Human trafficking in Honduras
Human trafficking in Honduras is one of the most prominent human rights issues in the country. A 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State identifies Honduras as a Tier 2 country since it is making great strides in reducing human trafficking cases. However, the country still needs to meet the set baselines. With the new legislation, a new anti-trafficking plan and advocacy efforts by government-backed programs, Honduras is on its way to creating a safer society.

Causes of Human Trafficking in Honduras

The main causes of human trafficking in Honduras are unemployment, lack of economic opportunity and family issues. These issues leave people desperate to have a stable income and, unfortunately, make them more vulnerable to human trafficking. According to the World Bank data, the unemployment rate in Honduras reached 10.98% in 2020, about a 5% increase from the unemployment rate of 5.7% in 2019. Often, traffickers lure victims to other countries with false promises of an escape from poverty and crime-ravaged areas, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Honduras is primarily a source country for sex trafficking and forced labor. Oftentimes, traffickers exploit victims within their own communities and homes. Traffickers transport women and children, who are primarily victims of sex trafficking, abroad to experience exploitation in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States. Additionally, traffickers usually transport people for forced labor to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

As the U.S. Department of State reported, traffickers force their victims to beg on the streets, traffick drugs and work in the informal sector. Children have to work in dangerous occupations such as the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and mining industries. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that 9% of children from ages 5 to 14 in Honduras are working. Around 53% of these children work in the agricultural sector, 12.7% work in the industry sector (mining, construction and fireworks production, etc.) and 34% work in the services sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, negatively impacting economic opportunity further. This has caused more people to be vulnerable to human trafficking in Honduras, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Government Initiatives

The previously mentioned report shows that the Honduran government is taking action to reduce cases of human trafficking in Honduras in the following ways:

  1. Increasing funding for Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT): In 2019, the Honduran government increased funding to 5.5 million lempiras (USD 221,400). CICESCT uses this funding to provide assistance to victims such as protection and therapy. In 2020, CICESCT’s immediate response team provided 67 victims with these services. Additionally, CICESCT works with other organizations and NGOs to provide further assistance to victims such as medical care.
  2. Identifying More Victims: Law enforcement and social service providers have certain procedures to follow to identify symptoms of human trafficking and refer suspected victims to the CICEST immediate response team.
  3. Enacting a New Penal Code Provision: The definition of trafficking is now as per international law. However, the new penal code lowered the penalty for trafficking, resulting in the crime not being on par with other serious misdemeanors.
  4. Implementing the 2016-2020 National Anti-Trafficking Plan: This plan includes measures such as providing anti-trafficking training to the public (virtually during the pandemic) and providing awareness-raising campaigns through social media. The Honduran government also formed a network of 32 government agencies and NGOs to help carry the plan out.

UNODC Campaign

In 2019, the Honduran government joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Blue Heart Campaign. The idea is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Honduras and to prevent these crimes. The Blue Heart Campaign focuses on advocacy and seeks to recruit others to help prevent human trafficking crimes by building political support to take more action against it. The campaign sends its donations to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, whose goal is to aid other organizations and NGOs globally to assist victims. According to the U.N. Office of Drug and Crime, the campaign resulted in the rescuing of 194 people in 2019.

CICESCT

CICESCT is a Honduran government agency that aims to reduce the number of human trafficking cases and to provide care for victims. Since its formation in 2012, Honduras has increased funding for CICESCT. This allows for more aid and investigations into human trafficking cases. In 2018, more than 300 victims received aid, protection and services (mental health counseling, food, housing, legal care and medical care) to integrate back into society. Also, 28 people received prison sentences with time ranging from 5 to 15 years for human trafficking.

Moving Forwards

There are still critical issues to reach a resolution regarding human trafficking in Honduras. However, the country has made significant progress and is continuing to work on eradicating human trafficking from the country. If this level of progress and awareness continues, Honduras can achieve a trafficking-free society.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Mali
Mali is a country where human trafficking is widespread, according to the U.S. State Department. This suggests that the government of the western African country is failing to achieve the bare minimum for abolishing the practice. Instead, Mali has increased some of its prevention efforts — at least since 2017. Mali is not overlooking trafficking, according to many observers. In fact, the government is attempting to stop human trafficking in Mali.

The Situation in Mali

Despite its ranking, the Malian government is making strides to remedy its human trafficking conundrum. These initiatives include educating judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers on human trafficking, as well as issuing a directive prohibiting minors from entering military installations.

