LONDON, March 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – From children being forced by gangs to carry illegal drugs, to migrants smuggled into Britain and trapped in exploitative work, reports of slavery in Britain have surged as authorities crack down on the crime, according to data released on Monday.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it received 5,145 reports of suspected slavery victims in 2017 across Britain, an increase of more than a third from 3,804 in 2016.
Those involved were commonly British, Albanian and Vietnamese, said the NCA, which is dubbed Britain’s FBI, warning that criminal networks were heading online to sexually exploit people, especially through adult services websites.
“What this report reinforces is that we are now dealing with an evolving threat,” NCA director Will Kerr said in a statement. “Particularly concerning to us is the rise in young people being exploited for sexual purposes or drug trafficking.”
The NCA said the jump in numbers was largely due to British children being reported to authorities as suspected victims of sexual exploitation or being used by gangs to carry illegal drugs in the so-called ‘county lines’ drug trade.
There were also increased crossovers between smuggling rings, that transport vulnerable migrants into Britain, and slavemasters, who force them into exploitative work, Kerr said.
Kerr said the figures “almost certainly” represent an underestimate of the true scale of slavery and trafficking in Britain.
At least 13,000 people across Britain are estimated by the government to be victims of modern slavery – trapped in forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude – but police say the true figure is likely to be in the tens of thousands.
Britain is regarded as a leader in global efforts to combat slavery, with its 2015 Modern Slavery Act introducing life sentences for traffickers, forcing companies to address the risk of forced labour, and better protect people at risk.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said on Monday it held 568 police operations in February alone but despite more arrests, authorities are struggling to jail slavemasters.
Trafficking prosecutions rose to 295 in 2015/2016 from 187 in 2014/15, but have since levelled off, according to data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith
NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Anti-trafficking activists on Wednesday welcomed a move in the U.S. Congress to fight the trade, saying the online world was rife with “how-to” videos for sex traffickers.
The bill – which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday – would make it easier for states and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.
“It’s a great first step,” Jerome Elam, head of the Trafficking in America Task Force, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have been fighting for so long.”
The legislation is a result of years of law-enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on Backpage.com, a huge website which is used for sex advertising.
A spokeswoman for Backpage declined to comment on the videos or the legislation, which will head next to the Senate, where similar legislation has gained substantial support.
Backpage has said it is hosting content, not creating it, and is protected from liability by a federal law protecting free speech. The company has been hit by lawsuits saying it promotes trafficking in its ads.
Each year, some 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I hope this bill gets us closer to survivor justice and ensuring traffickers and their business associates (looking at you, Backpage) are held accountable,” said Andrea Powell, head of FAIR Girls anti-trafficking group, in a statement.
“I know it will.”
Activists said videos were freely available online that help sex traffickers use cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to pay anonymously for online advertisements on Backpage.
Earlier this week The Sunday Times newspaper in Britain said that videos on the YouTube website showed how to buy Backpage.com ads with bitcoin and other credits.
YouTube was not immediately available for comment. The Times said the most-viewed of the videos had been taken down.
“These YouTube videos showing how to use bitcoin for Backpage are ‘how-tos’ for human traffickers,” Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
“Backpage makes it easier for traffickers and pimps to use their site by accepting payments through bitcoin and other means of payment, such as retail gift cards.”
Visa Inc , MasterCard Inc and American Express Co have banned their credit cards from being used to pay for ads on Backpage.
Absent credit cards, Backpage relies heavily on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
“Without cryptocurrencies, the site would be relegated to using unreliable processors as a last resort,” Vance testified last month before a Congressional subcommittee.
Some campaigners say while the videos are disturbing, they make little difference to criminals.
“That horse got out of the barn a long time ago,” Nita Belles, founder of the anti-trafficking group In Our Backyard, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“I think the people that are doing trafficking … they probably already know.”
Last December, more than 7,000 prostitution advertisements were posted on Backpage for Manhattan alone, Vance said.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Robert Carmichael and Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
A smuggler forced the mostly Somali and Ethiopian refugees
into the sea as they approached Yemen’s coast, says the UN.
