Human Trafficking in Ecuador
Human Trafficking has become a global and commonplace issue that hampers the needs and will of millions of people around the world. Human trafficking rings have become commonplace in Ecuador, a South American country with a population of more than 17 million people and 4 million in poverty. Criminal organizations have targeted people in Ecuador so they can attain wealth and power in a place full of unemployment and economic struggles. However, many new programs have emerged to combat human trafficking in Ecuador including a joint campaign between the Ecuadorian government, the U.N. and the U.S. government.

The History Behind Trafficking

Researchers at the University of New Mexico reported that 5,000 yearly cases of child kidnappings have occurred related to human trafficking in Ecuador since the beginning of the early 21st century. The researchers also found that 80% of all cases involved women and girls. Ecuador’s human trafficking situation began as a serious issue that consumed the country of Ecuador starting in the early 1980s but has picked up steam in the last five years.

The crumbling economics of South American countries like Ecuador and neighboring Venezuela has created an influx of migration, mainly between Venezuela and Ecuador. These individuals have become susceptible to trafficking rings that use them for illegal activity such as child labor or domestic service upon plantations, fishing plants and mines to name just a few. Although many trafficking rings have operated without interaction, Ecuador has started a change within the country, stemming from outside help, to establish a better protective wall against illegal human trafficking. As mentioned in the article from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “According to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 72 per cent of detected human trafficking victims are women and girls. Ecuador fits this trend, but groups such as people with disabilities, returned migrants, indigenous communities, and youth with access to the Internet are also vulnerable.”

The Reasons for Human Trafficking in Ecuador

Human trafficking in Ecuador has become a commonplace issue due to its weak monetary and social infrastructure. Many people are out of jobs and live off dangerous side hustles, resulting in them being a target for many trafficking groups. A recent profile of human trafficking in different regions of Ecuador from scholars at The University of New Mexico found that traffickers are likely to target certain individuals. Many of these individuals are immigrants who come from neighboring countries like Venezuela, which has been suffering financially for the last decade. Discriminated groups like the LGBTQ community are also likely to fall into human trafficking in Ecuador.

Solutions

Although human trafficking has become a growing epidemic in Ecuador, various measures and movements have emerged to dictate a change from within Ecuador, a country that had a poverty rate of higher than 24% in 2017. One of those changes was the introduction of increased international support from the U.S. The U.S. Department of State has recommended stronger prosecution laws regarding the criminalization of labor traffickers. As a result, Ecuador’s laws prescribe penalties from 13 to 16 years of imprisonment as opposed to the previous penalties of an average of 8 years.

The Ecuadorian government has also dictated a new code of ways to prevent human trafficking in Ecuador. With the U.S. government, it created a campaign named #AQUIESTOY with the intention of creating an awareness of human trafficking in the country. The campaign reached over 88 million people by April 2019. Ecuador also established a hotline that people can use to counter human trafficking situations.

Along with a stronger force of prosecution and prevention, protections have emerged for human trafficking victims. Units such as the Office of the Prosecutor General’s formal witness protection program (SPAVT) provide aid to victims of human trafficking by granting them medical care, legal provisions, aid in garnering employment or accessing education and more. Reports determined that investigative and financial support of up to $400,000 went towards helping victims and potential victims.

Concluding Thoughts

Ecuador is an ever-developing country that kidnappings and trafficking have hit. However, the situation should be able to improve with help from the Ecuadorian government as well as outside sources. With more time and support, human trafficking in the country can become an unlikely tragedy rather than an everyday situation.

– Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Cameroon
The U.S. Department of State placed the Republic of Cameroon on the Tier 2 Watch List because it is making efforts to eliminate trafficking and protect individuals, but has not fully met the standards that the U.S. Department of State has set. Up to the present, Cameroon has made progress by convicting more traffickers, identifying and referring victims of trafficking to services, and providing repatriation assistance for foreign trafficking victims. Obstacles including terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram have increased the difficulty for nations such as Cameroon to address human trafficking as they contribute to the issue. Here are five facts to know about human trafficking in Cameroon.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in Cameroon