Further actions aimed at combating human trafficking include government collaboration with international groups such as the Fodé and Yeguine Network for Action, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Families. In addition, the government has concentrated efforts amending an old anti-trafficking law as recently as 2019.

Mali’s justice minister has issued an order requiring judicial officials to give priority to cases brought under the original statute. Due to the absence of an integrated process to gather anti-trafficking statistics, law enforcement material previously was fragmentary and thereby challenging to access. The 2019 amendment sought to establish a unified strategy for data collection.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 42% of its total population living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t help, as a recession dropped Mali’s gross domestic product by nearly 2%. Additionally, nearly seven in 10 adults in Mali cannot read or write, indicating a scarcity of education.

The Correlation Between Malian Poverty and Human Trafficking

Mali has been beset by instability and violence since a 2012 military coup d’état and the capture of the northern territory. The country remains in a state of desperation due to its economic and social crises. The financial insecurity has made it simple — as many observers viewed — to fall victim to human trafficking practices.

Mali falls short of meeting the minimal benchmarks for the abolition of human trafficking. As a result, human traffickers can continue to exploit both internal and international victims. Many of these migrants are fleeing crisis zones in Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.

Mali is a supplier, route and destination country for international trafficking, according to the State Department. Lured to Mali with assurances of high-paying jobs, organizations, which include violent fundamentalists like Al-Qaeda “affiliates” abduct many of them. Job seekers also labor to “pay off” fictitious debts that the organizations that invited them to the country in the first place tell them they owe.

Why Mali?

Despite its poverty, Mali is rich in gold and oil. Yet, to benefit from those resources, Mali needs miners. This attracts refugees, women and children, who traffickers could ultimately coerce. Juvenile prostitution and child sex trafficking are common at mining sites. In fact, more than 12% of sex workers at these locations are as young as 15 and as old as 19, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

A disproportionate number of males work in certain mines, exposing them to the most heinous types of child labor, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse. “Children are being forced to fight by armed groups, trafficked, raped, sold, forced into sexual or domestic servitude or married off,” Gillian Triggs, the Refugee Agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection, told Reuters in December 2020.

Assistance to Mali

There are many human trafficking solutions, yet they are difficult to implement. Global attention and vigorous effort to alleviate Mali’s exploited and trafficked workers dilemma remain in initial phases. While the U.N., the State Department and a number of non-governmental organizations said they are aware of trafficking issues in Mali, the magnitude and precise volume of trafficking and coerced laborers continue to remain unclear.

To help with these issues, the Roman Catholic Church-affiliated Caritas Mali has assembled an international team to build an initiative alongside the International Catholic Migration Commission,  providing underprivileged individuals and children with alternative income and skill development opportunities.

Mali’s education system is deficient, and this new initiative may make fewer people desire to work in deplorable conditions. Many believe that human trafficking thrives on the instability that poverty creates. Thus, eliminating poverty could then, in turn, mitigate trafficking problems.

Many groups are attempting to assist those in poverty in Mali including Action Against Hunger. To date, it has helped more than 400,000 people gain access to nutrition and health programs, food security programs and sanitation programs. Another organization providing aid is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace, which collaborates with the U.N. World Food Program to deliver financial assistance and meals to families that dislocation, violence, environmental catastrophes and other crises have impacted.

Save the Children is another organization helping nearly 1.5 million Malian children in 2020 by giving food and protection. The organization says it effectively raised 232,000 children out of poverty.

The work of Save the Children, Action Against Hunger and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace are helping reduce the symptoms of poverty such as food insecurity and poor sanitation. These efforts should subsequently reduce people’s vulnerability and eliminate human trafficking in Mali.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in CuracaoEfforts against human trafficking have improved some with time, but the widespread epidemic continues. Curacao and other foreign governments are fighting to stop this crime — a consistent battle that requires consistent efforts to eradicate it. Human trafficking in Curacao is a complex issue with no set solution; some are making progress across the globe. Many organizations are directing their resources towards human trafficking task forces and prevention. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention and progress are the first steps to becoming an advocate.

Human Trafficking: The Basics

More than 35% of the world’s population currently lives on less than $2.00 a day. There are “2.5 billion children, women and men are at risk for human trafficking.” Curacao identified only three victims of trafficking in 2019, compared to 44 in 2018. This is not a result of improvement. The government of Curacao is not doing enough to find and help victims. Prosecution for traffickers is in place; however, without investigations to find abusers, it’s useless.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that uses force, coercion or fraud to exploit sex or labor from victims. The three most common types of human trafficking are sex trade, forced labor and domestic servitude. Any person is at risk of trafficking, yet women and children are disproportionately involved with sex trafficking. “Women and girls make up 80% of the people trafficked.”