Up to 50 refugees and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia were “deliberately drowned” when a smuggler forced them into the sea off Yemen’s coast, the UN migration agency said on Wednesday, calling the drownings “shocking and inhumane.”
International Organization for Migration (IOM) staffers found the shallow graves of 29 of the refugees and migrants on a beach in Yemen’s Shabwa during a routine patrol, the agency’s statement said. The dead were buried by those who survived.
At least 22 people are still missing, the IOM said. The passengers’ average age was 16, the agency said.
The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen’s ongoing conflict. Refugees and migrants try to make their way to the oil-rich Gulf countries.
The smuggler forced more than 120 people into the sea on Wednesday morning as they approached Yemen’s coast, the IOM statement said.
“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM’s chief of mission in Yemen.
“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route.”
IOM staffers provided aid for 27 survivors who remained on the beach, while others left.
Laurent de Boeck told Al Jazeera that the chaos of Yemen’s war is providing fertile ground for people smugglers.
“It’s absolutely awful, and this is reflected in the real big business which is happening now in Yemen where there is no capacity to actually control the border. We have seen since the war increased smuggling to the country actually,” he said.
“Last year we counted 117,000 people entering the country irregularly – and these are those who have identified,” added de Boeck.
‘False hope of a better future’ De Boeck called the suffering of refugees and migrants on the route enormous, especially during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean. “Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” he said.
The IOM says about 55,000 people have left Horn of Africa nations for Yemen since January, with most from Somalia and Ethiopia. A third of them are estimated to be women.
Yemen refugee boat attack: Survivors speak out Despite the fighting in Yemen, African refugees and migrants continue to arrive in the war-torn country where there is no central authority to prevent them from travelling onward.
The refugees are vulnerable to abuse by armed trafficking rings, many of them believed to be connected to the armed groups involved in the war.
The conflict itself is a deadly risk. In March, Somalia’s government blamed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen for an attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees off Yemen’s coast.
Some Somalis are desperate to avoid years of chaos at home with attacks by homegrown armed group al-Shabab and deadly drought. Some Ethiopians have left home after months of deadly anti-government protests and a 10-month state of emergency.
More than 111,500 refugees and migrants landed on Yemen’s shores last year, up from around 100,000 the year before, according to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, a grouping of international agencies that monitors migration in the area.
“Always you will find it is people who are from the most impoverished and most disadvantaged communities, who are drawn into prostitution.”
NEW DELHI, Jan 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – From indigenous Canadians to tribal women in India, most victims of sexual exploitation are women and girls from the world’s most marginalised communities, activists said on Monday, calling for an end to prostitution and the global sex trade.
Sexual slavery is widespread in these communities, whether in poor districts of the United States or townships in South Africa, where deprivation leaves women and girls vulnerable to exploitation.
“Prostitution exists everywhere on this earth because of the male demand for it, and a woman’s position in prostitution is simply a response to these dire circumstances,” Rachel Moran, a sex worker-turned-activist told a conference on sexual slavery.
“Always you will find it is people who are from the most impoverished and most disadvantaged communities, who are drawn into prostitution,” said Moran from the charity SPACE International.
From a deprived community in Ireland, Moran was forced into prostitution at the age of 15 and held in sexual slavery for seven years.
While sex work is illegal in most countries across the world, it exists everywhere. There are an estimated 40 million sex workers globally, according to a 2014 report by the French charity Fondation Scelles.
Prostitution abolitionists say most are victims of human trafficking and have been lured, duped or forced into sexual slavery by pimps and traffickers, largely due to their poor socio-economic status.
Once victims become trapped in sexual slavery — be it in brothels, on street corners, in massage parlours, strip clubs or private homes, say activists, it is difficult for them to leave.
For many it is the threat of physical abuse from their pimp which keeps victims in prostitution, but some stay of their own accord – ostracised by their family and friends, and with no one to turn to for support.
“While we operate in different countries, very clear and common themes emerge,” said Sarah Benson, Chair of the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution (CAP), an alliance of charities working in countries such as India, France, Ireland and South Africa.
“This include the background and profile of those in sex trade, the circumstances which draw them in, the tactics of pimps and traffickers, the patriarchy, the racism, the gender bias – all of which are sustaining a thriving global sex trade.”
