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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fact: Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling are Two Separate Crimes

Image source: International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

According to the United Nations, human trafficking and human smuggling are some the fasest growing areas of international criminal activity. They often occur in conjunction with a number of different crimes and span several countries around the world. They are two separate crimes that involve criminals taking advantage of human beings to make massive profits. It is difficult to differentiate between the two crimes as the tend to overlap in the initial phase. 
  • Smuggling is "often a criminal commercial transaction between two willing parties who go their separate ways once their business is complete" whease trafficking involves threat and/or use of force, fraud or coercion against a victim.Trafficking often includes an element of smuggling, specificially, the illegal crossing of a border. However, it is not always the case as trafficking can and does take place within national borders.
  • Smuggling always involves a consenting migrant who wants entry into a state illegally whereas trafficking does not. The difficulty to distinguish between the two starts when a smuggling migrant becomes trafficked victime.
  • Smuggling can lead to trafficking. For example, smuggled migrants can become victims of violence and exploitation during their journey and/or upon their arrival into the state. 
  • Smuggling is a crime committed against a country and its borders whereas trafficking is committed against an individual.
  • Smuggling is always a transnational crime as it requires illegal entry into a country whereas trafficking can be legal or illegal entry and does not require any physical movement of an individual.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chinese Police Bust Trafficking Rings

On Christmas eve, the Public Security Ministry of China announced that they broke up nine child trafficking rings, rescuing 89 children and arresting 335 traffickers in an operation which covered nine provinces across the country. The investigations began last Decembers after four people were arrested in Henan province for trying to sell four babies. 
In the last decade, child-trafficking has become a major problem in China due to the strict "one-child" policy that puts a premium on baby boys and lax adoption laws. As a result, the country has a thriving black market for buying children. Majority of the children abducted across the country tend to be boys because of the traditional preference for male heirs in China. For instance, Su Qingcai, a tea farmer in China, confessed to buying a 5 year-old boy for about $3,500 in a article on child-trafficking in the New York Times. Mr. Su justified his purchase by stating that "a girl is just not as good as a son. It doesn't matter how much money you have. If you don't have a son, you are not as good as other people have one." There are many people like Mr. Sue that fuel the illegal buying and selling of boys across China. As a result, child snatchings has become the most common method of kidnapping for traffickers. In 2009, a 9-month-old baby boy was grabbed by someone in a moving vehicle while a shopkeeper lost his son after he turend away for a while to help a customer.

In addition, adoptions by foreigners has increased profits for traffickers and led to widespread kidnappings. According to the Chinese government, 10,000 children are kidnapped each year, but some experts state that the number far exceeds this estimate. According to Chen Shique, director of the anti-traffiking office in the Public Security Ministry, police have broken up 11,000 child trafficking rings and rescued 54,000 Children since 2009. The intitaive by the Chinese government to crackdown on child-traffickers is good but they must also focus on labor and sex trafficking as they are also widespread across the counrty.

Source:  The New York Times

Friday, December 21, 2012

With Just a Click of the Mouse You Can See BTFF Thrive

We are always it doesn't always take a lot to make a big impact and now here it is your chance to make a huge impact to Bridge to Freedom Foundation and all you have to do is click a link and click a button and BTFF's life could be changed forever.  Seriously it really is that simple.

Click now and vote for Bridge to Freedom Foundation to win a much needed $10,000 Technology Makeover. These computers will ensure that we have laptops at all of our workshops for out clients and support volunteers and they could not come sooner as we are fully launching our College Prep and Job Reediness Program with Courtney's House in the new year. So please vote -can can vote every-time you open and close your web browser so please vote often and help us move to the next capacity level of our organization.

 Technology Makeovers include: 
  •  8 - Toshiba’s Satellite 840 Series Ultrabook 
  • 1 – Toshiba 40L5200U 40″ Class LED TV 
  •  2 – Toshiba 14″ USB Mobile LCD Monitor 
  • 8 – Toshiba 14.1″ Envoy Series Carrying Case 
  • 2 – Toshiba Canvio 3.0 1TB Portable USB 3.0 External Hard Drive 
  • 1 – $1,000 Staples Gift Card 
 After a week of slow computers, not enough computers and out Executive Director's screen going out on her laptop this grant will truly empower and change our organization in more ways than we can tell you.  So please, VOTE HERE and often until voting closes on Dec 25th.

FACT: Modern Slavery Will Not Go Away If We Close Our Eyes

You don't want to look, but you do and you see it...it's  right there in front of your eye's and you don't know what to do, so you close your eye's and pray it will go away.  Well that may have worked with the monsters under your bed when you were a child, but it will not make the monstrous crime of modern slavery go away.