  1. The Trafficking of Children Remains an Issue: Human trafficking in Cameroon involves children. Through the Ministry of Social Affairs (MINAS), Cameroon was able to identify 1,147 street children vulnerable to trafficking in 2019 in comparison to the 877 children in 2018. Child trafficking victims often work on agricultural plantations where they do not receive compensation. According to a study done in 2012 that the Cameroonian government partially prepared, between 600,000 and 3 million children were victims of human trafficking. These children often must travel vast distances, forever experiencing separation from their families. Many times, when the children become old enough to resist coercion, traffickers deport them out of Cameroon.
  2. The Government has Increased its Efforts to Protect Victims: In 2019, government officials in Cameroon identified 77 potential human trafficking victims, which is an increase from 2018 when they identified 62 potential human trafficking victims. The government, along with other private centers that receive funding from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continue to provide services for minors and vulnerable children who are at risk of becoming trafficking victims. All individuals including children who Cameroon’s government officials identified as human trafficking victims received care. These services offer food, shelter, vocational training, education, medical and psychological care and family tracing.
  3. Cameroon has Committed Itself to Addressing Boko Haram: Since 2014, Boko Haram has participated in transnational human trafficking across Western Africa, including in Cameroon. Throughout the past several years, Boko Haram has continued to target and traffic women and children within Cameroon. As Boko Haram threatens Cameroon and other neighboring states, Cameroon has committed itself to lead tireless combat against Boko Haram with no impunity for those responsible for the attacks. Specifically, Cameroon deployed two military operations in 2014 including Operation EMERGENCE 4 and Operation ALPHA to combat Boko Haram. Both operations continue to work towards fighting Boko Haram and eliminating transnational human trafficking.
  4. Funding Remains an Issue: The lack of funding within Cameroon continues to impede the government’s implementation of its anti-trafficking national action plan. No one knows the exact amount that currently goes toward Cameroon’s anti-trafficking national action plan and the amount of money necessary to properly implement it, as the government has not disclosed it to the public. Unfortunately, because funding has limitations within Cameroon, the country has cut many training programs that aim to educate law enforcement to detect situations of trafficking. The lack of funding limits the amount of research that the country can do with regards to human trafficking while also limiting the amount of aid and resources that it can provide to victims of human trafficking.
  5. Cameroon Maintains its Efforts to Prevent Human Trafficking: MINAS continues to inform Cameroonians about trafficking indicators through public awareness campaigns. In 2019, the government provided 2,864 informational sessions addressing human trafficking indicators and providing ways to help prevent human trafficking to Cameroonians. These 2019 informational sessions reached 397,447 individuals compared to only 69,000 in 2018. Law enforcement’s and immigration officials’ screening efforts within Cameroon’s international airports prevented several potential human trafficking victims from experiencing exploitation over the past several years.

Looking Ahead

To address human trafficking in Cameroon, the nation has made efforts to focus on families, recognizing how families can often play a role in facilitating trafficking. Many impoverished families often must sell children, especially girls, into trafficking and are unable to protect the children and women from becoming trafficking victims. With assistance from the United Nations, Cameroon has continued to work towards eliminating trafficking by aligning its laws and regulations with international law to ensure that the trafficking of persons undergoes criminalization. Working closely with NGOs as well as intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) such as The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Cameroon hopes to eliminate human trafficking and continues to prioritize it as a primary issue.

Ariana Chin
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Belize
Within a short distance of the Caribbean sea sits Belize, a small country with dense jungles, ancient ruins and tourist resorts. But recently, the coastal country has received classification on the Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking. However, the country is paying attention to human trafficking in Belize amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Its government is actively employing new strategies to relinquish this human rights violation.

The main targets of human trafficking in Belize are women and children. Traffickers often lure them into trafficking with promises of gainful employment. According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 50,000-100,000 women and children become trafficking victims annually.

The Human Trafficking Institute

Belize is on the Tier 2 Watch List according to the U.S. Department of State, meaning it does not meet the necessary requirements to prevent human trafficking. The minimum requirements for a Tier 1 ranking include meeting all standards that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act sets. These standards include decreasing the population of trafficking victims from the previous year, reporting all trafficked victims to appropriate officials and following the judicial system.

