Human Trafficking Persists Amid Global Effort to Stop It
Amid international efforts to stop the surge of human trafficking, the crime still persists even today in a staggering number of cases.
In her remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on Trafficking of Persons in Situations of Armed Conflict, Ambassador Ambassador Samantha Power said the International Labour Organization said at least 20 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor.
“An estimated 5.5 million of them are children.” – Ambassador Power
She added that victims of human trafficking are found in every country.
“We eat food that they harvest; we speak on phones built from minerals that they mine; we wear clothes that they make.” – Ambassador Power
Human Trafficking Thrives in Conflict
According to Ambassador Power, almost everywhere there is conflict and also human trafficking.
“Human trafficking thrives in conflict, and conflict is exacerbated by human trafficking.” – Ambassador Power
In addition, illicit trade in weapons, drugs, stolen antiquities, and other illegal goods tend to follow similar routes by those used by traffickers – human traffickers – and be carried out by the same criminal networks.
Ambassador Power pointed out that these illicit activities sustain armed groups, terrorists, and criminal networks and threaten international peace and security.
The worst thing is that traffickers often force their victims to commit crimes – such as participating in terrorist acts, transporting illegal weapons, producing illegal drugs – and these crimes themselves, of course, further undermine shared security.
Human Trafficking a Form of Slavery: ISIL Known for It
According to Ambassador Power, the taboo against slavery is being actively and willfully challenged by ISIL and Boko Haram, who don’t just carry out widespread human trafficking.
“They brag about it on social media and in propaganda materials.” – Ambassador Power
The notorious terrorist group also distributes women and girls to fighters as spoils of war, systematically rapes them, and sells them in markets like cattle.
Also, boys as young as four years old are forced into “cub” training camps, where they are reportedly given dolls on which to practice beheadings.
“It’s barbaric.” – Ambassador Power
ISIL has even gone so far as to issue guidelines to its followers on how to treat their slaves, providing a twisted justification for the most depraved acts.
“The guidelines state: “It is permissible to buy, sell, or give as a gift female captives and slaves, for they are merely property, which can be disposed of.” – Ambassador Power
Ambassador Power said in other words, raping female slaves is authorized, it is acceptable, it is encouraged.
What Government Should Do to Combat Human Trafficking
Ambassador Power outlined important actions for the government to fight the crime of human trafficking.
“First, we must work to ensure that our own practices – from procurement to distribution – do not themselves contribute to human trafficking.” – Ambassador Power
This first action means taking steps to require government contractors and subcontractors to prohibit activities known to contribute to trafficking, such as making it illegal to charge workers recruitment fees that can lead to debt bondage.
Second, Ambassador Power cited that governments should teach people how to actually see the victims of trafficking. Although this is extremely challenging, some victims of trafficking go out of their way to avoid being identified, out of fear for their safety or that of their loved ones, out of fear of being deported or otherwise criminalized.
Ambassador Power explained that learning to see trafficking victims demands sensitizing people at all levels of government and across the spectrum of agencies.
Third, the governments should spur more robust and innovative solutions.
“But we don’t just need more resources, we need resources to be more victim- and survivor-centered.” – Ambassador Power
US Confronts Human Trafficking
Through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)and the annual State Department Trafficking in Persons or TIP Report, global awareness of human trafficking and galvanizing international action to address both labor and sex trafficking crimes are made in global perspective.
The Report analyzes the efforts of 188 countries and territories – including the United States – to confront this global scourge.
In addition, the TIP Report plays an important role in confronting this lucrative transnational crime.
The TIP Report also provides a list of specific recommendations for how each country and territory can better prevent this crime, prosecute its perpetrators and assist its victims. These recommendations are the heart of the Report.
The TIP Office’s foreign assistance grants are making a difference in 37 countries, supporting programs that provide crucial assistance to survivors and help governments build their capacity to fight this crime.
The US leadership has pooled the international community to get behind the effort as well.
Nearly 140 countries have enacted modern anti-trafficking laws, and nearly 150 are party to the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol.
The United States is trying to ensure that resources and support are available to victims, and one of those resources is the Department of Health and Human Services National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
The Center is really making a difference in reaching out to survivors and helping us prosecute abusers.
The US now now have online tools like the Slavery Footprint so that people can understand the ways in which this crime affects them.
The United States is confident that the Administration working together, with civil society, with not-for-profits, with the private sector, the world can actually tackle this issue head on and conquer it.
In 2011, the United States has a record number of people with human trafficking offenses, and over the last three years the US government has achieved significant increases in human trafficking prosecutions, including the rise of more than 30 percent in the number of forced labor and adult sex trafficking prosecutions.
The US government has secured long prison sentences against individual traffickers. It has also dismantled really large transnational organized crime enterprises.
The Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team, or ACT Team, initiative that’s an interagency collaboration among the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Labor, was implemented to streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecute human trafficking offenses.
The United States has also launched six Phase One Pilot ACT Teams around the country. And they are located in Atlanta, El Paso, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Miami, and today these teams are fully operational.
Mr Holder underlines that by bringing federal investigative agencies and federal prosecutors together, they are allowing us to develop and to advance high-impact human trafficking prosecutions.
In 2011, the United States dismantled a large transnational organized crime enterprise that held Ukrainian victims in forced labor in Philadelphia.
The United States has restored freedom to undocumented Eastern European women and convicted the traffickers who brutally exploited them in massage parlors in Chicago and even branded them with tattoos to claim them as their own property.
For the entire anti-trafficking community, the US is continuing to provide training and technical assistance as well.
In 2011, efforts have included hosting three regional training forums that have focused on improving collaboration as well as the development of a training curriculum to help state prosecutors and state judges better understand human trafficking crimes.
The United States is working with Mexican law enforcement partners, the collaboration has dismantled sex trafficking networks that operate on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and have brought freedom to victims and secured really landmark convictions and substantial sentences against the traffickers in these high-impact bilateral cases.
The United States has underlined that combating human trafficking is an affront to its most fundamental values.
Anywhere from 12 to 27 million people are currently held in forced labor, bonded labor, or forced prostitution. That’s equivalent to all the people who live in London at the low end and the combined populations of New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. at the high end.
The victims range from the men and women enslaved in fields, factories, and brothels to the girls and boys whose childhoods have been shattered and stolen, to the parents whose children have vanished.