Social inequality in GermanyResearch shows that levels of social inequality in Germany could increase COVID-19 transmission rates among people experiencing poor living and working conditions. Evidence does not conclusively determine that poverty directly causes Germany’s COVID-19 cases. However, it is apparent to scientists and medical professionals that a large number of COVID-19 patients come from low socioeconomic standing. In 2015, 2.8 million German children were at risk of poverty. The influx of migrants flowing into Germany has also increased rates of poverty in Germany.

Poverty and COVID-19

According to the CIA World Factbook, 14.8% of the German population lives below the poverty line as of June 2021. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the North Rhine-Westphalia area has the highest number of COVID-19 cases. The area is home to Gelsenkirchen, the most impoverished German city based on a 2019 report by the Hans Böckler Foundation.

Risks of Overcrowding

Overcrowded living areas are more susceptible to airborne illnesses, medical sociologist Nico Dragono said in an interview with The Borgen Project. In 2019, 8% of Germans lived in overcrowded dwellings, meaning there were fewer rooms compared to inhabitants. This percentage has increased in recent years, according to Statistisches Bundesamt (German Federal Office of Statistics).

In November 2020, statistics showed that 12.7% of the population residing in cities lived in overcrowded dwellings. Comparatively, 5.5% reside in small cities or suburbs and 4% reside in rural areas. Dragono says that social inequality in Germany plays a significant role in the spread of disease across the country’s large cities. This especially impacts those living in close proximity to others. “Infections clustered in the areas of the city where the poor live because there simply was no space,” Dragono says. He says further that with many people living in one household, traveling to school, work and other places holds an increased risk of bringing infections into the home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on February 26, 2021, that COVID-19 is transferable through respiratory droplets from people within close proximity of each other. This puts those in poverty at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Those living in areas such as refugee camps and impoverished neighborhoods are especially vulnerable. Therefore, social inequality in Germany may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Migrants Potentially at Higher Risk

Dragono says that, unlike the United States, Germany does not document patients’ ethnicities. In other words, Germany cannot collect the demographics of who contracts COVID-19. He said it appears the association between COVID-19 and social inequality in Germany is universal for migrants and non-migrants. However, many hospitals across Germany reported that close to 90% of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit have an immigrant background, according to Deutsche Welle.

“Migrants are more often poor because they do many of the bad jobs,” Dragono says. There are indications that COVID-19 is more prevalent in the areas inhabited by migrants. “Migrant workers, as they grow older, many have diseases, because in general, they are doing hard work… so their hospitalization rates could be a bit higher.” Dragono says Germans’ social status and income determine how much access they have to quality resources. It is easier for upper-class citizens to purchase masks and use personal travel and they do not have to rely on public transportation or low-quality protective gear.

On June 5, 2021, the German health ministry came under fire regarding a report that dictated its plan to dispose of unusable face masks by giving them to impoverished populations. However, the health ministry released a statement that all of its masks are high quality and receive thorough testing. Any defective masks are put into storage.

Assistance From Caritas Germany

As the virus continues to spread, many organizations are extending assistance to disadvantaged citizens in Germany. Some services translate COVID-19 information into migrants’ languages or modify other services to fit COVID-19 guidelines. Caritas Germany, one of the largest German welfare organizations, typically operates childcare services, homeless shelters and counseling for migrants.

To comply with COVID-19, Caritas began offering online services such as therapy and counseling. The organization also travels to low-income areas and focuses on providing personal protective equipment to those working with the elderly. Many Caritas volunteers use technology to maintain distance while also maintaining communication with patients. Since the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of volunteers have trained in online counseling.

However, Dragono says that while the country has systems in place to avoid broadening the poverty gap, the serious implications of COVID-19 on social inequality in Germany are yet to emerge. Fortunately, organizations are committed to mitigating some of the impacts of COVID-19 on disadvantaged people in Germany.

– Rachel Schilke
Photo: Unsplash

Humanitarian Crisis in Ceuta and MelillaCeuta and Melilla are two enclave coastal Spanish cities in North Africa. They have often been the final stage for thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers looking to reach Europe.  Migrant numbers have been increasing recently, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla.