The two-day conference is organised by CAP International and Indian charity Apne Aap, bringing together 250 civil society groups from 30 countries to share experiences and strategies to end prostitution across the world.
The conference had been titled “Last Girl First” because the most deprived and forgotten girls were victims of prostitution, said Ruchira Gupta, Apne Aap’s founder.
“It is always the most vulnerable person who is the victim. This is because she is a woman, she is poor, she is from a low caste or she is a teenager,” said Gupta.
“We want governments to acknowledge this and support their upliftment and their rights… We must put the ‘last girl first’ and there should no compromise on this.”
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
I was privileged to have participated in a two-day conference on women and migration in Africa, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 6-8 June. The conference was sponsored by six Catholic Religious Congregations, accredited as non-governmental organizations to the United Nations. Over 90 participants from about 10 African countries attended the conference. Some of the participants were currently engaged in work with migrants, some were migrants, while others were interested in learning more about migration issues. Seven Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe/South Africa provinces participated in the conference. Sister Joan Burke, SNDdeN (Kenya) was among the local organizing team. I personally found this conference both informative and challenging.
We had input from representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, Kenyan Government, Kenyan Bishop Conference, and other organizations and individuals (including refugees and migrants). It was moving to hear from refugees who are now volunteers. I was also very impressed to hear the delegate from the Kenyan Government commend the efforts of Catholic Religious women and men in providing services to migrants and refugees, and their work against human trafficking. He expressed the interest of the government collaborating with them in future.
Input from the different presenters stimulated discussions among participants on issues such as providing adequate protection to migrants and refugees, victims of human trafficking, as well as addressing some of those factors that force people to migrate. During the conference, we went into working groups and worked on different topics for example: environment and migration, migration and public health, human trafficking, and advocacy. I joined 24 other participants to form a group centered on “Countering Trafficking in Person.” The group came up with a 7-Point Action Plan through which we were challenged to continue to work on, within our networks, as we return to our respective countries or regions.
One of the major problems in Nigeria is transnational human trafficking. Women, primarily from Benin City in Edo State are trafficked to Italy and other European countries for exploitation purposes. It is estimated that 60-80% of the sex workers in Italy are from Nigeria according to Global Sisters Report. Traffickers may use force, deception, coercion, or abduction. Some of the women are told that they will be doing domestic work, while the tales of profitable prostitution in Europe lure others stuck in poverty to traffickers. However, in both of these instances, the women are not aware of the inhumane conditions that the traffickers are willing to put them through for a profit. There are also cases where parents knowingly send their children abroad because they have heard of the fortunes available in Europe and hope for a better life for their kids. However, they are less likely to be fully aware of the true intentions of the traffickers, who they see in some cases as persons giving a rare opportunity to their children.
To win the fight against human trafficking we must understand why it is happening. Among the root causes of human trafficking in Nigeria, we mention poverty, lack of education, globalization, corruption and gender inequality. Globalization allows traffickers to set up complex routes and systems within and across borders. The presence of these complex channels creates a challenge because it is understood that prosecuting one trafficker may only minimally hinder the network of traffickers. Corruption prevents traffickers from being held accountable and can also prevent victims from seeking justice. In fact, when corruption is found within political institutions, the laws in place are not implemented to their full capacity, if at all. Also, corruption leads law enforcement to succumb to bribery or charge victims outrageous amounts of money in order to have access to justice. Furthermore, gender inequality in a society impacts all other factors. This leaves women less likely to be educated, more susceptible to poverty, and therefore, more vulnerable to human trafficking.
Traffickers convince victims that voodoo rituals prohibit them from escaping and if the victim attempts to turn in the traffickers, severe consequences will ensue. This is how traffickers manipulate one of African ancient religions as a means of holding their victims in bondage because they know of the great fear of many Nigerians.