Seeking to eliminate Human Trafficking in Belize are the staff at the Human Trafficking Institute (HTI). The institute first emerged in 2015 and has been working toward implementing anti-trafficking laws and prosecuting traffickers to the fullest extent. The institute has made long strides to improve the overall safety in the community. On March 10, 2020, the country celebrated its second conviction, which found Rosa Anita Garcia Julian guilty of two counts of human trafficking. This proved to be a major milestone for the country, as it was the first conviction since 2016.

Most recently, HTI has partnered with Uganda to fight human trafficking. Over 2020, it helped rescue over 130 victims. Its new CEO, Victor Boutros, says changes need to occur in the way government addresses human trafficking. Through international diplomacy, governments could start contracts that commit to the overall safety and protection of victims of human traffickers. Government involvement is crucial in stopping human trafficking.

Importance of Biometrics

Higher conviction rates often lead to lower criminal activity. Technology is helping to prevent further injustices: an example of this technology in action is personal biometric data. Personal biometric data is any unique physical characteristic, like fingerprints, which can lead to convictions.

This data is also stored for future use. A prosecutor can use a fingerprint from 1990 to secure a conviction in a current case. Statistics can help pinpoint problem areas. Statistics track and monitor problem areas and also help to identify victims of human trafficking. Computers can recreate a single photograph of a child at age 10 to show what the child would look like 5 years later. This use of data and biometrics helps to identify and help victims.

Belize’s TIP Ranking

A yearly report tracks progress in lowering human trafficking rates. The TIP, or Trafficking in Persons Report, tracks each country’s progress ranking them in either Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 categories. Belize remained in the Tier 2 Watch List category for 2020 but is making fast progress to reach Tier 1 status to end human trafficking in Belize. Together, with the help of its government and police officials, it should be able to achieve this goal.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Costa Rica
Known as one of the ultimate vacation destinations, Costa Rica is a place of beautiful scenery, tourist hotspots and lively culture. However, Costa Rica needs to address human trafficking. Human trafficking in Costa Rica is one of the only areas in which the country falls short in comparison to its Central American neighbors. When it comes to GDP, level of happiness, human development and corruption, Costa Rica performs quite well. Here is some insight into human trafficking in Costa Rica and why it is so prevalent.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 aids the U.S. government’s anti-trafficking efforts by providing the implements necessary to monitor and combat trafficking across the world and in the United States. The amended act authorized the establishment of The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) as well as the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).

Every year, the Secretary of State submits a TIP report ranking a list of countries requiring special scrutiny. The Secretary of State ranks each country or territory in one out of four tiers.

  • Tier 1: Countries and territories that have governments that fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards.
  • Tier 2: Countries and territories that have governments that do not fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards, but are taking significant steps to meet the requirements.
  • Tier 2 Watchlist: Countries and territories that are in Tier 2 and are increasing in the estimated number of trafficking victims without taking proportional actions or the country or territory’s government and failing to provide sufficient evidence of increasing efforts in combating human trafficking from the previous year.
  • Tier 3: Countries and territories that possess governments that do not fully comply with TVPAs minimum standards and are not making any efforts to do so.

The Situation in Costa Rica

In 2020, Costa Rica was in Tier 2 under the TVPA. If human trafficking in Costa Rica does not show increasing progress over the next few years, it could fall to Tier 3. Not only does Tier 3 mean international disrepute, but it has serious economic consequences in regards to foreign assistance. Efforts to decrease human trafficking in Costa Rica include:

  • Increasing victim identification.
  • Investigating and convicting more traffickers.
  • Making human trafficking cases among its top priorities.
  • Using a larger percentage of its anti-trafficking budget.

Prioritized Recommendations for the Costa Rican Government

Although these steps by the Costa Rican government are significant, the country is falling short in some areas. The TIP report for Costa Rica includes “Prioritized Recommendations.” Here are some recommendations that Costa Rica could undertake:

  • Increase anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors and judges.
  • Intensify investigation efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses.
  • Fund and implement a judicial action plan for investigations and prosecutions.
  • Coordinate with civil society to increase victim identification.
  • Reduce the number of trafficking cases that are experiencing a backlog in the judicial system.
  • Strengthen efforts to convict child sex tourists.

Factors of Human Trafficking in Costa Rica

Due to a lack of resources and job opportunities, systematic inequality and poverty most frequently link to human trafficking. Even though Costa Rica is among the least poor countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it has not seen much economic growth since 2010, and about 21% of its population lives in poverty.