History of Ceuta and Melilla

After the 15th century fall of Islamic conquest in Spain, the Spanish Christians retook the Iberian Peninsula and widened the territory to include Ceuta in 1479 and Melilla in 1668. Both cities entered European Union (EU) territory along with Spain in 1986.

In 2005, Spain erected a 20-foot-high fence surrounding Ceuta and Melilla to stop migrants from entering the cities. The fence is topped with barbed wire, hundreds of surveillance cameras and approximately a thousand police and Guardia civil units. Since the fence’s construction, the number of migrants crossing through the cities has only increased. In May, 8-10,000 migrants crossed the borders. Some migrants even swam around the fence that separates Morocco from Ceuta and Melilla.

Reasons for Increased Migration

There are two major reasons behind this increase in migrants. The first reason is the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 severely affected the Moroccan economy. Hence, thousands of citizens crossed the Spanish border looking for better economic conditions and social stability.

The second reason is illegal smuggling. Morocco recently took action against the smuggling trade. Illicit smuggling negatively impacted the country’s economy. Despite this harm, smuggling was the main economic source for Ceuta and Melilla along with many northern Moroccan cities. The full shutdown of this trade left citizens in extreme financial deprivation, which led many of them to migrate.

Government Actions

The influx of thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers into Spain’s enclaves created panic among Spanish authorities, who sent the military to deal with the crisis. Subsequently, the military attacked, beat and tear-gassed migrants to deter them from entering the Spanish cities. This reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla has sparked backlash, especially from nonprofit organizations due to violations of EU law and other legal procedures.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization CEAR said that Spanish authorities sent back thousands of migrants, including children, who were supposed to have protection under Spanish law. The President of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, said that the autonomous community in Spain is willing to shelter migrant children as a “moral imperative” during a parliamentary debate. In contrast, the far-right Vox party’s Ignacio Garriga supported the army’s use of violence against migrants. Additionally, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor warned Spain against violence and suggested providing safe and legal procedures to migrants pursuing protection during the humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla.

Volunteer Actions

American Red Cross spokeswoman Isabel Brasero, who helped fatigued migrants in Ceuta, said “the city has the means to take care of all the people that arrived at its shores, but you never imagine that you will face this type of situation.” After the military intervention, volunteers in Ceuta donated clothes and cooked food for the migrants. Locals in Ceuta showed solidarity with the migrants and attended the funeral of a teenager who died swimming around the breakwater to Ceuta.

Ceuta and Melilla witnessed a humanitarian crisis that created chaos and outrage in Spain, which caused military action. Nonprofits, volunteers and many others are actively working to help migrants affected by the aftermath of the crisis.

Zineb Williams

Photo: Flickr

Open ArmsFor many Africans, the Mediterranean Sea is a symbol of social, cultural and financial freedom. Those who choose to migrate across it are often fleeing poverty or conflict. For them, traversing the Mediterranean Sea is not a choice but a necessity. The treacherous journey to reach Europe comes with many obstacles. More than 20,000 people fleeing poverty and crisis in Africa have died in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the rate of Africans leaving in search of better opportunities. Africans from Libya often undertake these endeavors. With an unemployment rate of 18.56% in 2019, Libyans experience one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. For many Libyans, these conditions necessitate the treacherous migrant journey to Europe. Open Arms works to protect the lives of those in danger at sea.

The Open Arms Organization

Sailing across the Mediterranean Sea is a dangerous undertaking. For an individual to choose to sail across the Mediterranean Sea, their situation must be dire. Many Africans embark on the journey knowing that they may not make it. Open Arms is a nonprofit organization specializing in rescuing people who are stranded at sea. The organization also works to help these survivors adapt to their new country of refuge.