In 2003, the United Nations’ Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force. Within this document, there is a protocol titled the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women Children, Especially Women and Children. This protocol is important because it focused on the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking. This global crime against humanity is defined by the United Nations as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
Of the 193 member states to the UN today, 171 states have become party to this protocol. Nigeria is one of the countries that ratified this protocol, however the laws that were implemented in Nigeria to comply with this protocol are still not being enforced. The United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons report indicates that Nigeria’s tier ranking has dropped from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch list just this past year. This ranking means that Nigeria does not meet the US law’s minimum standards set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and although they are making strides to come into compliance with these standards, Nigeria failed to “provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.”
Addressing the problem of human trafficking in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world will take a communal effort. Because we know and see it, we must do something about it. Silence is not an option. Another key part of prevention is education and awareness campaigns. Every community needs to learn about trafficking because those who are vulnerable are members of our communities. Once individuals are educated on the realities of human trafficking, they need to be empowered to speak out. This holistic approach means organizations and the government must be willing partners. One voice will not be capable of eliminating human trafficking; our combined voices will make the difference.
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2017 (IPS) – World leaders must step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, said Oxfam.
Ahead of the 43rd G7 summit, Oxfam urged world leaders to urgently address the issue of famine, currently affecting four countries at unprecedented levels.
“Political failure has led to these crises – political leadership is needed to resolve them…the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch,” said Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
“If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger,” she continued.
In northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, approximately 30 million people are severely food insecure. Of this figure, 10 million face emergency and famine conditions, more than the population of G7 member United Kingdom’s capital of London.
After descending into conflict over three years ago, famine has now been declared in two South Sudan counties and a third county is at risk if food aid is not provided.
In Somalia, conflict alongside prolonged drought – most likely exacerbated by climate change – has left almost 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Drought has also contributed to cholera outbreaks and displacement.
Byanyima pointed to the hypocrisy in a “world of plenty” experiencing four famines.
These widespread crises are not confined to the four countries’ borders.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is now the largest in the world, placing a strain on local services.
Escaping hunger and conflict, Nigerians have sought refuge in the Lake Chad region which shares its borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger only to once again face high levels of food insecurity and disease outbreaks.
Among the guest invitees to the G7 meeting are the affected nations, including the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Oxfam called on the G7 countries to provide its fair share of funding. So far, they have provided 1.7 billion dollars, just under 60 percent of their fair share. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of a 6.3-billion-dollar UN appeal for all four countries has been funded. If each G7 country contributed its fair share, almost half of the appeal would be funded, Oxfam estimates.
In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam noted that they should thus uphold their commitments and focus on crisis prevention.
However, some of the G77 nations’ actions do not bode well for accelerated action on famine.
For instance, the U.S. government has proposed significant cuts to foreign assistance, including a 30 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The proposal also includes the elimination of Title II For Peace, a major USAID food aid program, which would mean the loss of over 1.7 billion dollars of food assistance.
Former US Foreign Disaster Assistance chief Jeremy Konyndyk noted that the cuts are “catastrophic.” “So bad I fear I’m misreading it,” he added.
International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) President David Miliband highlighted the importance of continuing U.S. foreign assistance in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering abroad and protect the interests and security of the U.S. and its allies.
“Global threats like Ebola and ISIS grow out of poverty, instability, and bad governance. Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today, but sparing the US and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combating them tomorrow,” he stated.
President Trump also called for the elimination of the U.S. African Development Foundation which provides grants to underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has suggested cutting funds to climate change programs such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund which aims to help vulnerable developing nations combat climate change.
Meanwhile, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has already abolished its climate change department.
In addition to scaling up humanitarian funding, G7 nations must commit to fund longer-term solutions that build resilience and improve food security to avoid large-scale disasters, Oxfam stated. This includes action on climate change, “no excuses,” said Oxfam.
President Trump is expected to announce whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate agreement after the G7 summit.
“History shows that when donors fail to act on early warnings of potential famine, the consequence can be a large-scale, devastating loss of life….now clear warnings have again been issued,” Oxfam stated.
“The international community have the power to end such failures—if they choose to—by marshaling international logistics and a humanitarian response network to work sustainably with existing local systems to prevent famine and address conflict, governance, and climate change drivers,” Oxfam concluded.
The G7 summit is hosted by Sicily, Italy and will be held from 26-27 May.