Modern Slavery's invisible chains hold some 27 million captive and they cannot find true freedom if we close our eyes or fail to hear their cries. The realities of modern slavery are not easy to digest it is a story you see, hear or read and then instantly say, "no, that doesn't really happen does it?"  You are shocked the moment you witness any story and you cannot believe it is true? But it is and to see it's end we have to open our eyes and see the reality so we can act.

Sadly we still come across people daily that live in denial and just want to close their eyes to the many faces of modern slavery.  We see victims who are walked by day after day, young girls who's cries for help go unheard by all those around her, the child labor who is ignored as nothing but a nuisance, and so many others.  However we also come across people everyday who just don't want to hear it -they just don't want to believe it's true.  Just the other week we were at an event and a woman stooped by our table -we were selling survivor made products- and when we mentioned they were made by survivors she had apathy and then said yeah its so horrible in some of these countries.  We told her that we work at the moment in the DC area and with domestic victims of sex trafficking to which she instantly put her hands over her daughters ears -who was at least 12- and quickly walked away without another word.

Open your eyes with us and join the fight against modern slavery, together we can end it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Younger girls forced into prostitution in economic crisis: conference
According to a conference by the International Labour Organization (ILO) about 21 million people, or three out of 1,000 people globally, are in forced labor. The ILO also stated that about 4.5 million of these people, mainly women and girls, were victims of sexual exploitation. Ruchira Gupta, founder of Indian charity Apne Aap Women Worldwide that works with prostitutes in 10 red light districts, said cuts in funding to women's projects had reduced the options open to women and girls other than prostitution. David Batstone, president and co-founder of anti-trafficking organization Not For Sale, said the global financial crisis as well as political instability created vulnerable communities at risk of exploitation.

Fighting human trafficking: 5 lessons from the field
An important worldwide campaign against gender-based violence recently came to an end. These "16 Days Against Gender Violence" began on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ended Dec. 10 on Human Rights Day. Many forms of inequality are woven into what creates an enabling environment for trafficking, including income disparities, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and gender discrimination. Men, women and children are trafficked for forced labor, sexual exploitation, their organs, and petty crimes. The work of private and public organizations have yielded important results and five important lessons for consideration by the international community.


Friday, December 14, 2012

FACT: Human Trafficking Does Not Mean Movement of a Victim

The term human trafficking is often misleading and due to the use of the word trafficking makes many believe that a person must be transported to another country -or state- and must involve some form of travel, transportation, or movement across borders. However the federal definition of human trafficking in the United States does not require transportation of any kind to be involved. Therefore transportation may or may not be involved in the crime of human trafficking,but regardless it is not a required component. A victim may be trafficked by a relative and never even leave home.

 As defined by the United Nations Human Trafficking Means:
 “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. “

At Bridge to Freedom Foundation we prefer to use the term Modern Slavery as we believe -as do many others in the field- that it more adequately describes the unspeakable crime that has taken some 27 million across the globe.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Child servants a blot on Haiti's abolitionist past
Imagine being a 12-year-old forced to wash dishes and clothes, clean the floors, cook, and other chores, beaten when you've done things wrong. That was the life of Dayanna Denois, and is also the life of many "restavek" children. The term "restavek" is a Haitian Creole word that comes from the French for "rester avec" or "to stay with;" It refers to the practice of parents giving away children they are too poor to look after and often happens to children from rural areas who are sent to stay with wealthier relatives and acquaintances in the hope that they will be given a better life and sent to school.

Human trafficking victims get more protection and services in federal court than in state court
Alex Campbell recruited foreign-born women who were looking to achieve the American dream in Chicago. He made them his victims, branding them with tattoos on their neck and back, declaring them as personal property, forcing them to work long hours with no pay and little food at the Day and Night Spa in labor and commercial sex. Campbell was sentenced to life imprisonment for sex trafficking, forced labor, harboring illegal aliens, confiscating passports and extortion. Four victims testified at the federal trial.

LA Teen Prostitutes Come From Foster Homes A Majority of the Time
The majority of young people arrested on prostitution charges in LA County come from the county's own foster care system, according to county officials. Pimps use child sex workers to recruit fellow foster care children who are currently living in shelters and foster homes. This is according to Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who introduced a motion to establish a task force to investigate sex trafficking in the foster care system. The LA County Board of Supervisors passed the motion two weeks ago. Antonovich's motion reports that the average age of entry  into prostitution is 12 years old and that the average life expectancy following entry is seven years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fact: 42% of the Recruiters of Modern Slavery are Women

Andrew Fung of Simon Fraser University put together a wonderful piece titled "Human Trafficking Visualized" for a school project. He took various statistics available on modern slavery and converted them into an infograph. He did an amazing job of simplifying this complex phenomena of modern slavery. However, the visual mislabelled the two forms of this crime, debt bondage and sexual slavery, as two of the most common causes of modern slavery. As explained in the picture, debt bondage involves people taking loans while sexual slavery involves someone being forced to sell their bodies agianst their will. Nevertheless, it is important to note that these two forms can overlap and eventually become the causes. For instance, debt bondage can result in someone becoming a victim after he/she is unable to pay off the loan borrowed and/or it can be used by criminals to keep someone in sexual slavery. While on the other hand, someone in sexual slavery can be forced to take out loans to pay for his/her housing, food, etc. 