Open Arms considers the Mediterranean Sea “the largest mass grave on the planet.” Open Arms works to save African migrants that end up adrift at sea. Through donations, the organization can conduct rescue and surveillance activities in the Mediterranean Sea. The funds help pay for a captain, medical staff, the transport and basic needs of volunteer lifeguards, boat maintenance and more. In 2019 alone, the Open Arms vessel managed to rescue more than 324 people at sea.

The Origin Mission is dedicated to solving the problems that cause migration. According to Open Arms, “The best way to save lives is to go to the origin.” The Origin Mission includes training youth within Africa to become community leaders. These leaders spread awareness of the dangers and risks of irregular migration and educate people on alternative solutions. The leaders also spread awareness on opportunities in African countries that may influence some to stay in their home countries. In Senegal, the organization reformed a computer room and installed computers. Roughly 400 students received free courses in computer science and technology in 2020. Promoting development in the countries of origin is seen as a solution to migration.

Open Arms Supporters

Through successful programs and celebrity endorsements, Open Arms has become globally recognized. Celebrities all around Spain are staunch supporters of the group, including former Barcelona superstars Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol. One of the organization’s biggest supporters is Josep “Pep” Guardiola, the Manchester City Football Club manager. In a post-game interview, Guardiola stated, “The work that Open Arms does is extraordinary in helping to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Guardiola donated £130,000 to Open Arms in 2018 to repair a rescue vessel. The donation was just the start of Guardiola’s involvement in voicing his support for the organization. Along with the hefty and generous donation, Guardiola has also been seen wearing an Open Arms hoodie to bring greater attention to the organization. On one of the most influential platforms around the world, Guardiola has taken a firm stance to bring awareness to the organization’s mission.

Open Arms’ overall message is one of solidarity amid the refugee crisis. With support, the organization is able to protect the lives of migrants at sea and uphold the fundamental rights of people who seek a better life.

– Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

children in migration
In February 2021, the European Union announced the new E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme in collaboration with UNICEF and the U.N. Refugee Agency. This initiative aims to ensure protective services for migrant children. The year 2020 marked the highest migrant population ever recorded with 280.6 million people. Nearly 15% of this population are children under 19. Extra care is necessary to ensure this vulnerable group can receive proper protection.

Creating the Programme

Children in migration are often at risk of gender violence, physical harm and exploitation as they travel to their destination. This is due to the lack of resources, government protection and spending long periods in immigration detention facilities. The E.U. created its Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme to address these risks of abuse in order to better protect minors in these situations. These protections are especially crucial because of the rising number of unaccompanied children in migration.

The plans include training for government officials who work with migrating children, increasing awareness of gendered violence and alternative care plans for migrant children to replace traditional immigration detention. Efforts will go towards provided education for officials to recognize child abuse and learn proper intervention techniques for the child’s safety. The program will focus on the countries El Salvador, Mexico, South Africa and Zambia.

The program expects to use approximately €7.5 million in funding and already received €7 million from the European Union by its launch date. Hopes are high that the program will protect many children within its 30-month duration; in Mexico alone in 2019, an estimated 52,000 children had to migrate.

The Risk of Gender Violence for Children in Migration

Children in migration are incredibly vulnerable to gender violence. This consists most commonly of sexual violence and exploitation. Perpetrators can easily take advantage of children without families, safe housing options or defenses. Migrating children are often subject to rape, sexual assault or even human trafficking while traveling to their final destination.

Small case studies from around the world report high rates of migrant children experiencing gender-based and sexual violence. However, the exact rates are difficult to find because so many cases go unreported. Since most children in migration do not have legal protection or support, they do not report assaults in their destination country. Girls are more likely to face gender violence, but migrant boys also report high rates of sexual violence. While migrant boys and girls face different challenges, both need special protection.

Research found officials under-trained to properly care for abused children’s needs once they reach safety. Increasing psychosocial training to assist children with sexual abuse or trauma could better prepare officials in locating resources to aid the child’s mental or physical needs.

Options for Alternatives to Migrant Children in Detention

UNICEF has already been educating partners on alternatives to putting migrating children in immigration detention, especially when they do not have accompaniment. Some children in detention have even reported sexual abuse and neglect by center workers. They need special protection even in an environment catered towards caring for migrating children.