It Begins With Poverty

Curacao’s economy relies heavily on tourism, succumbing to frequent changes that explain its 25% poverty rate. This has gotten worse with COVID-19 and travel restrictions. This resulted in a 19.1% unemployment rate in 2020. Poverty is dangerous in itself and brings more threats to safety.

Women and girls are the main targets of sex trafficking in Curacao. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, they come from countries such as Venezuela, Curaçao and the Dominican Republic. “Bar owners recruit women and girls to work as waitresses or ‘trago girls’, and subsequently, force them into commercial sex.” Individuals faced with poverty struggle to meet necessities, making them extremely vulnerable to human traffickers. Acknowledging poverty and its direct link to sex or labor trafficking vulnerability is the first step of dismantling it.

This Caribbean island, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is on the Tier 2 Watchlist for human trafficking. This ranking shows efforts being made while still not meeting minimum standards of elimination. The primary reason for the country’s underperformance is a lack of funding since the implementation of its written plan would meet minimum standards. Curacao’s government also lacks adequate protection, prosecution and prevention.

Trafficking affects locals and tourists in Curacao. In 2019, displaced Venezuelans who were working illegally and overstaying their visas held a high risk of trafficking in Curacao. The Kingdom of the Netherlands’ involvement is crucial for anti-trafficking efforts, which puts it in a position of leadership and funding. The Netherlands is responsible for foreign policy in Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten.

It Is a Global Effort

Countries should work together as a team to fight human trafficking. Due to these crimes’ international occurrence, it is every country’s responsibility to do its part. Interpol, the global police organization, works exclusively to prevent international crime, making it a significant activist. Operation Libertad, coordinated by the Interpol Global Task Force on Human Trafficking, joined forces with 13 different countries, including Curacao. It rescued nearly 350 victims of sexual and labor exploitation in 2018. Interpol exemplified how creating a platform is powerful. It has more than 500 participating police officers arresting traffickers. Efforts and projects like Operation Libertad are in progress around the world.

Other methods of improvement are underway such as training and educational seminars. In 2021, the Dutch Caribbean Islands underwent training from the U.S. Department of Justice Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, solidifying the communal cooperation to fight human trafficking. The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) pushes for legislation to combat trafficking with “more than 80 non-government organizations,” including the Netherlands. Many more organizations exist and each plays an essential part in eliminating human trafficking in Curacao.

How to End Human Trafficking in Curacao?

The U.S. Department of State gives 20 different ways one can help fight human trafficking. Human trafficking in Curacao will improve with time and energy. Global efforts present a hopeful future for trafficking victims, yet significant measures are the only to ensure such. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention and progress are the first step of becoming an advocate.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Maiti Nepal
Nepal, landlocked between the global superpowers of China and India, is one of the most impoverished countries in South Asia, due in part to poor infrastructure, corruption and natural disasters. Staggering poverty rates and unemployment have created a crisis at the India-Nepal border, a hotspot for human trafficking. Women and girls are especially at risk of sex trafficking, especially girls in rural communities far from the capital city of Kathmandu. Maiti Nepal aims to address the growing issue of human trafficking in Nepal.

Women and Girls at Risk

Women and girls make up about “71% of modern slavery victims” worldwide. Illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and geography all contribute to the human trafficking crisis. Faced with few prospects, many girls are lured into the hands of traffickers with the promise of work and prosperity abroad.

Traffickers transport these girls to urban centers, either to Kathmandu or various cities in India. These girls must work in brothels, massage parlors, dance clubs, circuses and private homes. If the girls are lucky enough to make it back home, they then face additional discrimination and struggle to reintegrate into society.

COVID-19 Worsens the Trafficking Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the risks of human trafficking for girls. As unemployment rises, desperate families are more likely to believe traffickers can provide a better life for their children. In a society that views girls’ education as less important than boys’, extended school closures leave girls at heightened risk of falling victim to trafficking. It is imperative that global actors and the government of Nepal take immediate action to protect girls and women during the pandemic.

Neither India nor Nepal requires documentation for citizens to cross their shared border, allowing traffickers to move people across without detection. Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis has further depleted the resources and ability of anti-trafficking officials to adequately monitor border crossings. Estimates indicate that traffickers move 54 women and girls into India every day.

Maiti Nepal Spearheads Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Anuradha Koirala founded Maiti Nepal in 1993 with the goal of addressing the trafficking of women and children. Named a CNN Hero in 2010, Koirala has devoted the majority of her life to rehabilitating survivors of trafficking and implementing prevention efforts. Maiti Nepal recognizes that without improving conditions in Nepal, trafficking will continue to persist.