Another factor contributing to human trafficking in Costa Rica is its prostitution laws. Although the facilitation and promotion of prostitution are illegal, the act of prostitution is not a crime. This makes Costa Rica reputable as a sex tourism destination. It is the number one destination in Central America for sex tourism. The legality of prostitution makes corruption easy in regards to trafficking minors as well as making sex establishments more accessible.

Behind drugs, human trafficking is the second-most profitable illegal industry. According to The International Labor Organization (ILO), profits from human trafficking are around $150 billion annually. The high earnings of the industry are another factor that promotes human trafficking in Costa Rica.

There are also cultural factors that affect human trafficking in Costa Rica. For instance, Costa Rica has a strong presence of masculinity. As a result, many men in Costa Rica view women as sexual objects. Factors such as traditional gender views, sexual harassment and domestic violence strengthen the systematic inequality in Costa Rica and put women at more risk for exploitation.

Taking Action

Multiple institutions are coordinating together to prevent human trafficking in Costa Rica. The National Coalition against Illicit Smuggling and Trafficking of Migrants (CONATT) coordinates short and long-term assistance to trafficking victims in the form of shelter, food and medical care. Chaired by Migration Authority, CONATT comprises 22 public institutions, key NGOs and international organizations. They meet periodically to review progression in areas such as research, prevention, protection and prosecution. They take action to raise awareness via workshops, fairs, advertisements and training on how to identify and prevent trafficking. As these preventative measures continue, Costa Rica could be on its way to Tier 1 placement under the TVPA.

– Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Rescue Stories from the Nazarene Fund
The Nazarene Fund is an organization that focuses on rescuing people in captivity. This includes victims of sex slavery, the labor trade, organ harvesting and trafficking. The Nazarene Fund trains operators to lead these missions. These operators travel to the Middle East, Africa, Haiti and other regions of the world to rescue people. Here are some of The Nazarene Fund’s rescue stories.

Sonia’s Story

ISIS captured Sonia and her entire family when she was only 4 years old. Her family lived in Wardya, a village in Sinjar. ISIS abducted them from their home in 2014. Sonia became separated from her siblings. Later, traffickers imprisoned her in Mosul. Additionally, a family bought Sonia in Mosul nine months later. This family treated her as a slave during the five years they held her captive. The family and Sonia disappeared after ISIS’s defeat in Mosul. Thus, the Nazarene Fund launched a search mission for Sonia. Eventually, the organization found her in an orphanage in Mosul and reunited her with her already rescued family.

Halima’s Story

The second of The Nazarene Fund’s rescue stories has to do with Halima, a 22-year-old Yazidi woman. Traffickers abducted Halima in Turkey. She spent six years in captivity until The Nazarene Fund rescued her in July 2020. ISIS fighters kidnapped Halima and 18 relatives from her village in northern Iraq. Halima was only 16 years old. She was then enslaved and suffered from violence, abuse and exploitation for five years. ISIS made its last territorial stand in Baghuz, Syria in 2019. Moreover, Halima resided there along with other Yazidi women and children. Later, traffickers planned to sell her as a slave or harvest her organs. Fortunately, The Nazarene Fund intervened and reunited her with her family.

Mayada’s Story

Mayada Abo Chehwan is a 50-year-old Syrian woman born in the District of Hama. Her husband is a pharmacist and she has two daughters. However, everything changed when ISIS attacked. Bombs destroyed Mayada’s home and her husband’s pharmacy. As a result, they fled their home and sold their belongings to survive. The family spent months in neighboring towns and in Lebanon. They eventually returned home. However, the shelling of the town forced the family to flee again. Thus, they sought refuge in Iraq.

One of her daughters was diagnosed with diabetes and the other with severe anxiety. Meanwhile, her husband became partially paralyzed from heart disease. The daughters experienced sexual harassment and threats that others would sell them sex slavery while they searched for jobs. Mayada was becoming desperate. Thankfully, The Nazarene Fund operatives successfully relocated the family to housing in a safe area and provided them with the care and assistance they needed. The Nazarene Fund operatives continue to support the family and are helping them immigrate to Australia.