Instead, UNICEF’s recommendations include new foster care programs or homestays with families that are trained and willing to house unaccompanied minors or children whose parents have been detained in immigration detention. Additionally, referral networks must appraise migrants of their rights and point children in migration towards protective environments.

Hope for Migrating Children

While the E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme is focusing on only four countries in the world, the findings from this project can be instrumental in pioneering solutions for government officials and social workers across the world working to support children in migration. With increased intervention and assistance, children in migration can safely seek refuge without fear of abuse.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

Mayors Migration Council
As the name suggests, the Mayors Migration Council consists of a group of mayors from different corners of the world focused on the global response to migration. The goal of this council is to “empower and enable cities with access, capacity, knowledge, and connections to engage in migration diplomacy and policymaking at the international, regional and national level.” This collaborative effort includes mayors from Zurich, Milan, Montreal, Freetown and Los Angeles and multiple others.

Mayors Migration Council

Recently, the Mayors Migration Council launched a $1 million initiative focused on assisting with needs for internally displaced people (IDPs). This initiative comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide support for migrant and refugee populations worldwide. It has focused efforts on Barranquilla, Colombia; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Beirut, Lebanon; Mexico City, Mexico and Lima, Peru. These cities with high populations of at-risk migrant peoples are provided direct financial support focused on urban areas. In these urban areas, the World Bank projects that communities may lose 15%-25% of total government revenues through 2021.

As government budgets undergo decimation as a result of the pandemic, this program provides support on projects “related to public health, employment, livelihoods, and social protection to mitigate the health crisis and its socio-economic impacts.” These focus areas are a direct illustration of the goal of this council. They hope to provide access to COVID-19 services as well as work with migrants to have a positive impact on the pandemic situation through direct work opportunities.

UN-Habitat

Through a partnership with UN-Habitat, the Mayors Migration Council has been able to implement groundwork programs that directly affect the lives of these migrant populations. An organization with prior experience with improving urban communities, the UN-Habitat organization takes funds from the Mayors Migration Council and provides direct guidance for these funds. This includes allocating funds to local governments and providing governmental and technological support. In Beirut, UN-Habitat partnered with Mayor Jamal Itani to develop a mobile health clinic to provide free COVID-19. The clinic is available to migrants and refugees as well as the rest of the population.

Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees

This new initiative includes commitments from the 2018 Marrakech Mayors Declaration. This declaration established the Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees programs. It focuses on the role of the mayors involved and how they can directly impact migration-related issues. Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees further supports the mission of the Global Compact for Migration, a U.N. agreement “on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions.” This important initiative provides mayors in cities across the world a framework on how to handle migration as it happens, a vital framework before COVID-19 but especially amplified throughout the pandemic.

Proven Importance

With a multitude of different nations faced with political corruptness, violence, overall unrest, natural disasters and now the COVID-19 pandemic, large migrations of people will continue to occur. For the majority of nations, the current protocols for handling migration have plenty of room for improvement. These concerns are why a collaborative organization like the Mayors Migration Council is so important. It continues to provide adequate support and opportunities for all persons regardless of migration status. An organization comprised of mayors provides those with the political status to initiate change. Additionally, it offers a platform for meaningful discussion and collaboration between all corners of the world. This most recent million-dollar program further allows for increased national capabilities to handle these migration situations.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Sundarbans
The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world and home to 4.5 million people. Out of Sundarbans’ 102 islands, 54 between India and Bangladesh have inhabitants. Almost 70% of these Sundarbans live below the poverty line. To make matters worse, the region has suffered 13 supercyclones in the past 23 years, with the most recent occurring in 2020. To address the adversity that these people face, the governments of India and Bangladesh are exploring avenues to improve the evolving landscape of the Sundarbans.