Though the Nepali government attempts to monitor the border, women and girls continue to slip through the cracks. Maiti Nepal supplements the government’s efforts to guard the busy border between India and Nepal. Volunteers directly intercept traffickers at the border and safely return the victims to their homes or a transit center. To date, Maiti Nepal has intercepted more than 42,000 girls at the border and convicted 1,620 human traffickers.

Maiti Nepal began as one rehabilitation home to house survivors. Now, its programs include prosecution and legal counseling, transit homes, education sponsorships, job training, advocacy efforts, rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS treatment programs, among others. Maiti has provided rehabilitation services to about 25,000 women and children. The nonprofit spearheads multiple efforts to provide direct aid as well as prevention and advocacy efforts throughout the country.

Looking Ahead

The continued efforts of Maiti Nepal and the Nepali government safeguard impoverished girls and women from the lures of human trafficking. Understanding the links between poverty and human trafficking, a broader focus on poverty reduction can accelerate efforts to combat human trafficking in Nepal.

– Elizabeth Long
Photo: Unsplash

Human trafficking in Albania
Albania experienced greater prosperity than it ever had during its years as a Soviet satellite state, with its national income and standard of living skyrocketing as the country industrialized and urbanized. When the communist government lost power following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, political instability, government-backed pyramid schemes and civil war caused an economic disaster. As a result, many of Albania’s desperate poor, particularly women and children, became vulnerable to human traffickers, who significantly expanded their operations.

The Situation in Contemporary Albania

The Albanian government and the National Coalition of Anti-Trafficking Shelters identified 81 potential trafficking victims, with an additional five victims officially recognized in 2020. Of the 85 total victims, 58 were children and 62 were female. These figures are lower than in 2019, when there were 96 potential victims and seven confirmed victims, 80 of whom were female and 67 were minors. However, the number of victims is likely higher, and prosecutors did not convict any traffickers in 2020, whereas they did in 2019.

To compare, the state identified 134 total victims from 2005 through 2006, following the introduction of its first action plan for “trafficking in persons. Among the victims were 123 women, 77 children and 112 Albanians. In 2005, there were 49 convictions, and in 2006, there were 56. The country’s ability to identify victims has certainly improved, yet the complexity of trafficking cases has increased over the years, making convictions more difficult.

A Tier 2 source country, traffickers smuggle more people out of Albania than they bring in. The primary destinations of trafficked individuals are countries neighboring Albania such as Greece and Italy, as well as Western European countries like the United Kingdom, which had about 600 Albanian potential victims in 2015. In all, the number of Albanian victims abroad could be in the thousands. The Albanian government must fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to become a Tier 1 country, the highest and best tier. Albania has held a Tier 2 position for many years because it continues to make significant efforts to meet the Act’s standards.

The Link Between Trafficking and Poverty

Human traffickers are most likely to prey on the poor and those living in rural areas because the poor are frequently desperate for work and people living in rural areas are more isolated than city dwellers. Women, children and migrants are also traffickers’ most common prey since they tend to be easier to entice and hold captive while engaging in sexual acts with the former two is in higher demand than with adult men. Though they are not prime targets, traffickers hold men captive as well, typically forcing them to perform farm or factory work in nearby Balkan countries.

In 2016, 33.90% of the population lived on less than $5.50 per day, compared to more than 55% in 2002. Similarly, the proportion of the population living in rural areas has decreased since the expansion of trafficking in Albania, from around 60% in the 1990s and early 2000s to 37.89% in 2021. Thus, the target demographic of human traffickers is shrinking.

Examining the Targets of Traffickers

Traffickers force children to sell small items on the street and beg for money, especially during tourist season, when traffickers know tourists are more vulnerable to these practices. Their captors make these children hand over most or all of the money they earn. Traffickers also solicit minors for the purpose of sex. The traffickers tend to force children of ethnic minorities and migrant groups such as the Romani into seasonal work. Stigmas against the Romani make them vulnerable to traffickers, less identifiable as victims and less likely to receive support.

Traffickers entice poor women to work as prostitutes by posting false job ads and posing as wealthy boyfriends. These women keep little to none of the money they earn, leaving them only with the trauma of their experiences. Captive women work in nail salons, factories and as domestic servants when not performing sex work. The attitudes of men toward women are also a component in women being targets.

