Global News and World Day Against Trafficking In Persons
Tuesday, July 30th, is World Day against Trafficking in Persons
The United Nations designated July 30th as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons to raise awareness of this devastating issue and to promote the protection of people’s basic human rights. Trafficking is modern day slavery, and this heinous crime is growing not only globally, but right here in Iowa as well.
Sex and labor trafficking is a thriving criminal industry, and traffickers continue to operate with impunity. Less than 1% of traffickers are ever brought to justice. Only a small fraction of victims ever receive trauma-informed, victim-centered support services.
Iowa is doing a better job than in the past at holding these evil perpetrators accountable. In the first six months of 2019, nine Iowa traffickers were convicted and sentenced to prison. In the month of May alone five more Iowa traffickers were arrested and are currently being prosecuted.
However, we are not doing a good job of funding either prevention or survivor service programs in Iowa. In fact, there is no dedicated funding from the Iowa legislature specifically for anti-trafficking community-based programs. Federal VOCA victim service funding for human trafficking is funneled through the Iowa Attorney General’s office but has been significantly cut as of October 1st, 2019. This has resulted in the elimination of a grant for the statewide Teens Against Human Trafficking program. Four full-time anti-trafficking school-based specialists have lost their jobs. A second program based in Mason City has also lost its entire VOCA grant funding for its Human Trafficking Crisis Intervention Service. All other existing programs have been significantly cut.
We should be reaching out to the victims of this terrible crime by loving them and doing all we can to restore their lives. We should be raising awareness in schools and communities across Iowa in order to better recognize the dangers of trafficking and exploitation. Instead Iowa is failing to fund these nonprofit programs and the federal government is cutting back funding for education, intervention, and direct service programs.
This July 30th gives Iowans an opportunity to band together and build momentum to defeat human trafficking.
Please make the Global Day against Trafficking in Persons the day that you become part of the solution and stand with us in this fight.
Report on Anti-Slavery Efforts in 187 Countries
The annual US State Department report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) is now available at https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-trafficking-in-persons-report/. It’s 500+ pages, but this year’s report is much more informative about human trafficking itself than in past years. Since it is from the State Department, it is international in focus, but this year the department addressed dealing with the trafficking of persons who are being trafficking within their native country. The TIP estimates that traffickers exploit 77% of victims in their countries of residence. There is a lot of good information, including some survivors’ stories and efforts people in the 187 countries are making. Following are portions of cover letters from US government officials.
Message from the US Ambassador-at-Large, John Cotton Richmond:
As we in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons worked to prepare the 187 country narratives for this year’s TIP Report, it became apparent that in many countries, governments are reluctant to address human trafficking when it happens at home. In effect, they are turning a blind eye to those traffickers who exploit their own citizens, neglecting to apply their own domestic laws regarding human trafficking, and sometimes even allowing harmful cultural norms and practices to thrive.
This year, the TIP Report serves as a call to action for governments around the world to embrace the full meaning of the Palermo Protocol and implement their domestic laws in a manner that protects all victims and punishes all traffickers.
I am honored to serve as the US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Promoting justice and human rights around the world is essential because freedom and individual human dignity are core to American values and the foundation of international law. These are the very principles that traffickers work against when they commit these crimes. I am confident that we can significant strides to hold accountable domestic, and transnational, traffickers and effectively implement laws so that all may enjoy freedom.
Message from the US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo
Each one of us can be a champion for freedom and use our specific strengths to help eradicate human trafficking. Individuals can learn the common indicators for human trafficking and call in suspicious activities to the local or national hotline. Businesses can take meaningful steps to eliminate forced labor from their supply chains. First responders can enhance training and put in place screening to help identify trafficking victims. Government leaders can prioritize investigating and prosecuting labor and sex trafficking cases wherever they occur.
Pakistani Christian Girls Trafficked into China
Human Rights Watch has reported its concern about the growing trend in Pakistan of Christian girls being lured into fake marriages with Chinese men for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Parents in poor Christian families are being pressured to offer up their daughters to Chinese men at a rate that has boomed since last year, with members of the clergy complicit in the smuggling operations and sometimes helping brokers scout for young brides. The practice of smuggling “brides” to China from other Asian countries has become well established in recent years; a hangover from Beijing’s one-child policy that skewed the gender balance of the population in favor of men.
Lebanese Minister Vows to Change Labor System
For decades migrant domestic workers in Lebanon have suffered widespread abuse, sexual assault, and violence at the hands of their employers. The underlying cause of this rampant exploitation is the continued existence of the notorious Kafala system, which currently ensures that no worker can leave the country without the permission of their employer. The system, which is common across the Middle East, creates a vast power imbalance between workers and employers and enables the abuse. In spite of ears of efforts by campaigners to stop the practice, it has proven incredibly resilient in Lebanon. But the country’s new Minister of Labor—an internationally renowned lawyer with no background in politics—has vowed to reform the system.
UK High Court Rules in Favor of Victims
Under the UK Modern Slavery Act, the Home Office is required to provide safe housing, counseling, and financial support for 45 days to people who have been formally identified as victims of slavery or trafficking. Additionally, a High Court judge in the UK has suspended the existing policy which cuts off after six weeks all statutory support to slavery victims in the UK, ruling that it risks causing “irreparable harm to very vulnerable individuals.” The Home Office must now immediately extend the period of assistance to all slavery and trafficking victims requiring support in the UK, estimated to be about 600 people, over the next few months.
Kidnapped in the Congo, Adopted in Belgium
The latest example of child trafficking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has recently come to light. Congolese parents were tricked into sending their children to a holiday camp in Kinshasa, but the children were taken instead to an orphanage and subsequently put up for adoption in Belgium. The adoptive parents were given to understand that the children’s biological parents were dead. Belgium prosecutors are now seeking DNA samples from the adopted children in a bid to trace their birth parents. The DNA demand applies to all Congolese children adopted in Belgium from 2013 and comes as an 18 month investigation builds up a head of steam. A Belgian-Congolese woman living in Belgium faces human trafficking charges. She claims to have given about 50 Congolese children “a new future in Belgium.”
News from Shared Hope International
Shared Hope is an international organization that has been fighting for the lives of children for decades. They have scored huge victories against sex traffickers. Traffickers go where our youth hang out: school sports events, coffee shops, malls, and online. In virtually every case, the predator works to develop trust with the child through online communications—via tablet, phone, even video game consoles. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, much of the trafficking of children has moved from street corners and truck stops to the Internet. And there, our children are being sold for sex. To protect our children, Shared Hope has invaded the darkness of the online world where the predators are communicating with our kids. Shared Hope is developing tools for parents, teachers, and all those working with youth to protect children from the traps predators lay. If you would like to access these resources, go to their website at www.sharedhope.org.