These are just a few of The Nazarene Fund’s rescue stories. The organization strives to help people who are in desperate need of assistance. Its goal is to rescue people who cannot help themselves and assist them in maintaining a safe, healthy life.

– Marcella Teresi
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Human Trafficking in Sudan
Even with recent efforts to eradicate human trafficking in the impoverished country of Sudan, progress is still necessary. The nation still receives several cases of child smuggling reports every year. To fully comprehend the severity of this issue, one must first look at the recorded history of human trafficking in Sudan.

History of Trafficking in Sudan

Human trafficking in Sudan has been a major issue since the 1980s, and the country has since developed into a human trafficking hub. From child trafficking and trading to women’s sexual slavery, it has become increasingly difficult to combat the issue. Not only do traffickers traffick individuals at a concerning frequency in Sudan, but there is also a concerning number of underground trafficking operations.

Unfortunately, many cases in Sudan slip between the cracks of the more generalized definition of human trafficking. As of recently, an increasing number of cases involving the luring of victims under false pretenses has occurred. For example, several human smuggling cases specifically have reported that younger victims received promises of false employment opportunities. In reality, the smugglers were transporting the children for child labor.

Human Trafficking and Poverty

Domestic slavery, as well as sexual slavery featuring Sudanese women and migrants, is another form of human trafficking. This greatly contributes to the current socio-economic environment of Sudan. In efforts to deflate the national currency, traffickers sell and trade these people, predominantly women and children, for ransom. Most of these cases also occur within the country’s borders, and many often witness their existence. Because of the frequency at which cases of human trafficking in Sudan occur, the general public shows signs of becoming desensitized.

Speculation has emerged that one may attribute the disparity between the number of human trafficking cases that occur versus the number of cases being reported to internal issues. The corruption of the Sudanese government, as well as the current economic state of the country, only increases the severity of the issue. Approximately 47% of the Sudanese population lives in poverty, which is an additional motive behind the traffickers asking for ransom.

Taking Action

As of 2014, however, the Sudanese parliament passed its first-ever act to recognize human trafficking: the Combating of Human Trafficking Act. In 2019, the country developed strategies to address and prevent human trafficking. The protection of victims, as well as the influx of resources going toward the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT), has greatly improved the status of Sudan. According to the U.S. State Department, “Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) officials launched a unit to lead the government’s child protection efforts in conflict areas and provided training to more than 5,000 members of its military on child protection issues, including child soldiering.”

This act working to prevent human trafficking has greatly benefited the overall development of the impoverished country of Sudan. Additionally, bringing awareness to the urgency of this problem is one of the first steps toward bringing Sudan out of extreme poverty.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Misconceptions of Human Trafficking
An estimated 25 million individuals are trafficked globally on any given day. About 5.4 people per every 1,000 people in the world were victims in 2016. Additionally, one in four of these victims were children and three in four were women or girls. Approximately 89 million people have experienced some form of human trafficking within the last five years. Some victims suffer for a few days while others suffer for several years. Human trafficking is widespread and pervasive, and it is imperative that people understand the problem before addressing it. There are several common misconceptions of human trafficking that can make it difficult to identify and provide relief to victims. Here are five of these misconceptions.