The Situation in the Sundarbans

The islands act as a shield, protecting major areas of India and Bangladesh by taking the brunt of the cyclones. Since 2019 alone, the islands faced the wrath of cyclones Fani (May 2019), Bulbul (November 2019) and the lethal Amphan (May 2020). These cyclones constitute a concern for both the present and future. The islands have been unable to recuperate fully. The older cyclones destroyed their embankments, affected the salinity of the soil and overwhelmed their vulnerable agricultural economies.

The islands of the Sundarbans were able to act as a shield because of their previously dense mangrove cover. But now, that cover has experienced compromise due to the felling of trees and the increasing temperature of the water. The forest has also absorbed the continuous shocks of the onslaught of the cyclones. The environmental disasters quickly affected the Sundarbans’ economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, saturating the agricultural land with salt.

Advancing the Ongoing Work

The Government of West Bengal promised to plant five crore mangrove trees in the Sundarbans. Meanwhile, researchers have begun to look into a more realistic and sustainable approach called  Community Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR). To fight the salinity of the soil and economic hardships in the Sundarbans, scientists engineered several variants of “salt-tolerant rice varieties” at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI). Carlsberg, a major beverage company, is setting up Desolenator’s solar-power water purification system to turn saline water at Sundarbans into safe drinking water. Additionally, some are building barriers to limit human-tiger interactions with nets and embankments to prevent further damage from storms leading to salinity. Experts also seek alternatives to concrete embankments, which are non-cohesive to the environment and do not always withstand cyclones.

Migration Problems

According to the WWF, the Sundarbans house some of the poorest people in the world. This facilitates a low rank in human development indicators. The rampage of environmental disasters and human-animal conflict in the Sundarbans strongly affected the livelihood and the daily lives of the residents. This has led many to migrate from the islands to the mainland in search of work and shelter. An MIT study stated that if the trend of migration continues, it might be one of the largest populations in Asia to migrate due to the climate crisis. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many workers who had migrated returned to the landscape of the Sundarbans. As long as these sudden-onset disasters keep affecting the islands, people will continue looking for work on the mainland.

Planning a Retreat

Climate scientists predict that climate disasters will continue to affect the landscape of the Sundarbans and that these disasters may even increase in intensity. The poor, vulnerable and lower-caste population suffers the most from all of this. When discussing the current climate crisis, climate adaptation and planned or managed retreats serve as key components. However, moving about 1 million people away from danger zones presents some challenging logistics.

Policymakers from India and Bangladesh have proposed the Delta Vision 2050 to address this need. It is a step-by-step planned migration to move the 1 million living in vulnerable areas. However, concerns exist that the migration plans will not honor the people’s desires. To the islanders of the Sundarbans, the climate crisis is not the only threat they face. Residents urgently need to address the socio-political climate of the Sundarbans, not just the climate.

Opportunities for Community-led Tourism

The picturesque landscape of the Sundarbans makes it the perfect holiday destination for nature lovers. At the same time, it has the potential to generate substantial income for the community. If Bangladesh and India join hands to facilitate achievable standards of hospitality to attract tourists worldwide, the Sundarbans will not only experience an economic revival but also work towards a sustainably secure future.

Infrastructural hindrances like electricity, water-way transportation and effective communication are the key challenges to enhancing the tourist experience. Cooperation from the government, forest and transportation departments, community-based hospitality training exercises and collaboration with tourism will greatly advance the Sundarbans’ ecosystem.

The Importance of Community Involvement

Ashmita Biswas, a Climate Risk and Adaptation Consultant at CEEW, responded to The Borgen Project’s questions on the importance of involving the community in the Sundarbans. “It is imperative to involve local communities in any and every discussion which pertains to their surroundings, be it conservation or resilience, as they will be ones who will have to implement initiatives. Stakeholder engagements are important to identify constraints and tailor programs to make for sustainable initiatives. Without such conservations, there lies a risk of communities not understanding the importance of them, and, as a result, not following through with responsibilities. Stakeholder engagements also help to understand what might be key drivers that could motivate communities to take action. These action points are essential in ensuring the success of a plan or policy to create long-term sustainable impact and change.”

