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.

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Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Friday, January 31, 2014

Facts: 1.2 Million Children are Trafficked Each Year

Child trafficking is defined as the transport of persons, by means of coercion, deception or consent for the purpose of exploitation such as forced or consensual labor or prostitution.
Unfortunately, trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of young children remain prevalent in many parts of the world. An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, UNICEF. Children are most vulnerable to being trafficked when they are transient and all alone, particularly at times of political crisis or in the face of social or economic pressures.
Some children may willingly consent to being smuggled in order to escape a desperate situation or to seek better opportunities. However, once they are a part of the smuggling network, they may find themselves to be trapped as victims without protection and exploited in the commercial sex trade.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Activists seek justice for RI worker in HK ‘slavery’ case
The governments of Indonesia and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must launch a fair investigation into the alleged torture of 23-year-old Indonesian migrant worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih by her employer in Hong Kong, activists and workers say. According to local media reports, Erwiana — who is now undergoing medical treatment at a local hospital in her hometown of Sragen, Central Java — might have been abused for around eight months after arriving in Hong Kong in May last year to work for a local family, during which she was also banned from speaking to others. “What happened to Erwiana is not a crime but modern slavery. Shame on the government to have failed to prevent such an incident from occurring,” Anis Hidayah, the executive director of Migrant Care, an NGO focusing on workers’ rights, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Labor, sex traffickers, modern slavery in Colorado
The FBI's Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force rescued 59 teen prostitutes from flesh peddlers in Colorado this year, up from 49 in 2012. In July, Operation Cross Country, a nationwide sweep that targeted victims of underage prostitution and their pimps, recovered 105 juveniles and bagged 150 pimps in 76 cities. Denver ranked fourth in the number of teens rescued, with nine juveniles, fewer than only San Francisco, Milwaukee and Detroit.

Huge nationwide prostitution ring promised women a luxury lifestyle but subjected them to 'modern-day slavery' where they were branded with bar codes 
A San Diego street gang operated a vast nationwide prostitution ring that spanned 46 cities in 23 states, federal prosecutors revealed on Wednesday. The group promised luxury lifestyles to girls and women but instead they were branded with tattoos and bar codes, and treated like slaves. 'The kind of sex trafficking described in this indictment is nothing less than modern-day slavery,' said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy as she announced racketeering conspiracy charges for 24 people.

Feds: Be Aware Of Human Trafficking Signs As Detroit Auto Show Opens
With the North American International Auto Show opening Saturday at Detroit’s Cobo Center, federal authorities warning the public about several common human trafficking indicators because demand for commercial sex services increases around high-profile events. Agents say human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security (HSI) investigates. In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Victims pay to be illegally transported into the United States only to find themselves in the thrall of traffickers. They are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts – often after entry in the United States, officials say.

UK family sentenced for keeping slave
A family has been jailed in the UK for keeping a man with learning difficulties as their slave. Craig Kinsella was beaten and made to work 19-hour days for no money by a couple and their son. It was modern-day slavery in a Sheffield suburb. The Rooke family were caught on their own CCTV camera attacking the man they kept enslaved in their garage. The victim was Mr Kinsella, 34, who has learning difficulties.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fact: Human Trafficking is a $34 Billion Dollar a Year Business

According to ILO (International Labor Organization), the estimated total global profits from Human Trafficking are $34 billion a year 21 billion forced labor 13 billion for sex trafficking More males victims are now being recruited for the labor force.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Modern Slavery News Round-up

How social enterprises are combating modern slavery
It is estimated that nearly 30 million people around the world are trapped in modern slavery while many others have survived human trafficking or are in situations of risk. Social enterprises could offer a sustainable solution to the problem of economic vulnerability that ensnares people in modern slavery. The UK's modern slavery bill, that will tighten laws on human trafficking, was published at the end of last year and will be introduced before the current session of parliament ends next spring. The draft bill briefly mentions that the government will work with businesses to "ensure their workforce and supply chains are not exploited", but does not explain how. In fact there is little mention of the role businesses or charities can play in countering the issue in the whole 62-page document.

Man jailed for six-and-a-half years for keeping vulnerable man a slave
An ice cream business owner who kept a vulnerable man like a slave has been jailed for six-and-a-half years by a judge who said it was staggering that it could happen in modern society. David Rooke forced Craig Kinsella, 34, to live in a garage where he suffered regular beatings and ended up scavenging for food in bins, Sheffield crown court heard. Rooke, 44, admitted falsely imprisoning and attacking Kinsella and was jailed along with his wife Donna, 40, and son Jamie, 19.