Transiting migrants heading to Western Europe from Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa, are additional targets of human traffickers in Albania. The language barrier, the fact they are in an unfamiliar country and their desire to reach a wealthy nation make migrants susceptible to traffickers looking to exploit them.

The Albanian Government’s Response

The government is doing little to resolve law enforcement’s limited ability to screen and identify potential victims from migrant groups, children and sex workers. The Border and Migration Police have few interpreters, yet people speaking dozens of languages other than Albanian cross the border regularly. This language barrier exacerbates the difficulty of identifying and helping trafficking victims.

The lack of specialized experience prosecuting trafficking cases results in prosecutors convicting few criminals for human trafficking-related crimes. Instead, they often either convict the accused of a lesser crime, or the accused goes free. Furthermore, government employees are allegedly complicit in various human trafficking crimes. If true, corruption is contributing to human trafficking in Albania. The government claimed it would conduct an investigation but is not yet prosecuting anyone.

Government Investments to Reduce Trafficking

The government invested 29.3 million leks, the equivalent of $291,980, to the government-run specialized shelter for human trafficking victims. This is a massive increase to the 20.9 million leks or $208,270, it spent in 2019. While the government decided to reduce the funds it allocates to the salaries of support staff at NGO shelters, it spent more on food support. Delays in funding periodically undermined the efforts of shelters, however.

Additionally, the government moved 4.6 million leks ($45,840) to a fund of seized criminal assets designed for victims of human trafficking in Albania. The offices of the National Employment Services offered job priority to 60 of these victims. The government has also provided vocational training to 20 officially recognized victims and offered temporary residence permits to foreign victims.

Ending Human Trafficking in Albania

After the fall of the communist government, traffickers exploited the turmoil to expand their illegal trade, enriching themselves at the expense of their victims. However, the plague of human trafficking has undergone mitigation due to increased combined efforts of the Albanian government and NGOs. To eradicate human trafficking in Albania, the government must establish more robust social programs for the poor, expand job opportunities and improve access to support services; especially for people in rural areas. The government also needs to improve its screening of targeted groups, better train police in identification and prosecutors in dealing with trafficking cases, put greater emphasis on reintegration and fund NGO-run shelters consistently.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

5 Progressive Steps Toward Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking in PanamaWithin the last five years, there have been many cases of human trafficking throughout Panama. Human trafficking refers to the use of fraud or coercion in order to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act from a victim. Most trafficking victims in Panama are women from South and Central America, being exploited for sexual purposes. However, children and men are also victims.

Men from South and Central America, China and Vietnam are forced to work in construction, agriculture, mining and restaurants. Children are mainly used for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Tactics used include debt bondage, false promises and threats of reporting illegal immigration. In recent years, police have reported that some traffickers have even used illegal substances as a means to acquire victims. Below are five efforts to tackle the issues posed by human trafficking.

  1. UNODC: The UNODC, or the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, operates in Central America and the Caribbean to provide member states with technical assistance in the fight against serious and organized crime. In late January of 2020, the UNODC partnered with the General Secretariat of the National Commission against Trafficking in Persons to hold an informative breakfast in Panama to share its progress and challenges. The event also welcomed people to volunteer their support and funding through the Unit for the Identification and Care of Victims of Trafficking in Persons. There is hope that through events like this, the government of Panama will continue to make developments and advancements in putting an end to human trafficking. Hope remains that these efforts will also inspire more volunteering from those willing to work against the crime.
  2. National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and Family: In 2019, Panama made efforts to reduce the likelihood and prominence of child labor throughout the country. One of these efforts included the implementation of the National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and Family (SENNIAF). This agency conducts inspections to identify children living through child labor practices. Shelters for victims of trafficking, as well as care plans for children who were previously used as child laborers, are also available through this agency.
  3. Reforms in Law: In 2011, the government of Panama enacted Law 79. The law deals with trafficking in persons and related activities, thereby providing the legislative framework regarding human trafficking. The law aims to provide victims with respect in regard to their status. The initial step of this process requires public servants to immediately report to the police if they believe a person may be a victim of human trafficking, as outlined by Article 44. After a person is confirmed to be a victim of trafficking, Article 47 states that the person is allowed to stay in the country for at least 90 days in order for the victim to both physically and emotionally recover. Possibly, the most significant provision that the government has implemented is in Article 37. The portion asserts that no victim of human trafficking may be detained, accused or processed for entering the country illegally.
  4. International Organization for Migration: Headquartered in Panama, the IOM works to support the efforts of the government in Panama to develop and implement plans to prevent, investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, while protecting victims. In line with the annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, 2021, the IOM held a panel on raising awareness, victim protection and crime prevention. The event was attended by government authorities and members of civil society. Its main goal was to analyze the advances and challenges associated with the issue of trafficking, as well as to develop a perspective of human rights for the protection of trafficking victims.
  5. Districts Free of Child Labor Initiatives: The government of Panama created anti-child labor agreements such as the SENNIAF listed above. Through efforts made by these agencies, Panama has experienced an increase in victim identifications, as well as training and awareness of the issue among its population.