5 Common Misconceptions of Human Trafficking

  1. Human Trafficking is Always Violent and Involves the Use of Force: Human trafficking is more than just kidnapping. The United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.” Human trafficking also includes any commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, coercion in minors, as well as organ harvesting and the use of child soldiers. Kidnappings and abductions are not the only factors in classifying human trafficking, as people typically traffic victims through fraud or coercion. Many victims may lack the personal documents or financial resources to escape. They may also fear for their safety.
  2. Human Trafficking Only Involves Commercial Sex: Sex trafficking is the most sensationalized form of human trafficking in the news. However, experts believe that there are more instances of labor trafficking worldwide. It is difficult to measure the scope of labor trafficking because sex trafficking cases receive more attention from the media and law enforcement. Labor trafficking receives less awareness largely due to this misconception of human trafficking.
  3. Human Trafficking Only Happens in Illegal Industries: Illicit and legal industries both report cases of human trafficking. Trafficked individuals often work alongside free employees. Some of the many legitimate industries in which trafficked individuals might work include restaurants, hotels, cleaning services, agriculture, construction and factories. However, people can also be exploited for criminal activity such as in street-level drug distribution businesses and cross-border drug smuggling schemes. Gang and drug dealing activity often occurs alongside sex trafficking business models as well.
  4. Human Trafficking Only Happens in Developing Nations: Both developed and developing nations experience human trafficking. Depending on their vulnerabilities, certain individuals are at a higher risk of being trafficked. Rachel Parker, the Program Manager of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division at World Relief Triad, told The Borgen Project these vulnerabilities include poverty, lack of education, violence and gang activity. She highlighted that native populations are an especially vulnerable demographic. Additionally, Parker noted familial factors, including having “too many mouths to feed” or parent-child separation as a result of immigrating in search of work. Lastly, she cited institutional variables such as a “lack of appropriate government support” as risk factors.
  5. Individuals Being Trafficked Always Want To “Get Out”: Victims of human trafficking do not always identify themselves as victims. Every trafficking situation is complicated and unique. Perpetrators often manipulate victims into human trafficking. In addition, some experience shame, guilt, fear and even feelings of loyalty towards their trafficker. These circumstances can prevent a victim from seeking help. Parker states, “Even if they don’t see [trafficking] as the worst thing to happen to them, we still have to respond.” She says they often see this in cases with minors who have experienced other traumas such as sexual assault. They might see their trafficking situation as the lesser of two evils. Parker emphasized that this is one of the largest misconceptions of human trafficking: the question of “Why didn’t they leave?”

Parker stated the one thing she wishes she could tell everyone about human trafficking is that “it is a crime of egregious exploitation, and if unaddressed in partnership throughout the world, it will continue to grow.” Furthermore, she emphasized that people should not fight by themselves, but that “the community and world need to take responsibility.” For example, governments can work with local providers to disseminate information, attend to gang violence and develop service infrastructure for survivors.

Human trafficking is a global problem that requires global solutions. First, however, education and awareness must eradicate misconceptions of human trafficking. Only then, can this widespread issue be adequately addressed.

– Margot Seidel
Photo: Flickr

Women in BarbadosHuman trafficking is prevalent in the Caribbean, including the island of Barbados. Trafficking is the act of transporting a person with the intention of forced or coerced labor. Research conducted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU) indicates that women’s involvement in drug trafficking is more prevalent among those who are uneducated and live in circumstances of poverty with little economic opportunity. The financial rewards of drug trafficking are appealing to women dealing with extreme economic hardship and poverty. Women are involved in trafficking more often than men. Specifically, mothers fall victim to trafficking to take care of their children and help their families out of poverty. Anti-trafficking efforts support women in Barbados and other Caribbean islands.

Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership

The Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership (CIWiL), together with several partners, works to create a more favorable environment for female leadership. The CIWiL is a multi-partisan organization without political affiliations that strengthens female leaders’ decision-making in Barbados. Its work is primarily achieved through building initiatives. Currently, webinars are accessible through the CIWiL website. The webinars are about leadership, politics and socio-economic subjects. The website has other political and economic resources such as initiatives for Young Women in Leadership (YWiL) in the Caribbean. One of these initiatives took place in October 2020 in Antigua and Barbuda. This program worked on building personal development skills for women ages 18 to 25 who are actively passionate about public leadership.

Efforts to Support Entrepreneurship

In July 2011, the CIWiL began its activity in Barbados to support events and initiatives that empower female entrepreneurs. In February of the same year, the Barbados government’s Bureau of Gender Affairs held a workshop to celebrate the Day of Women of the Americas for Leaders. The workshop hosted women in the Caribbean who are actively aspiring political or public leaders, helping them learn and build on their leadership skills. The Bureau is confident that supporting entrepreneurship will aid women in Barbados and be an efficient way to combat human trafficking. Developing the country’s economy helps decrease poverty in the country. Providing outlets for businesses to grow also creates significant opportunities for women to explore healthier income avenues.

