Welcome to the Bridge to Freedom Foundation Blog

Thank you for visiting the Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF) blog, where we look forward to bringing you inside information on the inner-workings of BTFF, inside information on our volunteer team and leadership, in-depth coverage of BTFF and partner events, news and happenings from across the globe and so much more.

Learn more about Bridge to Freedom Foundation and how you can help on the BTFF website. We do hope you will subscribe to and follow our blog and please e-mail us at blog@btff.org if you have any feedback, ideas or contributions.

Thank you for your support!
Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Israel: Court Conviction a victory, but more needed
On May 10th the head of the largest trafficking operation in Israel, Rami Saban, received an 18-year jail sentence.  Saban and three partners are accused of having trafficked thousands of young women from Eastern Europe.  They are said to have recruited mostly from Moldova and Ukraine on the false pretenses of offering careers as cleaners.  The women were then sold to brothels based on age and appearance once they were smuggled into Israel from Egypt.  According to the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report, Israel "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so."  The Israeli government has instituted special training for police officers and has established a shelter for victims who escape, but more needs to be done.

Forced labor in the seafood industry
Sea vessels, or "motherships", that serve as deep-sea resupply stations have become sites for laundering products gathered by forced labor.  Once a squid or sardine comes aboard a mothership, it is almost impossible to know whether it was netted by paid fisherman or sea slaves.  Slavery is Thailand's deep-sea fishing trade is an open secret, recognized by the US, the UN and even within the Thai government.  In the wild-caught seafood industry, forced labor persists because out in the open sea, the "law is soft," says Bpa Ouan, a fishing syndicate chief based in Samut Sakhon, Thailand's hub for the fishing industry.  "We have to handle problems ourselves," he says.

Human Trafficking: McKenna, AG's blast Backpage.com
One of the most common things heard from law enforcement regarding human trafficking is that the trade has moved from the real world to the virtual one.  One of the easiest avenues for human trafficking is through websites that contain "adult" sections, most notoriously, Backpage.com.  Washington State Attorney, General Rob McKenna, along with 48 other attorneys general (AG) are pressuring the site to close it's adult section.   "One reason police are critical of Backpage.com is because too often the victims of prostitution are children," says Missouri AG Chris Koster.  In response, Liz McDougall, the general counsel, has promised to only cooperate with the AGs if they rescind their request to have that section discontinued. It is a request, they say, they will not obey.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Human Trafficking Happening in Charlotte
As a transportation hub with close proximity to major highways, human trafficking has come to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Traffickers can pick up their victims and then easily leave, making it hard to find and prosecute them.  State Attorney General Roy Cooper wants more public awareness and with the Democratic National Convention approaching, there's a growing concern of increased trafficking.  "When there's more money to be made, people are going to take advantage of it...this is a $32 billion industry," says Charity Magnuson, leader of the NC Stop chapter.  A this moment, there are 7 to 10 open human trafficking cases in the city.

Human Trafficking Crackdown in Northern Ireland
Since 2009, more than 70 women from a variety of countries such as Ghana, China, Slovakia and Zimbabwe have been rescued from human traffickers in Northern Ireland.  Police believe that there are about 90 brothels that have tricked these women into coming to the country and then forced into sexual slavery by crime gangs.  The increase in awareness can be partly attributed to a new working group, the All Party Group on Human Trafficking, that is lobbying for stronger legislation to make it more difficult for these gangs to exploit vulnerable women.  The MLA allianced recently announced its cooperation with other justice departments.  "Human trafficking is a hidden crime and it is difficult to know what the full extent is, but we know that it is happening and it has to stop."

Former Sex Worker Cautions Kids About Trafficking
Natasha Falle was 14 when she was first sold for sex and now she teaches high school students in British Columbia on how to avoid being exploited.  Falle was trafficked across Canada by her pimp and Naomi Krueger, member of a safe house for trafficking victims, says most of the facility's residents come from Canada.   "We've had residents who were trafficked from northern British Columbia to Vancouver."  Criminal charges for traffickers are rare in British Columbia, with the first conviction ever to be given in 2011.  Falle hopes to not only rely on criminal charges to protect women and children, but to also give an accurate presentation of sex trafficking to future generations.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

According to a major recent survey by the Ministry of Health, 43% of married women in India in the age group of 20 to 24 had been child brides.  The legal age for a girl to marry is 18, but for uneducated girls the average age is 15.  "There is real competition in law in India, between federal law and the law of custom," says Michele Goodwin, a law professor and expert on child marriage.  Over 70% of young brides said they were married before the age of 18 and, like human trafficking, they had no say in the arrangements and they often experience sexual and physical abuse.  "She is the property of anyone in the household," says Goodwin.  Money exchanges hands in the form of a dowry and once a daughter has been sent off there are more resources left for the rest of the family.  

In a rare show of bipartisanship in Virginia, Republicans and Democrats passed a slate of bills that will combat violence against women and human trafficking and create harsher punishments for criminals who commit these acts.  Three of the slate are aimed at stemming the trend of human trafficking in Northern Virginia where gang members were arrested for trafficking high school girls.  The State Board of Education will have to provide training and materials to local school divisions to help identify and report instances of human trafficking and strips clubs will be required to post the human trafficking hotline number.  "Passing the bills is the easy part," says Sen. Janet Howell.  "Much harder is providing the services to the victims of violent crimes." 

