very much around here, is that’s not necessarily true. It’s because they’re being forced into it,” said Stanford.

Since the training was put in place at her hospital, Stanford said that there have been increased identifications of people who were trafficked, and next month, the entire health system will launch a task force to further expand the program to 25 additional sites.

“I’m really excited to help that move forward,” said Stanford. “Now that there’s this recognition, there’s a great amount of momentum in emergency medicine to start the education and planning.”

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/healthcare-networks-launch-anti-human-trafficking-training-49853

Transport Secretary vows to stamp out ‘modern slavery’ of human trafficking

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Woman grabbing fence. Stock image vis Shutterstock

– The Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, has announced several new initiatives aimed at combating human trafficking, vowing to stamp out use of American transport routes for “this modern form of slavery.”

“It is shocking to learn that in this day and age, something so horrible as human trafficking exists, and there are so many people who don’t believe it,” Chao said Jan. 28.

“But it is happening, and it’s happening in the United States, in our cities, in our suburbs, in our rural areas.” said Chao at the agency’s “Putting the Brakes on Human Trafficking” summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

Chao was joined by members of Congress, officials from multiple states, law enforcement personnel, and leaders of the transportation industry on Tuesday at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C.

USDOT launched its new “100 Pledges in 100 Days” initiative to increase the number of transportation companies promising to train their employees to recognize suspected cases of human trafficking.

Chao called on leaders of transportation companies—in the airline, shipping, trucking, and locomotive industries—to take the “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking Pledge” to train their employees.

Currently, there are commitments to train more than one million employees to fight human trafficking, according to USDOT, and Chao listed anti-trafficking initiatives already underway at the agency, with the strategies of “detection, deterrence, and disruption.” More than 53,000 agency employees have received mandatory counter-trafficking training, including special instructions for bus and truck inspectors, she said.

The agency is also partnering with the Department of Homeland Security on the Blue Lightning initiative for the airline industry, providing anti-trafficking training for more than 100,000 airline employees.

The Department also announced an annual $50,000 award for individuals or organizations for “innovative” solutions for combating trafficking, as well as $5.4 million in grant selections

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who has authored five laws combating human trafficking, also spoke at the event.

Smith drafted the International Megan’s Law, named for 7 year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton, New Jersey, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a repeated sex offender in 1994. The law requires convicted child sex offenders to register with the U.S. government before travelling abroad. The government in turn notifies their destination countries, which can refuse to accept the offender.

“Human trafficking is a barbaric human rights abuse that thrives on greed, secrecy, a perverted sense of entitlement to exploit the vulnerable and an unimaginable disregard for the victims,” Rep. Smith said.

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/transport-secretary-vows-to-stamp-out-modern-slavery-of-human-trafficking-27459

Ivory Coast pledges trafficking crackdown as 137 child victims are rescued

Screenshot_2020-01-14 Ivory Coast pledges trafficking crackdown as 137 child victims are rescued
A child rescued by police from captivity, with strike marks on his back, bathes at the Hajj transit camp in Kaduna, Nigeria September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

DAKAR,  Ivory Coast police on Monday vowed to ramp up efforts to stop child trafficking after rescuing 137 children from forced labour and sex work in the first major operation in several years.

Police surrounded the southeastern town of Aboisso for 48 hours last week and searched vehicles, cocoa plantations and nearby villages for children who were being forced to work or transported for purposes of trafficking, the government said.

The victims ranged in age from six to 17 and came from the nearby West African countries of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo, according to a statement.

Twelve traffickers were also arrested.

“We are going to multiply this kind of operation,” police superintendent Zaka Luc told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The operation, code-named “Bia III”, was the first since at least 2017 and followed the launch six months ago of a new national action plan against child labour, said Luc, deputy director in the anti-trafficking division.

The government said it hoped to “send a strong signal” to traffickers by raiding Aboisso, a hot spot.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, introduced its first national plan to end child labour in 2012, but the problem remains widespread in poor farming communities.