Three Key Improvements

As a result of many of these efforts, the following improvements have taken place.

  • Child labor training was provided to 105 law enforcement officials, 55 prosecutors and 21 tourism authorities.
  • A local NGO identified 1,497 cases of child labor in 2019. Of the cases, 1,444 received care, scholarships and follow-ups from a program for 3 years in regard to academic work.

  • The Labor Inspectorate carried out 945 inspections for child labor.

The Road Ahead

Though much progress had been made in eliminating human trafficking within Panama, more work is required to see a definitive elimination in cases. A key way to work on eliminating the issue is by spreading awareness of the issue to others; human trafficking is no different. Through the work of many organizations and agencies, Panama has seen an increase in the knowledge of the matter, and the government keeps the hope that trafficking will no longer persist.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr


Human trafficking is a global problem. Unfortunately, human trafficking in Ireland worsened in the last few years. The U.S. Department of State ranks countries on a three-tier system when it comes to human trafficking. In 2020, Ireland dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 2 watchlist because the country does not meet the minimum standards. However, Ireland is making efforts to eliminate trafficking. Here are four facts about human trafficking in Ireland.

1. In Western Europe, Ireland is the Only Country on the Tier 2 Watchlist.

Ireland now stands with areas of the world like Hong Kong and Romania on the tiered system. In Ireland, the trafficking problem progressively worsened. In 2012, the An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) detected or reported 48 victims, “44 in 2013, 46 in 2014, 78 in 2015 and 95 in 2016.” However, while human trafficking in Ireland intensifies, the rest of Western Europe remains at a higher tier designation.

Additionally, the Irish government did not report on the victims. Yet, the U.S. State Department’s report pointed out that “traffickers subject Irish children to sex trafficking within the country.” Sr Kathleen Bryant, a charity worker, believes Ireland is in “denial” about sex trafficking. She speculates that Ireland cannot admit that Irish people are exploiting one another.

2. Sexual Exploitation Exists Within Human Trafficking in Ireland.

The majority of victims are women. Sadly, the majority of these victims experience sexual exploitation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime observed that the majority of human trafficking victims in Ireland are victims of sexual exploitation.

Recently, authorities found two women in Ireland guilty of human trafficking. They ran a prostitution ring in Ireland, and their victims journeyed from Nigeria only to experience exploitation in Ireland. One victim described herself as a “sex machine.” Sexual exploitation is a large component of human trafficking in Ireland. The U.N. report shows that 194 victims suffer from sexual abuse by 2016. Additionally, 108 people were victims of forced labor.

3. Labor Trafficking Exists in Ireland.

Besides sex trafficking, labor trafficking is prevalent in Ireland as well. There are at least 8,000 people in Ireland working as slave labor. The traffickers coerce and manipulate people into traveling to Ireland. They work in “the restaurant industry, waste management, fishing, seasonal agriculture and car-washing services.” In particular, many accuse the fishing industry of exploiting migrant workers. The current system leaves migrants with only one employment option, consequently, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

4. Ruhama is Fighting Human Trafficking in Ireland.

NGOs are fighting to eliminate human trafficking in Ireland. For example, the NGO, Ruhama, is working to give support to victims of human sex trafficking. The U.S. State Department report mentions how the Irish government does a poor job of identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking. Ruhama fills that gap by providing free and confidential assistance to women who are victims of sex trafficking.

Additionally, Ruhama has been lobbying and campaigning to change the systems that allow sex trafficking to happen. Ruhama began in 1989, and it helps thousands of women stuck in prostitution and sex trafficking. Ruhama’s 2019 annual report revealed that Ruhama worked with 116 victims of sex trafficking. Ruhama implements casework, Education & Development Programme, Outreach, Counselling, Bridge to Work, Holistic Therapies and Policy Work to help these women. Ruhama also played a significant part in lobbying for the 2017 Sexual Offences Act which intends to help sex trafficking victims.

Western Europe is one of the wealthiest parts of the world. Yet, human trafficking in Ireland illustrates how poverty around the globe creates problems that spread to every corner of society. Through better government oversight and continued work from organizations like Ruhama, Ireland could eventually regain its Tier 1 status.