HIV/AIDS Prevention

The Caribbean is leading at number two for the highest HIV/AIDs prevalence rate in the world. USAID launched a five-year initiative in 2015 to support the Caribbean’s efforts to combat the virus. The Bureau of Gender Affairs declares women’s health a pertinent issue, that if addressed, will support women trafficked in Barbados. From July to September 2011, the Bureau conducted a series of workshops addressing HIV/AIDS. The workshops discussed women’s susceptibility to HIV/AIDS and how to create more awareness and understanding of the topic. The event successfully implemented supportive measures for women in Barbados, including educational tools.

Barbados-United States Partnership

The U.S. Embassy Bridgetown Public Affairs Section (PAS) is trying to implement a new fixed grant system for Barbados. There are about 24 grants awarded for up to $24,000 each. These grants hope to strengthen the Barbados relationship with the U.S. Department of State. The more economically beneficial relationships Barbados has, the greater the opportunity to decrease poverty. Providing women trafficked in Barbados with more options for quality work is imperative to stop the lure of trafficking.

Commitment to Anti-Human Trafficking

Barbados will continue to be successful with its measures to support women and stop human trafficking. The Bureau of Gender Affairs is putting stress on expanding women’s economic status through productive initiatives that provide more opportunities for women in Barbados vulnerable to human trafficking. These anti-human trafficking efforts are the start of increased female empowerment in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Guatemala
Human trafficking is a large and lucrative industry, generating approximately $31.6 billion in international markets annually. Of that $31.6 billion, about $1.3 billion, or just over 4%, is dependent on trafficking from Latin America. Of all the countries within Latin America, human trafficking has impacted Guatemala especially heavily, with an overwhelming number of victims being girls between the ages of 14 and 17. In fact, Guatemala currently ranks as a Tier 2 country according to the Trafficking in Persons 2020 report. This means that it does “not yet meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking … but [is] showing great strides to do so.” Guatemala has dealt with a number of hardships in the past decade, from massive tax fraud by a former president that reignited political instability to a low-growing economy that the COVID-19 pandemic is now challenging.

Human Trafficking in Guatemala

The lack of stability, both economic and political, creates the ideal situation for human traffickers to thrive. Economically, Guatemala falls very low on the region’s GDP chart ranking 131 among 187 countries in the world in 2016 and representing one of the lowest GDPs on the continent. This economic instability makes living in Guatemala more difficult and more dangerous. According to The World Bank, even though Guatemala’s economy has increased marginally in recent years, the hope of continued newly emerging economic stability has not translated into a decrease in poverty or inequality. The lack of legitimate opportunities present in Guatemala, which is increasing because of COVID-19, is forcing many families to consider other options.

According to Polaris, an NGO devoted to preventing human trafficking and supporting victims of trafficking, the “single biggest factor contributing to trafficking vulnerability [in Latin American cases] is migration.” Additionally, for the Northern Triangle, which includes Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and is “one of the most violent regions in the world,” migration rates are steep. The actual number of trafficking cases is hard to measure; traffickers are transporting some victims, who are not necessarily Guatemalan, through Guatemala. With the help of the 2009 anti-sex trafficking law that the Guatemalan government passed, however, the number of investigated cases is rising. Over the past four years, over 100 prosecutions successfully convicted traffickers and Guatemala is making continued efforts every year.

Solutions

Despite all of this, a number of NGOs are doing what they can to support Latin Americans and Guatemalans. Combatting human trafficking in Guatemala starts with providing struggling families with a sense of stability and hope. Four NGOs, WingsGuate, Ninos De Guatemala, Common Hope and Safe Passage are leading the way on that front; each of them is building programs to assist their impacted communities, focusing especially on their younger and more vulnerable populations. For Guatemalan families, WingsGuate is offering reproductive health courses as well as regular appointments for cervical cancer screenings; the organization has provided over 62,000 screenings since its founding. Ninos De Guatemala, Common Hope and Safe Passage all focus on providing children with resources in the form of immediate access to food items and quality education for children.

Combined, these organizations reach more than 15,000 children and families a year, providing elementary school programs to children and high school level classes to parents. Less than 45% of Guatemalan children go above elementary level education, but 90%-95% of children participating in these programs move forward in their education. For parents, the direct impact of these education programs is a tripled income and the ability to provide more resources to their children.

By providing minors with safe spaces where they can meet their most immediate needs and their families the opportunity to increase education and employment, NGOs like these help break the cycles of abuse. All of these NGOs provide the critical foundations necessary to keep families in place, lessening their chances of migration and greatly reducing their chances of becoming victims of human trafficking.