An estimated 890,000 children work in the cocoa sector, some for their parents and some trafficked from abroad, according to a 2018 report by anti-slavery organisation Walk Free Foundation.

Children are also trafficked to Ivory Coast for other types of work, such as mining and domestic servitude. Among the victims rescued last week were at least six Nigerian girls being trafficked for prostitution, said police.

The rescued children were placed in the care of a charity in Aboisso while investigations are under way to find their parents, the government said.

“Ivory Coast’s image is tarnished by child trafficking,” said Kouadio Yeboue Marcellin, deputy police chief in Aboisso.

“We are appealing to all parents. A child’s place is at school and not on plantations,” he said in a statement.

The number of police operations will depend on available funding, said Luc. This one was financed by the office of First Lady Dominique Ouattara, who has championed the cause.

The new action plan was praised by some cocoa industry executives last year for taking a wide-reaching approach to tackling the issue, including through investing in education and empowering women.

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200113151823-3341s/

 

‘We failed to reach Europe – now our families disown us’

Mali

Most of the West African migrants who fail to reach Europe eventually return to their own countries, but it can be a bitter homecoming. In Sierra Leone, returnees are often rejected by relatives and friends. They’re seen as failures, and many stole from their families to pay for their journey.

Some readers will find this story disturbing

Fatmata breaks into sobs when she remembers the six months she spent in slavery as the “wife” of a Tuareg nomad who seized her in the Sahara desert.

“They call him Ahmed. He was so huge and so wicked,” she says. “He said, ‘You are a slave, you are black. You people are from hell.’ He told me when somebody has a slave, you can do whatever you want to do. Not only him. Sometimes he would tell his friend, ‘You can have a taste of anything inside my house.’ They tortured me every day.”

That was only the beginning of the horrors Fatmata, aged 28, from Freetown, Sierra Leone, experienced as she tried to cross West Africa to the Mediterranean. She eventually escaped from Ahmed, but was recaptured by traffickers who held her in their own private jail in Algeria.

After she and other migrants broke out, Fatmata, deeply traumatised, decided to abandon her dreams of a new life in Europe – and go back to where she started. She applied to an intergovernmental agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which pays the fares for migrants who want to return home.

Last December, she arrived back in Freetown, by bus from Mali – after nearly two years away. But there were no emotional reunions, no welcomes, no embraces. Nearly a year later, Fatmata hasn’t even seen her mother – or the daughter, now eight, she left behind.

“I was so happy to come back,” she says. “But I wish I had not.”

When she got back, she called her brother. But his reaction terrified her. “He told me, ‘You should not even have come home. You should just die where you went, because you didn’t bring anything back home.'”

After that, she says, “I didn’t have the heart to go and see my mother.”

But her family didn’t reject her just because she was a failure. It was also because of how she funded her journey.

She stole 25 million leones – about US $2,600 at today’s exchange rate, but then worth a lot more – from her aunt. It was money her aunt had given her to buy clothes, that could then be resold as part of her trading business. Her aunt regularly trusted her in that way.

“I was only thinking how to get the money and go,” Fatmata says, though she adds that she’s not a selfish person. “If I had succeeded in going to Europe, I decided that I would triple the money, I would take good care of my aunt and my mum.”

But Fatmata’s aunt’s business never recovered from the loss of the money. And – to make things even worse – the theft has caused a rift between the aunt and her sister, Fatmata’s mother, whom she falsely accuses of being in on Fatmata’s plan.

“I’m in pain, serious pain!” her mother says, when I visit her. “The day I set eyes on Fatmata, she will end up in the police station – and I will die.”

It’s a story that’s repeated in the families of many of the 3,000 or so Sierra Leoneans who have returned in the last two years after failing to reach Europe.