– Mike Messina
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in the Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands is a country in Oceania located to the east of Papua New Guinea. Trends show that human trafficking in the Solomon Islands occurs mostly in logging camps and fishing sectors, but some are implementing significant efforts to eliminate it.

Background

Human trafficking in the Solomon Islands is most common in the logging camps and fishing boats, which are two primary sources of income for the country. Trafficking in these areas mostly revolves around the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Another concern of the U.S Department of State is child sex tourism.

According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which ranks countries as belonging to one of four tiers in their efforts to combat trafficking, the Solomon Islands are a Tier 2 country. This rating means that while the government is making significant efforts to comply with the standards set in place by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), it is not fully meeting the standards.

In September 2010, the American Bar Association set out to prevent and reduce human trafficking in the Solomon Islands with the help of the Department of State. The program aims for these five goals:

  1. Raise people’s awareness of human trafficking and provide education on how to prevent it.
  2. Improve protection for both witnesses and victims.
  3. Increase access to better support services for human trafficking survivors.
  4. Develop laws or policies to deter human trafficking.
  5. Find lawyers to serve as human trafficking experts within the Solomon Islands.

Prevention Efforts

The pandemic did not hinder the efforts toward ending human trafficking in the Solomon Islands. In fact, the Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Committee (AHTAC), consisting of government agencies and citizens, met frequently despite the challenges that the pandemic presented.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare raised concern about human trafficking in a national address. Sogavare was concerned with trafficking in the fishing sector and announced that his government, along with international organizations, would be working on creating policies that aimed to erase sexual exploitation and modern slavery on fishing vessels operating in the Solomon Islands’ waters. According to an international organization, this address was the first time many Solomon Island citizens heard the term “human trafficking.” In the address, Sogavare also announced the completion of the National Security Strategy and National Border Strategy, which focused on migration, transnational crime, labor, trade, employment and investment, and their relationship to trafficking.

The Department of Immigration (DOI), together with the Solomon Islands Forestry Association, conducts campaigns to raise awareness about human trafficking near logging and mining sites. The campaigns focus on the consequences for those involved in human trafficking and the country’s trafficking laws.

Progress in Protection

Over the course of the pandemic, law enforcement individuals are still receiving training on victim identification and support. In 2018, authorities identified 39 potential trafficking victims and five in 2019 compared with four identified victims in 2020. One of the four victims was a foreigner living in the Solomon Islands and the other three were Solomon Islands citizens that were out of the country. Although internal sex trafficking is reportedly common, authorities did not identify any cases of sex trafficking.

In 2019, the Solomon Islands government gave $50,000 of its yearly budget to human trafficking victim care and shelter services. Despite problems and restraints caused by the pandemic, the government was still able to give $49,130 towards victim care, protection, investigation efforts and public education about human trafficking in the Solomon Islands in 2020.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police chose the capital, Honiara, as the site for a domestic violence shelter that provides aid to women and children that were sex trafficking victims. However, the government failed to provide support for adult male victims or victims of labor trafficking. Due to the location of the shelter, the protection services are difficult to access because most trafficking victims come from the provinces. The deficiencies in protection services for victims of human trafficking in the Solomon Islands likely led to fewer victims coming forward, and therefore, fewer prosecutions.

Looking Forward

In recent years, the Solomon Islands government has worked to bring an end to human trafficking within its borders. Although work still needs to occur, policies and programs are in place to bring the country closer to eliminating human trafficking.

Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Human Trafficking in BoliviaHuman trafficking in Bolivia is a serious problem in need of progress. The battle to end human trafficking is underway with many countries making significant changes to help bring an end to the illicit trade. Many of the changes made by governments are internal, such as creating harsher sentencing for those caught involved in the trade. However, other actions are external, like the creation of programs to aid victims of trafficking. Criminalization of and aid for those involved are both heavy blows to the trade, yet many governments, like Bolivia’s, still lag behind most of the world in terms of concrete actions taken toward ending the trade within their borders.

Human Trafficking in Bolivia

The United States’s Trafficking report ranked Bolivia as a Tier 2 country. This indicates that its government falls short of the baseline level of effort of fighting trafficking. Despite having a population of more than 11 million people, the Bolivian government only prosecuted five people for the crime in 2019. In addition to a government that doesn’t take the problem seriously enough, efforts to end human trafficking in Bolivia face another challenge: poverty.