Looking Ahead

Although Guatemala has not yet been moved from Tier 2 regarding human trafficking, it is making efforts to reduce it. As the government of Guatemala continues to pursue this goal, organizations like WingsGuate, Ninos De Guatemala, Common Hope and Safe Passage are rekindling hopes for the younger generations of Guatemala.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Turkey
Human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation” according to the United Nations. People from all different backgrounds and children of all ages can become victims of human trafficking and this crime exists in every region of the world. The Trafficking in Person Report (TIP Report) determined Turkey was a Tier 2 country in 2020. In the last years, the country’s government has demonstrated overall positive efforts toward eliminating human trafficking in Turkey but its tier ranking has remained the same since 2013. The government did not meet requirements in several areas as prosecutors and judges frequently lack experience, cases often undergo dismissal and victims and witnesses often do not participate in court.

Victims of Human Trafficking in Turkey

Victims of human trafficking in Turkey are mainly from Central and South Asia, Eastern Europe, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Morocco and Syria. In recent years, the government of Turkey has faced problems regarding displaced Syrians ending up as trafficking victims due to vulnerability. Syrian refugees, including children, participate in the labor market which involves street begging.

Turkey’s Measures to Fight Human Trafficking

In 2002, the Turkish government established The National Task Force on Fight against Human Trafficking to effectively and strategically combat the issue. From 2002 on, The National Task Force prepared two National Action Plans in the fight against human trafficking in Turkey. The National Action Plans aimed to achieve appropriate international standards in the fight against human trafficking, erase human trafficking in Turkey and strengthen the relationship between government authorities and the local community.

On the other hand, Turkey signed the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Supplementary Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in March 2003. The Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is the central international instrument in the action against organized crime. The purpose of this convention is to develop cooperation between countries and combat organized crime effectively. The objective of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children is:

  1. “To prevent and combat trafficking in persons, paying particular attention to women and children
  2. To protect and assist the victims of such trafficking, with full respect for their human rights and
  3. To promote cooperation among States Parties in order to meet those objectives”

Additionally, Turkey, being a transit and a destination country, became a signatory to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in March 2009. The primary purpose of this convection is to fight against human trafficking while guaranteeing gender equality and the protection of human rights. Turkey adopted its efforts to international standards and performs actions against human trafficking in four main areas: prevention, protection, prosecution and cooperation.

Prevention

To prevent human trafficking in Turkey, the Turkish government created the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act 2014 and established cooperation between the public sector and private sectors. In 2019, 3,001 selected staff participated in training focusing on the issue. Also, a documentary about the victims of human trafficking broadcasted on national channels in 2018. The authorities have declared that Turkey has a high level of cooperation with NGOs and public institutions regarding this matter.

Protection

Identifying and defining a human trafficking victim is the first step in the field of protection. In Turkey, specially trained individuals execute identification procedures. Turkish authorities interviewed 4,500 potential victims of human trafficking; it identified 134 as victims in 2019. Based on the regulations, foreign citizens who suffered from human trafficking in Turkey must stay in special shelters. However, Turkish citizens and child victims must be under the protection of the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services.

Another important factor of protection is the voluntary and safe return program. The country can only return the victim to his/her country of origin in the scope of the voluntary and return program. Turkey is carrying out the program in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Prosecution and Cooperation

The prosecution is one of the most decisive procedures regarding fighting against human trafficking. Article 80 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalizes the trafficking of human beings and envisages a criminal penalty from eight to 12 years of imprisonment and up to 10,000 days of judicial fines.

On the other hand, Turkey signed bilateral agreements with Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Ukraine to tackle human trafficking on the regional and international level. Also, Turkey has established security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries. All of these agreements include articles about the development of cooperation against illegal migration and human trafficking.

Conclusion

Due to the geographical location and regional conflicts, human trafficking in Turkey remains a problem. However, it is important to mention that Turkey is taking the necessary measures to fight against it. Moreover, because of the scope of the crime, it is hard to see instant results. Turkey is trying to follow regulations and is prioritizing the Convention that it ratified in 2003.

– Tofig Ismayilzada
Photo: Pixabay