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Monday, September 5, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

D.C.-based anti-trafficking group Polaris Project released a report on Thursday rating all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their human trafficking legislation.  The report highlighted the 9 states that were identified Massachusetts, West Virginia and Wyoming as the lowest ranked due to having no laws specifically focused on human trafficking.  The report also noted lacking in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota, which each fulfilled two or fewer of the 10 categories reviewed. 

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is among advocates for new anti-trafficking laws in the Commonwealth.  The topic gained higher public attention in the state in May after a man was charged with kidnapping a 15-year-old girl at an MBTA stop and forcing her into sexual slavery.  New momentum has been sparked by a report from the Polaris Project, which ranked Massachusetts as among the worst in the country for anti-trafficking legislation.  The House approved human trafficking legislation unanimously in June and it is currently under review in the state Senate.  
Two cousin were told they would be gardeners in Thailand, but instead they were forced to work on Thai fishing boats. Six months later, they escaped their captors while the boat was offloading on Benjina island in northern Indonesia.  Thousands of Cambodian men are now believed to be working against their will in exploitative working conditions on long-haul trawlers, with reports of 20-hour work days, food deprivation, regular beatings and threats at the hands of the crew.  It is reported that people deemed expendable are tossed overboard. 
Trafficked to Baghdad’s Green Zone  

Over 200 foreign laborers began work on the Arab League Summit housing site in Iraq, working from January to April with unmet promises of payment.   The workers were initially promised salaries of $2,500/month before being brought into the country, then were presented with contracts for a lower amount.  Even the lower amount was never paid.  A 2010 report on trafficking in Iraq notes that "[f]raudulent employment agencies in the migrant workers’ countries of origin, unscrupulous employers in Iraq, overwhelmed or unresponsive Iraqi state institutions, and a lack of diplomatic representations of the workers’ home countries in Iraq all contribute to an environment where abuse and exploitation of migrant workers can take place."

After an 18-month undercover investigation dubbed “Operation Little Girl Lost," Illinois authorities announced the arrest of nine people last Wednesday.  The suspects were charged with involuntary sexual servitude of a minor and human trafficking.  The victims, some as young as 12 years old. were forced into sexual slavery.  The human sex trafficking operation was run by Vice Lords and other gang members known on the South and West Sides of Chicago.

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