Trafficking is Tied to Poverty

Like in other countries, human trafficking in Bolivia is a problem that partially stems from the socioeconomic status of the country. Poverty is a root cause and result of human trafficking. Extreme poverty makes people vulnerable to trade for a variety of reasons. In addition, impoverished parents are more likely to neglect children because they can’t provide for them. Furthermore, people lack economic security and take seemingly promising jobs only to enter into the forced labor market.

Young girls are sold to be married to bring an income to families. An estimated 15.4 million of the world’s human trafficking victims are women in forced marriages. Young victims of human trafficking often become perpetrators of it when they become adults as a way of escaping the system and gaining security. In total more than 30% of Bolivians live in poverty, leaving a significant portion of the population vulnerable to human trafficking.

Nonprofits Fill in the Gaps the Government Leaves Open

Although the government is not taking enough steps to address human trafficking in Bolivia, nonprofits are stepping in to fill the gaps. For example, nonprofits like Save The Children aim to lift vulnerable children out of poverty and prevent their abuse. A key way the nonprofit aims to help children is through education, which both aids in preventing their abuse and sets them up for success in the future. Additionally, the nonprofit enables children to have access to pre-schools that provide a robust education.

Furthermore, Save The Children provides children with many programs and opportunities that provide education about human trafficking. They equip children with the knowledge necessary to avoid entering the trade. Programs like these have protected 7,000 children from harm and lifted 9,000 out of poverty.

As nonprofits and Bolivia’s government work to tackle the economic and social problems that proliferate human trafficking, many are hopeful that Bolivia will soon be able to improve its Tier 2 status in human trafficking.

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in CambodiaHuman trafficking in Cambodia is growing and in need of action. In 2016, 40 million men, women and children were victims of human trafficking globally. Of these 40 million victims, 71% were women and girls and 29% were men. In this same year, modern slavery involved 15 million forced marriages and more than 25 million people in forced labor. Overall, the illegal sale of human beings generates more than $33 billion annually. In 2005, Chab Dai, a nonprofit, committed to aiding the recovery of survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. Because human trafficking is the second-largest illegal trade network in the globe, Chab Dai’s work is vital. Chab Dai helps to grow the anti-trafficking movement and help survivors reintegrate into society while combating stigma.

Human Trafficking in Cambodia

At this time, Cambodia is backsliding in its progress in the fight against human trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, Cambodia ranks as a Tier 2 Watch List country because it “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” However, Cambodia has remained on this ranking for three years in a row, indicating stagnation in human trafficking progress. On top of “insufficient government oversight and accountability measures,” the main inhibitors of progress are the lack of investigations by officials, inadequate government protection services and ineffective judicial monitoring, among other issues. Ultimately, the systems in place tend to enable traffickers rather than punish them.

The Work of Chab Dai in Cambodia

Over the past 15 years, Chab Dai has worked to combat human trafficking in Cambodia by bolstering education initiatives about sexual abuse and human trafficking. The organization also trains authorities and healthcare officials on how to respect and support survivors. Additionally, Chab Dai advocates directly for policy changes in the Cambodian government and provides free legal support to survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. The nonprofit helps to bring trafficked people back to their home countries and provides counseling as victims try to return to their normal lives. Furthermore, Chab Dai has a strong focus on helping survivors make a living, form healthy relationships in their personal lives and heal from their trauma.

The Butterfly Project

As part of its reintegration work, Chab Dai conducts research based on interviews with survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. All of the collected anti-trafficking research forms part of The Butterfly Project, which began in 2010. The organization publishes routine reports on how to successfully heal, recover and return to society after being sex trafficked. Moreover, the project guides experts, law enforcement, doctors and other nonprofits on how to best help survivors.

The research includes two to three interviews a year with 128 survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. The 128 interviewees are 80% women and 20% men. Additionally, the interviewees come from many different development programs all run through Chab Dai.

The study promotes holistic care, cultural tolerance in the healing process and religious freedom. So, one of the most prominent findings is the benefits of diverse religious practices. Chab Dai empowers survivors to ask challenging questions of different faiths. This is a proven form of suicide prevention, increased emotional stability and community building as survivors seek a new normal. Because of this, Chab Dai is working to fight religious intolerance among other NGOs working to support survivors.

Looking Forward

Ultimately, Chab Dai’s successes in The Butterfly Project empower survivors to speak up. The research aids consultation with other NGOs on how best to address the unique needs of survivors in the reintegration process. By listening to victims, Chab Dai is able to cater its initiatives to the specific needs of survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia.

– Jaya Patten
Photo: Flickr