Majority of the victims of this crime tend to be women and girls, approximately 80 percent and of that 50 percent are underage. Most often, women are only viewed as victims of this crime but rarely do people focus on the fact that women also play an active role in recruitment of victims. It is estimated that women make up about 42 percent of the recruiters. This is result of women being percieved as more trustworthy. The women recruits can themselves be previous victims of modern slavery, who are majority of the time being forced to recruit new members to buy their freedom. In about 54 percent of slavery cases the recruiters were strangers to the victims while 46 percent of the cases the victims knew their recruiter.

Due to the hidden nature of this crime, the exact number of the victims is still unclear and very difficult to calculate. This visual attempts to provide a rough estimate of the number of people illegally smuggled into North America. It shows that approximately 700 people are smuggled into Canada for the purpose of sexual exploitation and about 2,000 are smuggled into the US from Canada. However, the number of people brought into the US from around the world is far below the actual numbers and it is not clarified whether those people were brought into the US for the purpose of modern slavery or were just simply smuggled. There is a difference between smuggling and being brought to another country for the purpose of modern slavery. Smuggling is "transportation" based and the person is a willing party while modern slavery involves "exploitation" of person through teh use of force, fraud and coercion. A person being smuggled can become a victim of modern slavery as they go through vulnerable stages. 

Sources: Human trafficking infographic by Andrew Fung
              UN GIFT
              TIP Report 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Grade Did your State Get for Bringing Justice to Victims of Sex Trafficking this Year?

The fight against modern slavery is global and effects every race and age, however those most at risk for exploitation are children, including those right here at home. Despite great efforts and awareness all too many eyes remain closed to the realities of modern slavery and the innocent victims it holds in it's relentless grasp. One child victimized by the unspeakable acts of sexual exploitation and human trafficking is too many. Nonetheless every year in the United States, experts estimate at least 100,000 children -that is some 274 children a day- are exploited in the U.S. commercial sex industry. The average age of a child when they are first sexually exploited through prostitution is only 13 years old.

Last week on, On November 29, Shared Hope International released its 2012 Protected Innocence Challenge. “The Protected Innocence Challenge is a comprehensive study on existing state laws designed to inspire and equip advocates. Under the Challenge, every state receives a Report Card that grades the state on 41 key legislative components that must be addressed in state’s laws in order to effectively respond to the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking. In addition, each state receives a complete analysis of this 41-component review and practical recommendations for improvement.

Sadly no States received an A and more States received an F than any other grade, with nearly as many coming in with a D, it has left us with 69% of our States failing to even reach the C mark.
A (0)
 B (7) – FL, GA, IL, LA, MO, TX, WA
C (9) – AK, AZ, IN, MA, MN, OH, OK, TN, WI
D (17) – AL, CO, DE, IA, KY, MD, MS, NE, NJ, NV, NY, NC, OR, RI, SC, UT, VT
F (18) – AR, CA, CT, DC, HI, ID, KS, ME, MI, MT, NH, NM, ND, PA, SD, VA, WV, WY 

Despite the low rankings among the majority of States, this years report card showed significant improvement -though States have a long way to go.
  • 15 states improved their grades from 2011 
  •  2 states went up two grades: AK and MA went from F to C 
  • 13 states went up one grade:
    • 3 new “B” states: LA, FL, GA 
    • 6 new “C” states: AK, IN, MA, OH, OK, WI 6 new “D” states: CO, MD, NE, NV, SC, UT
  • 7 states improved their Protected Innocence Challenge scores by 10+ points:
    •  MA went up 29.5 pts 
    • WV went up 21 pts 
    • LA went up 17 pts 
    • SC went up 17 pts 
    • AK went up 14.5 pts 
    • OH went up 12 pts 
    • WI went up 10 pts 3. 
Each State was scored based on six categories of law; states have achieved perfect scores in sections 1 and 6, with “near perfect” scores in the other areas of law:
  1. Criminalization of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: IL and TX have perfect scores (10 points possible) 
  2. Section 2 Criminal Provisions Addressing Demand: LA now has a “near perfect” score with 24.5 points (25 points possible) 
  3. Criminal Provisions for Traffickers: MS, KY, FL and AL have a “near perfect” score with 14.5 points (15 points possible) 
  4. Criminal Provisions for Facilitators: LA and WA have a “near perfect” score with 9.5 points (10 points possible) 
  5. Protected Provisions for Child Victims: IL is the closest to a “near perfect” score with 24.5 points (27.5 points possible) 
  6. Criminal Justice Tools for Investigation and Prosecution: AL, MN, OH and TX have perfect scores (15 points possible) 4. Most Improved = MA 5. Highest Score = LA 6. Worst score = WY 
Looking at legislative progress over the past year, since the release of the 2011 Protected Innocence Challenge:* 
  • 240 state and 38 federal bills were introduced which relate to domestic minor sex trafficking. 
  • 78 laws were passed that relate to domestic minor sex trafficking. 
  • 40 states had legislation introduced that relates to the Protected Innocence Framework. 
  • 33 states enacted legislation related to the Protected Innocence Framework. 

