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Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

New agreement to fight human trafficking
The International Organization for Migration (IOM)and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime pledge closer cooperation to tackle the issue of modern-day human trafficking last Tuesday in Vienna.  Due to the large number of victims that suffer this problem, the two agencies signed the agreement to ensure borders are better managed.  "It is believed there are between 12 and 27 million victims of trafficking.  This is really something due tot the fact that there are no worldwide mechanisms in place to detect appropriately victims," says Laurence Hart, head of the migrant assistance division of the IOM.  Trafficking is a $32 million/year industry and the agreement also calls for a greater cooperation by businesses to eradicate human slavery.  

Thomas Connors, four sons, a daughter and her husband face charges of forcing others to perform forced labor, while some also face assault allegations, an Irish court was told.  Homeless and other vulnerable men were poorly fed, frequently threatened and forced to work for nothing.  Victims were recruited at homeless shelters, soup-kitchens or taken off the streets.  Physically violence was then threatened and/or used in order to get them to comply and stop demanding promised wages.  The prosecution has urged the press to describe the allegations as forced labor and servitude.  They say that hundreds of men allegedly fell prey to the Connors family.  

Rwanda opens center to rehabilitate former child soldiers
This past weekend, the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission inaugurated a new child rehabilitation center for former child soldiers who fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The children, between ages 13 and 18, were forced into war activities and forced labor by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.  The center will offer psycho-social support, vocational training and help the ex-combatants find their parents.  Rwanda's success story is now a blueprint for the United Nations Security Council campaign to shame other groups that force children into labor and to act as soldiers.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Afghanistan's "dancing boys" exploitation
According to Afghan human rights researchers, the practice of wealthy Afghans exploiting underage boys as sexual partners who are often dressed up as women to dance at gatherings is on the rise.  Mirzahan, a 22-year-old farmer, purchased a 9-year-old boy because marrying a woman would have been prohibitively expensive.  Boys who are perceived as particularly beautiful can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars and can then be rented out to as dancers at male-only parties.  Once they become too old many of the boys turn to pimping or prostitution.  Wurth, a U.N. official, says she is not aware of any prosecutions in the area.  "A kid who is between sexually exploited, if he reports it, he will end up in prison."

Women enslaved by Spain's brothel tourism boom
Thirty years ago nearly all the prostitutes in Spain were Spanish and nowadays almost none are.  The networks today that bring in women to the area vary widely and are constantly changing.  Valentina, a Romanian woman, believed she was coming to work in a hotel through the help of her boyfriend.  Instead she became a prostitute on the side of the road and the man threatened her children if she did not comply.  Most of Spain's economy is struggling, but prostitution is booming.  Civil rights activists believe this is due to the change in customer: it has shifted from middle-aged men to young tourists.  Out of the 90,000 prostitutes, 90% of the them are believed to be trafficked.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

U.N.: 2.4 million human trafficking victims
The U.N. crime-fighting office said Tuesday that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time.  Statistics show that 80% of these victims are sexual slaves and 2 out of every 3 are women.  Further, only 1 out of 100 victims of trafficking are rescued, says Yuri Fedotov, head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.  Trafficking is second only to the illegal drug trade in profitability and there is a lack in strong legislation and police training to combat it.  M. Cherif Bassiouni, an emeritus law professor at DePaul University in Chicago urged the general assembly to reassess "who is a victim and who is a criminal."

Missing children raise trafficking concerns
At least 182 Indonesian children, ages 0 to 12, were reported missing by their parents in 2011, says Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission on Child Protection.  Thirty nine of these children were stolen from maternity clinics and Sirait suspects they are being used by a human trafficking network for illegal adoption, commercial sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and domestic and international labor.  Police have a difficult time investigating these networks because ringleaders promise better facilities and and more money if victims recruit more people.  As of right now, less than 1% of cases are being brought to court.

Feds charge Chicago man with trafficking minors for sex
Carl Brandon Smith, also known as "Moo", was arrested last week for trafficking minors for sex.  His allegations include bringing one of the minors from Wisconsin in order to force her into prostitution.  These charges are a result of the combined work of the FBI and the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force as federal authorities look to ramp up their prosecutions of sex trafficking cases.  Charges say Smith forced two minors into the commercial sex trade, as well as two women older than 18 into prostitution and he could receive anywhere from 10 years to maximum life behind bars for each of the counts he is facing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round Up

Gang members charged with trafficking suburban teens
Federal prosecutors have charged five alleged gang members with trafficking teenage girls into prostitution in suburban Northern Virginia, according to an FBI affidavit. The five men are allegedly members of the Fairfax, Va.-based Crips, the notorious Los Angeles gang. They are said to have recruited girls as young as sixteen by approaching them at high schools, metro stations and media sites such as Facebook, complimenting them on their looks and promising them money. Once recruited, they would use drugs and violence to force them into prostitution. "Many of the victims in this case were girls from good homes...they lived at home with their parents," says Neil MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Crips may have solicited more than 800 girls and this incident marks the sixteenth case of human trafficking in the Eastern District of Virginia in the last year.

Senegal: protect children from forced begging
It is estimated that 50,000 children, between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to beg each day on the streets of Senegal, says a coalition of Senegalese civil society organizations. These children are sent by their parents to receive a Quranic education, but others have twisted this practice into a form of economic exploitation. In 2005, the Senegalese government enacted legislation in 2005 that criminalized forced begging, but little has been done to enforce these regulations. Mamadou Wane, spokesman for the Plateforme pour la protection et la promotion des droits humains (PPDH), proclaims "there is an urgent need for the new government to enforce laws protecting children from violence, no matter who is responsible for committing it." The upcoming International Labour Conference in June will provide President Sall with the opportunity to formulate a plan.

Educated Central Asian girls forced into prostitution
At least 6 highly-educated girls were trafficked from the Central Asian Region, such as Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, into Pakistan. They say they are doctors who were lured into accepting jobs in Pakistan with the promise of earning ten times more than they could in their home country. However, once they arrived, the "recruiter" snatched their documents and threatened to kill them if they tried to report them to the authorities. Lutfullah, First Secretary at Uzebekistan's embassy says "usually females come to the embassy...claiming that their passports and traveling documents were lost...but we need certain proof before issuing such doucuments." Based on reports, Pakistan is a destination for men, women and children from Central Asian countries, Bangladesh and Iran who are subject to forced labor and prostitution.