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Monday, September 12, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Indian circuses have emerged as a major trafficking destination for Nepalese children. Aid groups are working to recover hundreds of children as young as five from the physical and sexual abuse that often characterizes the youngsters' time in India. 

A string of sex scandals from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Haiti involving peacekeeping missions has forced the United Nations to change the way it handles accusations of trafficking, rape and related crimes. But the issue still bedevils the institution. Human rights experts and some member states fault the United Nations for leaving too much of the job of enforcing its “zero tolerance” policy announced in 2003 to the countries contributing troops. Individual cases and any disciplinary action are rarely made public.

Twenty-four modern day slaves were released from bondage on Sunday after a pre-dawn police raid found them emaciated, hungry and living in "filthy and cramped" conditions on a caravan site in Leighton Buzzard. The men -- Poles, Romanians and Russians as well as British -- had been forced to survive in a "state of virtual slavery,” according to Bedfordshire police.  The vulnerable men had been recruited from homeless shelters and dole queues. Some are believed to have been in virtual captivity for up to 15 years. Five people -- four men and a woman -- were arrested in the swoop on the mainly Traveler site. Since the Coroners and Justice Act became law in 2010, holding a person in servitude has become a criminal offense punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Chinese police have raided brick factories scattered through a rural swath of Henan province and rescued 30 mentally disabled men who authorities say had been held as slave laborers. The unusually public raids were prompted by a provincial television report by a journalist who went undercover posing as a disabled man at a train station, where he was grabbed by a recruiter and says he was sold to a brick factory. The case is an embarrassment for Chinese authorities, who have promised to stamp out slavery and the abuse of the disabled.

A new report by Human Rights Watch asserts that cashew nuts and other Vietnamese exports are produced by drug addicts detained in forced-labor camps across the country. Those who refuse to work are beaten with truncheons, given electric shocks, locked in isolation, deprived of food and water, and obliged to work even longer hours, the report states. The report could potentially embarrass foreign companies doing business in Vietnam. The country is the world's largest exporter of processed cashews and the U.S.'s top supplier of the nut. China and the European Union are also major buyers.

A national anti-trafficking organization is giving Kansas low marks on state efforts to police human trafficking. Even though Kansas’ governor and attorney general have been strong voices against trafficking, an analysis by the Polaris Project found that the state still lacks the full arsenal of laws considered “critical to a comprehensive anti-trafficking effort.” The Polaris study noted that Kansas still needs to adopt legislation that would require training of local police, establishing an anti-trafficking task force, making victims aware of a national anti-trafficking hotline, offering more assistance to victims, allowing victims to file civil lawsuits against their traffickers, and vacating convictions for sex trafficking victims.

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