The release of the Protected Innocence Challenge report was done in conjunction with Sharing the Hope 2012 in Washington, DC, a three-day event which included community and law enforcement training and the National Colloquium -a forum of national experts on the issue of shelter and service provisions for child victims of human trafficking.  The final day of the event cumulated with the Sharing the Hope Gala and Pathbreaker Award Ceremony honoring Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Drew Oosterbaan, Chief, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the U.S. Department of Justice; Amy O’Neill Richard, Senior Advisor to the Director in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; and Deborah Richardson, Executive Vice President of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The full report can be found and downloaded here.

*Statistics are based on Congressional Quarterly State Track accounting for legislation introduced or passed between August 1, 2011 and August 1, 2012.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Human trafficking legislation added to defense bill
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Rob Portman of Ohio co-chair the bipartisan Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking. With the assistance and influence of their efforts, the Senate voted to add the End Human Trafficking in Government Contracting Act to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. A few months ago, President Obama signed an executive order that prohibits government contractors and subcontractors from engaging in activities tied to trafficking.

Car wash accused of using forced labor
Five people were detained by Chinese police for suspicion of forced labor at the Guangliang Car Service in the Hedong district of Tianjin. The police rescued eleven workers, including a mentally disabled man who had been working at the car wash since August and claimed that he had been beaten. Another mentally disabled man was rescued by his brother, but has not received his salary, unlike some of the other rescued workers.

Bonded labour ensnares entire families in Afghanistan
Bonded labour in brick kilns is one of the most common forms of hazardous labour in Afghanistan. Over half of the brick kiln workers are children, most of them are under 14 years old and have been working at the kilns since they were about 7 or 8 years old. So much time is spent working at the kilns that most of the children do not obtain an education. Families are often tied to the kilns because of their needs to pay off loans. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 64% of the families surveyed had worked in the kilns for at least 11 years, while 35% had worked in the kilns for over 20 years.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Spirit of Giving

On the cold night of November 14, NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo helped a barefoot, homeless man by buying him a pair of $100 Skechers boots (a store employee lowered the price to $75 with his own staff discount). This kind act was captured by Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence Arizona, who shared it with the NYPD, which then posted the picture on its facebook page. Little did any of them know that this generosity would become an internet sensation. As of Wednesday night, the post had 1.6 million views, since then it has 529,901 "likes" and 193, 568 "shares".

As the season of the giving begins, it is not unusual to read stories about acts similar to officer DePrimo's. However, many generous acts go unnoticed. This story is just one of many simple acts of kindness that inspire others to get involved and help others in need. It is remarkable how quickly a simple act of officer DePrimo can gain wide attention of the media and the public. However, there has not been a huge public outcry when it comes to modern slavery in the United States. It is very unfortunate that we rarely hear stories of victims of this crime or organizations helping them.

This heinous crime is widely misunderstood as mostly occurring overseas and involving women and children being forced into sexual exploitation but little do they know that it is happening in their own backyards. People don't need to look any further to find a victim as they can be found from the streets of San Francisco to New York. People are unaware of the fact that modern slavery takes many forms, not just sexual exploitation (which tends to be the most talked about) and effects not only the victims but our society as a whole. Rarely do people suspect that the women and even girls they see on streets with short dresses and spike heels may be the victims of modern slavery. There are many organizations in the U.S. and around the world working year round to help the victims of this crime. The mainstream media and the general public, for the most part, have turned a blind eye toward this issue and as a result very few people are aware of it.  To increase your awareness about modern slavery, it's various forms, and how you can recognize and help a victim click here.

So in light of the holiday preparations make sure to think about the victims of modern slavery around you and help spread awareness. To get started, check out BTFF's website and begin by taking action to support BTFF's cause to help modern-day slavery victims transit from surviving to thriving by volunteering, donating, buying survivor made products, and/or voting for BTFF to win 10K.  

Source: Picture