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Monday, August 22, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Hundreds of foreign students on a State Department cultural exchange visa program walked off their factory jobs in protest on Wednesday, 17 August. The J-1 visa program brings foreign students to the country to work for two months and learn English, and was designed in part to fill seasonal tourism jobs at resorts and seaside towns. The 400 students employed at a Pennsylvania factory that packages Hershey's candies told The New York Times that even though they make $8.35 an hour, their rent and program fees are deducted from their paychecks, leaving them with less money than they spent to get the visas and travel to the country in the first place.

Colorado Man Sentenced to 8 Years for Trafficking a Child
A Jefferson County District judge sentenced a Colorado man, Dallas Colby Cardenas, 20, to eight years in prison for trafficking a child. According to the Colorado Attorney General's office, Cardenas's conviction is the first under the state's 2006 human trafficking law enacted by the General Assembly. A spokesman for the Colorado Attorney General's Office and Department of Law said Cardenas could presumably face between 8 and 24 years in prison for the trafficking of a child and fines ranging between $5,000 and $1 million.

Vietnamese Village Combats Stigma of Human Trafficking Victims
A Vietnamese woman, Vang Thi Mai, 49, runs a women's co-op for victims of human trafficking and helps to combat the stigma of former forced sex workers. According to a 2005 State Department report on human rights, between 2001 and 2005, the Chinese police say they rescued more than 1,800 trafficking victims on the Vietnam border. Since then, Vietnam has waged a significant anti-trafficking campaign, but many trafficking victims face significant obstacles when they return to their villages due to the stigma surrounding sex work. Ms. Mai's co-op initiative has successfully combated much of the ostracism faced by the women, including being disowned by their families, providing a model for other campaigns to help victims of human trafficking and economic development projects in poor communities.

Human Traffickers Appeal Life Sentences in Abu Dhabi
Seven men sentenced to life in prison 18 months ago for human trafficking told an appeals court judge yesterday they had new evidence to support their innocence. The men, plus three others who received lighter sentences, were involved in what wasthe capital's largest human trafficking ring. The men represented themselves in court; they told the judge that had not been given the chance to argue their case properly. The judge promised they would be fully heard and given all the time they needed. The next hearing has been scheduled for September 21.

Feds Set for Human-Trafficking Crackdown
South Florida is a hotspot for human trafficking because of its gateway air and sea ports, and last month was one of six regions picked to launch an anti-trafficking coordination team to combat the problem. The team will work with federal prosecutors, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Deaprtment of Labor to clamp down on human trafficking crimes in the region. Carmen Pino, of ICE, said, "We have a perfect storm here in terms of trafficking. This is a major, major organized crime." Authorities estimate that human trafficking is a growing criminal enterprise that generates $32 billion annually and bears far less risk for traffickers.

In China Cross-Border Human Trafficking Cases Rising
The trafficking of women and children into China continues to rise despite efforts to combat it, a senior police office has said. Chen Shiqu, who heads the government agency tackling trafficking, warned of the threat posed by traffickers and cited 1,500 cross-border cases uncovered since 2009, involving about 2,000 kidnapped women and infants. Mr. Shiqu is calling for greater international cooperation to end the scourge of human trafficking crimes.

Campaign Gaining Ground Against Sex Trafficking in Chicago
A new Illinois law signed this month, the Illinois Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act, enables victims of sex trafficking to clear their records of prostitution convictions. One Illinois woman, Kennette Thomas, who was 15 when she was first forced into sex work and spent the next 30 years under the control of her pimp, is looking to clear a rap sheet running 32 pages long from landing in jail dozens of times for prostitution and drugs. Some prosecutors hope the new law will encourage victims to come forward and bring lawsuits under another Illinois law to combat human trafficking passed in 2006, the Illinois Predator Accountability Act. Advocates also hope the newly passed Justice for Victims Act will breathe new life back into the 2006 Accountability Act.

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