Police arrested a Thai man for selling women as sex salves to Japan last year.  After being rescued in September, three women told police that Chakraphan Wacharaphin has arranged travel documents for them to work in a restaurant in Japan, but they were then forced into prostitution upon arrival.  Chakraphan denies being involved in human trafficking, but he did earn thousands of dollars for arranging the women's visas.  If found guilty, he will face up to 10 years in prison in Thailand.   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Timor-Leste: Trafficked people left unsupported
According to the Alola Foundation, a Timorese NGO focusing on women's issues and prevention of trafficking, lack of funding in Timor-Leste for trafficking victims is taking its toll.  "Even if someone was referred to us, we wouldn't have a designated place to put them now, says Susan Kendall, an international mentor at PRADET, a local NGO providing psychosocial support to victims.  The most recent US State Department Trafficking in Persons report notes that Indonesian and Chinese women are often forced to become commercial sex workers, while Camodian and Burmese men and boys are forced into labor or onto fishing boats.  The border authorities lack resources and the system of identifying victims have broken down, leaving trafficked persons vulnerable.  A draft law on trafficking still needs three ministers to sign off on it before it can go to Parliament for approval.

Long Beach man charged with running sex trafficking ring
Roshaun, aka "Kevin", Nakia Porter, 36, was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of forced labor and two counts of sex trafficking through force, fraud or coercion.  The victims allege that Porter placed personal ads on craigeslist.com and seekingarrangments.com, but once a relationship was established he forced them to work as prostitutes.  The federal complaint adds that he kept control of the women by using physical violence and threatening them and their families.  If convicted on all counts, Porter will face life in federal prison.  The trial date is set for June 19.

Nigerians Become Most Trafficked into Italy's Sex Trade
Although Nigerian women and girls have been trafficked into Italy since the 1980s, the United Nations now estimates that between 8,000 and 10,000 are forced into the country's street prostitution trade every year.  Like other countries, these women are promised decent jobs and better wages, but what makes Nigeria unique is the trafficker's use of juju, or black magic, to cement the trafficker's agreement.  The traffickers make the girls go through a ritual where they swear to reimburse their sponsors for the trip.  Most of the victims are so terrified of the juju that they will not attempt to escape and they end up promising to repay up to $78,000.  This can translate into 10 customers a day.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bridge to Freedom Foundation selected 

as a Beneficiary Partner for the 

2012 DC Stop Modern Slavery Walk!

Bridge to Freedom Foundation is proud to announce we have been selected as an official Partner for the 2012 DC Stop Modern Slavery Walk on September 29th 2012. 

This 4th annual event, which has become the largest anti-human trafficking event in Washington DC, includes a 5K walk, anti-trafficking resource fair, luminary speakers, and incredible musical performances.

For more information and to join our team go to: www.walk.stopmodernslavery.org

Today, there are an estimated 27 million slaves around the world, including within our DC Area communities. This new form of modern slavery, also known as human trafficking, has become the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world. Its perpetrators... use powerful methods of force, fraud and coercion to exploit men, women and children through labor and sex trafficking operations.

Bridge to Freedom Foundation's mission is to ensure that all survivors of modern day slavery are able to build the skills and resources needed to escape the cycle of modern slavery and abuse while attaining and achieve lives they choose.

Register now! and help BTFF and our other official walk partners make history! This is a great opportunity for you to get your friends and family involved in the fight against modern slavery, by encouraging them to walk, donate or fundraise for our team! If you are unable to attend the walk, you can still show your support by making a donation to our team or start a fundraising only page.

As BTFF is an official partner 85% of your donations go directly to BTFF, which will be used for our Personal Development Program to enable survivors to lead thriving lives which they choose.

Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

US officials to look into abuse of Dominican sugar workers
The U.S. government will look into allegations of abuse against Dominican sugar workers.  Rev. Christopher Hartley, an advocate for the rights of Dominican sugar workers, alleges that the leaders of the sugar industry used forced labor and trafficked workers.  He also claims that they work in hazardous conditions without adequate benefits.  Hartley calls this investigation a "magnificent" first step towards addressing this abuse, especially since the U.S. buys 200,000 tons of sugar every year. The Office of Trade and Labor Affairs has 180 days to review and report on the charges.

Two-fifths of UK trafficking victims are male, survey reveals
According to a survey made by the Salvation Army, more than two-fifth, or 41%, of adult victims of human trafficking in England and Wales helped by the organization are male.  This statistic sheds new light on the crime, where popular conception believes it almost exclusively affects women.  Within six months in 2011 the Salvation Army and its subcontractors provided housing, counseling, medical care and translation services to 112 women and 78 men who arrived from all over the world including Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and some even with the UK.

Attorney General highlights efforts to fight trafficking
Attorney General Eric Holder promised a zero tolerance policy approach to human trafficking violations to a crowd in Little Rock Arkansas.  Over the past three years there has been a 30 percent increase in prosecutions, with a record 120 defendants charged this year.  Holder attributed to this increase to a heightened collaboration between the divisions of the Department of Justice and the FBI and US Attorney's offices.  "Human trafficking victims are often hiding in plain sight," stressed Holder.  Trafficking has become a thriving economy for criminals within the borders of the US and around the world.