Every day, men, women, and children around the world are stripped of their basic rights and trafficked as sex workers, forced laborers, involuntary servants, or for their organs. The International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking -- fed by poverty and corruption and facilitated by organized crime -- victimizes more than 20 million people globally. On the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Economic and Environmental Forum in Prague, RFE/RL correspondent Richard Solash spoke with Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the OSCE special representative for combating trafficking in human beings, on the latest trends in the battle against the epidemic.
As Apple [prepared] to unveil the latest iPhone this week, the company’s manufacturing partner in China, Foxconn Technology, is coming under renewed criticism over labor practices after reports that vocational students were being compelled to work at plants making iPhones and their components. Foxconn has acknowledged using student “interns” on manufacturing lines, but says they are free to leave at any time. But two worker advocacy groups said Monday that they had spoken with students who said they had been forced by their teachers to assemble iPhones at a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, in north-central China.
Some children trafficked into the UK are going missing from local authority care, a Council of Europe report says. It says there are indications that increasing numbers of people are being brought into the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. The council raises particular concerns over a lack of secure and suitable accommodation for trafficked children who end up in local authority care.
It calls for better trained supervisors or foster carers for them. The Council of Europe's Greta (Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings) says reports suggest a "significant" number of trafficked children in local authority care go missing and some end up rejoining those who exploited them in the first place.
Romania, Bulgaria make trafficking cases priority
At least 540 Bulgarians were victims of human trafficking in 2011, while Romania investigated nearly 900 similar cases last year. The increase, attributed to sexual exploitation, confirms that the two countries remain both source and transit areas in teh region for such illegal activities, experts say. In Romania, the number of the cases in 2011 is up from 717 the previous year. At the same time, anti-human trafficking authorities indicted 480 persons in these cases, compared to 407 in 2010. More than 270 offenders were convicted, up from 203 two years ago. In Bulgaria, of the 112 offenders convicted last year, 95 received a court sentence for sex trafficking.
NGO founder 'shocked' at USAID
An emotional Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda on Friday denied the charges filed against her by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for allegedly falsifying documents to hide the misuse of at least P210 million ($5 million) in funds donated to the Visayas Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI), a nongovernmental organization she founded in 1991. The VFFI president said she was “shocked by the malicious attack” on the NGO that she had “built for 20 years with blood, sweat and tears,” but vowed to “continue to provide services for victims of exploitation and human trafficking” (and allow) “our body of work to speak for itself.”
The USAID asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in August to probe the foundation over funds for the group’s projects that it said were missing.
Prop. 35 gets tough on human traffickers
Chris Kelly, a former Facebook executive and 2010 Democratic candidate for attorney general, is bankrolling a November ballot measure that would stiffen penalties in California for human traffickers and create new requirements for sex offenders. Proposition 35, whose opponents have no formal organization or funding, would increase prison sentences for traffickers from five to eight years to 12 years to life, depending on the circumstances. It raises the maximum fines from $100,000 to $1.5 million and requires that the money be spent to help trafficking victims and to assist law enforcement agencies prevent trafficking and rescue victims.