At one time, relatives often raised the money to send someone, but there’s less willingness to do that now that stories of imprisonment and death along the route have multiplied. Now, many would-be migrants keep their plans secret, and take whatever money they can, sometimes even selling the title deeds to the family land.

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50391297

 

The South Asian women trafficked to Kenya’s Bollywood-style bars

DanceLatest figures from Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission showed 43 women and girls were repatriated from dance bars in Kenya [File: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

Nepali beautician Sheela* did not think twice about ditching her salon job when she received a call offering seven times her salary to work as a cultural dancer at a nightclub in Kenya.

It did not matter that the 23-year-old woman from a village in the Himalayan foothills had never heard of the East African nation.

Or that she had no experience as a dancer, had never met the owner of the club and was not shown an employment contract.

With elderly parents to care for and medical bills to clear after her brother suffered a motorcycle accident, the offer of a monthly salary of $600, with food, housing and transport costs all covered, was a no-brainer for Sheela.

“[But] it was not what I expected,” said Sheela, who was rescued with 11 other Nepali women from a nightclub in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa in April where she danced on stage from 9pm to 4am getting tips from male clients.

“I was told that being escorted everywhere by the driver, not leaving the flat except for work, and not having my passport or phone, was for my safety,” added Sheela, who did not want to give her real name, at a safe house in Mombasa’s Shanzu suburb.

An increasing number of women and girls are leaving South Asian nations such as Nepal, India and Pakistan to work in Bollywood-style dance bars in Kenya’s adult entertainment industry – many illegally – according to anti-trafficking activists and police.

There is no official data on the numbers but the results of police raids, combined with figures on the repatriation of rescued women, suggest scores of women and underage girls are victims of organised human trafficking from South Asia to Kenya.

Latest figures from Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) showed 43 women and girls were repatriated from dance bars in Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania in 2016-2017.

Spotlight on rising trend

The owner of the Mombasa club, Asif Amirali Alibhai Jetha, was charged with three counts of human trafficking, accused of harbouring victims for the purpose of deception, using premises to promote trafficking and confiscation of passports.

The Canadian-British national denied the charges in court, pleading not guilty, saying the women were in Kenya of their own consent and legally employed as cultural dancers at a business with no erotic dancing or sexual exploitation.

He is currently on bail awaiting the next court hearing.

The so-called mujra dance bars are common in India. Here, young women dance to Bollywood music for money from male patrons. These bars have mushroomed in cities including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, where there are countless Kenyans of South Asian descent.

Police and anti-trafficking groups have repeatedly voiced concerns that some of these private clubs are used as a front to ensnare women and girls, some in sex slavery, with women forced to pay off loans by erotic dancing or having sex with clients.

Sheela and the other women rescued from the Mombasa club told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they were not forced to have sex with customers.

In Kenya, many local women and girls are promised good jobs only to be enslaved in domestic servitude or forced into prostitution – often in the sex tourism industry.

Kenya is home to about 328,000 modern-day slaves – about one in 143 of its population – according to the Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based rights group.

Police raids

In recent years, police raids on mujra bars uncovered organised human trafficking from South Asia to Kenya, a trend highlighted by the United States in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

“The raids have helped us understand the modus operandi of traffickers in Kenya who have agents overseas to recruit women for them,” an official from Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said on condition of anonymity.

“They are offered jobs as cultural dancers and given around one month’s salary in advance. But when they arrive, their movements are restricted and they have to do erotic and sexually explicit dancing – and often have to have sex with clients.”

Such victims enter Kenya either on a three-month tourist visa on arrival for South Asians or on a special temporary work permit for cultural performers, according to the DCI official.

Sheela and the other 11 women rescued in Mombasa said they came to Kenya separately over the past nine months on flights through India and Ethiopia arranged by the club owner.

In court testimonies, the women, aged 16 to 34, said they were told to carry hand luggage only and tell immigration officials they were visiting friends or family in Kenya.

The women worked every night, were given stage names, and were expected to earn about $4,000 each a month in tips.