Global slavery index researchers welcome constructive criticism
Attempting to measure modern slavery is not for the faint hearted. You're essentially trying to measure something that is hidden, poorly understood and massively under-reported. Nevertheless, the global slavery index approach is to take an estimate based on the best available information, as Free the Slaves co-founder Kevin Bales outlined in a piece for the network in October. The index estimates the size of modern slavery country by country, regionally and globally. It estimates that there are 29.8 million people in some form of modern slavery globally, whether this is a forced marriage or enslavement of workers in brick kilns. Estimates depend in large part on information derived from secondary sources, but also draws upon the limited survey data that is currently available, as well as expert assessment.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

8 Things You Didn’t Know about Human Trafficking Recognizing National Global Human Trafficking Awareness Day – January 11

January 11 is a day to remember a silent population: the victims of human trafficking. Since they can’t speak for themselves, we take a moment to speak out for them. Facts that may be new to you about the underworld of Human Trafficking:

  1. It is estimated that upwards of 27 million men, women and children are victims of human trafficking – modern day slavery across the globe. That’s more people than the total populations of some countries, like Greece or Ghana. 
  2. Every year, thousands of slaves are trafficked right here in the U.S. It’s a national and international crisis. 
  3. Over 80% of those trans-nationally trafficked are women and children. 
  4. Some 800,000 people against their will are trafficked across international borders each year – and 50% of them are children. 
  5. A slave today costs an average of just $90. Compare that to a slave in 1850 in the southern U.S., with an equivalent cost today of $40,000. 
  6. Slavery is masked by many names: debt-bonded, forced labor, indentured servitude. By any other name it is still slavery. 
  7. Slaves can be found in a multitude of places, from fields to brothels to factories. They can be found in homes or restaurants near you. 
  8. Slavery is not legal anywhere, and yet it happens everywhere. 
 Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF) supports victims of modern slavery in their personal and professional development. BTFF works to improve opportunities available to survivors of modern day slavery. Out of the darkness of sex trafficking, child soldiers and forced labor, BTFF steps in to connect for-profit corporations, community and education groups and the general public to fight for this marginalized and underserved population. See you how can get involved at bridgetofreedomfoundation.org.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Reality of Organ Trafficking

Americans are obsessed with health. We burn fat and sweat toxins out with the latest exercise videos, and fitness gyms are an institution. Yet despite our best efforts, our bodies eventually age and begin to fall apart. The health issues many Americans are faced with are diabetes or high blood pressure, both of which are among the biggest causes of kidney failure in America. Kidney problems often lead to dialysis and ultimately the need for a transplant.

As of October 25, 98,463 people in the United States were waiting for a kidney transplant while only 16,500 transplants have been performed this year. Compounding the shortage of organs, a new name is added to the transplant list every 10 minutes. Those who cannot receive a kidney have three options: ongoing dialysis, death or the black market for organs.

With the exception of Iran, all counties have ruled the act of paying an organ donor as illegal. Nevertheless, when their own lives or the lives of loved ones are on the line, 75% of people would consider paying someone for a kidney . The grim realization is that often, they have no problems finding people who would help them. In 2009, for example, a Brooklyn businessman was accused of trying to sell a kidney for $160,000. In June 2012, a Serbian man tried to sell his kidney for nearly $40,000 on the Internet after losing his job. Considering the aforementioned examples, it seems sadly inevitable that desperation breeds profit.

The sources of the organs do not have to be volunteers and indeed often are not. In China, executed prisoners have been the source of transplants for years. Indeed, estimates reveals that the majority of organs needed for transplants have traditionally come from executed prisoners. Cultural biases against the removal of organs after death make it hard to establish a completely voluntary process. The big gap between demand and supply maintains the Chinese government's practice of obtaining organs for transplants from executed prisoners. Various human rights organizations have reported that China executes more prisoners than any other nation and questions arise as to whether the executions are really a form of justice or whether they simply address the problem of not enough organ donors. The lack of donors has also fueled a thriving black market in trafficking organs.

A similarly big issue is the growth of transplant tourism around the world and the resulting booming business of organ trafficking. Medieaseindia provides many services including kidney transplants at relatively inexpensive prices. Compare their $18,000 cost to the $60,000 price tag in the United States and it is easy to understand the allure of traveling abroad for a chance to life. On the sellers' side, poverty contributes greatly to one's likelihood to sell an organ, specifically kidneys. The problem arises when many of the "volunteers" interested in selling an organ to save another person's life are found not to actually be volunteers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the commercialization of human organs is "a violation of human rights and human dignities". In addition, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons emphasizes that the trafficking of persons for the specific purpose of organ removal falls under the definition of human trafficking. Organ trafficking, therefore, is a serious issue that demands the attention of local, state and international authorities. The crime takes place in the form of three broad categories: 1) traffickers force or coerce vulnerable people to "donate" an organ; 2) vulnerable people volunteer to sell an organ but are subsequently deceived by traffickers and receive no payment or less than what was promised; and 3) vulnerable people are brought in for treatment and have their organs removed without consent or knowledge (UN GIFT, 2013).

To understand the intricacies of the crime of organ trafficking, we recommend watching the Tales from the Organ Trade, an HBO documentary exploring all aspects of the problem. Although the known number of organ trafficking victims is relatively small, that is precisely why we must attack the issue now. With increased research and legal oversight, we can address the roots of the problem before it spirals out of control. Surely the lives of both sick and healthy people are worth our engagement.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Modern Slavery News Round-up

Kristof: Poverty a driving force in human trafficking One way to fight human trafficking in Haiti would be to provide free and accessible birth control, so that women don't end up with children that they struggle to feed. Another would be to provide free public education, so that parents don't feel that the only way to get schooling for their children is to send them off as unpaid maids. That's why what's at stake in fighting global poverty isn't just poor people's incomes. It's also dignity and freedom - and the right of a girl to grow up in something better than quasi-slavery.
Proos talks human trafficking protection bills
Michigan lawmakers will be working this year to approve more protections for victims of human trafficking. State Senator John Proos says that human trafficking in the United States usually involves forcing someone into prostitution, and he thinks it's a bigger problem in Michigan than many people might realize.
Punjab to create awareness to prevent human trafficking
Punjab government would soon launch a campaign to create awareness about the law dealing with human trafficking and exploitation of people by fraudulent travel agents.
Pair faces human trafficking charges involving teen girl
Police said a man from Arkansas and woman from Oklahoma were arrested in Baton Rouge on human trafficking of a child and other charges Sunday. Detectives reported their investigation revealed one of the suspects purchased a bus ticket for the girl to get her from Arkansas to Baton Rouge. They also reported an ad was placed on the website Backpage.com promoting sex acts she offered.
Spain grapples with human trafficking
The first European Commission report on human trafficking in Europe, published by Eurostat in April 2013, put the number of victims between 2008 and 2010 at 23,632, with the number growing by 18 percent over the three-year period. Of that total, 15 percent were children and adolescents. In 62 percent of the cases, the victims – mainly women – were trafficked for sexual exploitation, while 25 percent were trafficked for forced labour, and 14 percent were victims of other kinds of trafficking, such as organ removal. In 2010, Spain had the second-highest number of victims of human trafficking in the European Union, after Italy, according to the study.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fact: Little Known Facts About . . . Human Trafficking

1. Approximately 75-80% of human trafficking is for sex.
2. Researchers note that sex trafficking plays a major role in the spread of HIV.
3. There are more human slaves in the world today than ever before in history.
4. There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking.
5. Human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but people are also trafficked for organ harvesting.
6. Human traffickers often use a Sudanese phrase “use a slave to catch slaves,” meaning traffickers send “broken-in girls” to recruit younger girls into the sex trade. Sex traffickers often train girls themselves, raping them and teaching them sex acts.
7. Eighty percent of North Koreans who escape into China are women. Nine out of 10 of those women become victims of human trafficking, often for sex. If the women complain, they are deported back to North Korea, where they are thrown into gulags or are executed.
8. An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are as young as six years old.
9. Ludwig “Tarzan” Fainberg, a convicted trafficker, said, “You can buy a woman for $10,000 and make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit.”
10. A human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid for a girl. Provided the girl was not physically brutalized to the point of ruining her beauty, the pimp could sell her again for a greater price because he had trained her and broken her spirit, which saves future buyers the hassle. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Supply Chains: The Need for Monitoring and Accountability

Who assembles the various gadgets such as iPhones, iPads, tablets, and laptops most of us use on a regular basis? Who picks the cotton used to make our clothes? Who harvests the cocoa beans used to make our favorite chocolate items? Many consumers do not know the answers to these questions and the reason lies in the basic relationship between businesses and customers. Customers need things. Stores provide them. Customers buy them. The producers and sellers make a profit while the consumers come into possession of a desired object. It appears as if all sides are satisfied, and the balance is preserved with no questions asked. This is unfortunately not quite the case.

A product’s journey from the point of origin to an American store can be legitimate, but as Anti-Slavery International and the What We Buy campaign highlight, in an increasingly globalized economy it is difficult to determine when exploitation might play a role in product development and assembly. Indeed, the Products of Slavery visualization clearly indicates that 12.3 million children and adults across 58 countries work in forced labor, making 122 types of products. A January 2012 report by the CNN Freedom Project reveals that children as young as ten years old are already experienced veterans in the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast, Africa. These children have never even tasted chocolate. Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves, however, warns that refusing to buy certain products is not always the best solution to the problem as the materials from a product come from various sources and only a small percentage might include slave labour. Not buying a product then punishes both the producers who use forced or child labour and the ones who do not. A different strategy is needed.

A plethora of initiatives in recent years address the need to require big corporations to take necessary steps to reduce and eventually eliminate forced and child labour from their supply chains. An example is the work by U.S. lawmakers in California. On January 1, 2012, a new law named the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (SB-657) was enacted. To rid the product supply chain of any slavery or child labor, businesses in California with global revenue in excess of $100 million must publicly disclose their efforts to verify, audit and certify their direct suppliers. Employees working with the supply chain must also receive training on human trafficking and slavery.

The law will only work, however, if companies are held accountable to it. With that in mind, on October 21 KnowTheChain was launched by Humanity United and 12 partner organizations. It is an online resource educating companies, investors, policymakers and consumers about the existence of slavery in supply chains. Readers are able to see the public disclosure status of hundreds of companies as well as find additional information about the issue.

Consumers certainly play a role in addressing the problem and have great power when choosing what to buy. KnowTheChain enables us to bypass companies refusing to clean up their supply chains and instead give our money to those that take the issue seriously. It is a simple step that will change the outcome for millions who are powerless to alter their own lives.