“We didn’t get the tips as they were for the boss,” said Meena*, 20, who did not want to give her real name.

“But the top performing girls would get bonuses of 20,000 shillings [$200], 30,000 [$300], and 50,000 [$500] if they met their targets.”

The women told the court their passports were taken and they did not know the location of the club or their accommodation. They were repatriated to Nepal in July.

“This whole thing has been terrible,” said Sonia*, 24, who did not want to give her real name, the day before she left. “I should never have come – it was a mistake. All I want to do is go home. I never come to Kenya again.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/south-asian-women-trafficked-kenya-bollywood-style-bars-190808085054217.html

 

LPD Officer Sarah Williams Encourages Action, Empathy To Prevent Human Trafficking

Trafficking photo

Sarah Williams said she was shocked when she learned from author and journalist Benjamin Skinner that slavery is a modern day occurence. Inspired, Williams dug deeper into the subject to see how she could make a difference.

It was after further research that she learned that human trafficking is an epidemic she can prevent. Both realizations began Williams’ career in preventing human trafficking.

Williams works as a patrol officer on the Lincoln Police Department’s southwest team, and focuses on prostitution and human trafficking. She shared her police experiences preventing human trafficking at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Andersen Hall on Nov. 20 in an event hosted by the Nebraska University Students Against Modern Slavery.

She discussed factors that contribute to human trafficking, like family dysfunction and mental illness. She also shared stories of human trafficking that ranged from children forced into human trafficking to an attorney accused of soliciting prostitutes.

Williams said those factors and stories fit into a larger picture of human trafficking in Nebraska.According to the Omaha Women’s Fund, 900 people are sold in Nebraska each month — 200 of which are from Lincoln.

Williams discussed human trafficking victims’ reluctance to speak with the police, especially when the victims are not from the United States. She said their unwillingness presents a significant hurdle against prevention.

https://www.sistersagainsttrafficking.org/in-the-news/

Human trafficker at London Olympics gets 30 year prison sentence in U.S.

Trafficking 2A child waves an Union flag near Olympic rings at the entrance of the venue for the men’s modern pentathlon during the London 2012 Olympics at Greenwich Park August 11, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Jason Fields

WASHINGTON,  (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An “evil” man who tried to traffic a teenage boy into London to be sold for sex during the 2012 Olympics has been sentenced to 30 years in a U.S. prison, in a case of human trafficking that draws attention during international sporting events.

Jason Gandy was stopped in July 2012 by immigration officers in Britain who suspected something was wrong with the adult man traveling with an unrelated 15-year-old boy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

British authorities sent Gandy home to Houston, Texas for trial.

He was convicted of sex trafficking of minors in July and sentenced this week by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal who told him: “You are evil, and most evil are those who willingly exploit others for their own gratification.”

Along with the incident at the London Olympics, there were reports of Nigerians taken to Russia for sex during the World Cup this past summer and, in the United States, football’s Super Bowl also draws concerns over trafficking.

However experts are split on whether such spectacles actively fuel trafficking. Many say the commercial sex market grows during any number of large events and caution that such concern draws attention away from what is a year-round crime.

Some 1.5 million people in the United States are estimated to be victims of trafficking, mostly for sexual exploitation. The majority are children, according to a U.S. Senate report published last year.

Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, a $150 billion industry, according to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization.

Of that total, an estimated 4.5 million people are forced into sex work, and children are estimated to comprise 5.5 million of the overall victims, according to the ILO.

In Gandy’s case, the man paid for the boy’s airfare and passport, U.S. officials said.

He planned to make the boy perform massages and sex acts with customers, taking advantage of the crowds gathered for the Olympics, they said.

He also molested the boy himself, they said.

Men who survived Gandy’s molestation testified at his sentencing about their ordeals being enslaved at a massage operation Gandy ran out of his home in Houston, prosecutors said.
http://news.trust.org/item/20181219193057-d1lsq