The Sundarbans are at the forefront of the climate crisis. Its geographic position has often exaggerated its already-present economic, social and developmental hardships. The interconnectedness of the ongoing crisis post-cyclone presents a cluster of islands full of people simultaneously recuperating from past disasters while bracing for future ones. The Sundarbans’ community members are key facilitators of the innovations that scientists, policymakers and NGOs have created. Their equal involvement and understanding of the Sundarbans will determine the future of the islands.

– Anuja Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Greece
The history of foreign aid to Greece dates back to the late 1940s and the Truman administration when the Marshall Plan underwent enactment. Although the Marshall Plan funding came to an end in 1951, the European nations collected almost $13 billion in aid. This money acquired shipments in fuel, food, machinery and more, creating investments in industrial capacity in Europe.

According to The George C. Marshall Foundation, between April 3, 1948, and June 30, 1952, the Marshall Plan provided grants to Greece in the amount of $706.7 million. Today, that would add over $69.7 million.

Council on Foreign Relations

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, in 1957, a common market-free area of trade emerged known as The Treaty of Rome. It led to the acceptance of Greece as the “10th member of the European Economic Community (EEC).”

The Council on Foreign Relations reported that in 1992, 12 member states of the ECC signed the Treaty of Maastricht forming the European Union (E.U.) and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). This led to the 1999 Euro currency in existence today.

However, as the Council on Foreign Relations reported, in 1999 Greece could not adopt the Euro currency because it could not meet the economic rules that the Maastricht established. All members must meet the fiscal criteria. This means inflation has to be, “below 1.5 percent, a budget deficit below 3 percent, and a debit-to-GDP ratio below 60 percent.”

How Geography Affects Foreign Aid

The need for foreign aid to Greece continues due to its geographic location. Greece is a destination for refugees and asylum seekers. According to The Library of Congress LAW, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the E.U. in 2011 found Greece was lacking in its ability to handle the influx of refugees. More reception centers are necessary to house them.

A plan proposal in 2010 led to more services for asylum seekers in Greece. Although the plan ultimately failed, some things underwent adoption such as Law 3907. It supplied more services such as appeals authority and first-line reception. In 2015, the influx of refugees overwhelmed Greece’s already inefficient system to fingerprint, register and house asylum seekers.

The humanitarian needs such as access to healthcare and education are great in reception centers for refugees. In 2016 the White House Press Secretary announced, “Since the start of Europe’s refugee crisis, the United States has contributed over $44 million in humanitarian aid through international organizations.”

Recent Actions

From 2014 to 2020, the Commission and European Union increased funding to Greece for asylum and immigration.

As a result, the Migration and Integration Fund provided Greece with €294.5 million (about $328 million). The Internal Security Fund – Borders and Visas presented €214.8 million (about $240 million). Another contribution under the European Refugee Fund was emergency funding of over €50.6 million Euros (about $56.5 million).

In 2019, the U.S. assisted Greece’s military when it signed a mutual defense cooperation agreement. The intention of this agreement is for the U.S. to spend on Greece’s military infrastructure.

The need to send foreign aid to Greece continues to grow especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Aljazeera reported, in September 2020, Greek authorities were still having trouble with overcrowding. It is still a struggle to house every migrant and refugee but with more funding, a change can hopefully occur.

– Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
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

The Role Poverty Plays in Human Trafficking in Aruba
Aruba currently ranks on the Tier 2 watchlist for human trafficking according to the United States Department of State. The Tier 2 rank means that a nation’s government does not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards of human trafficking prevention, although the nation in question is making substantial efforts to comply with these standards.

Countries typically end up on a watch list if the U.S. Department of State suspects they have severe or increasing levels of sex trafficking, or if they fail to provide substantial evidence of the work they are doing to prevent trafficking; the latter is a particular problem Aruba’s government faces. Aruba is attempting to make a difference in the way it attacks human trafficking. However, poverty is playing a considerable role in a way that Aruba’s current tactics are not prepared to handle.

The Causes of Sex Trafficking

In order to properly look at how sex trafficking is affecting people in Aruba, it is important to first acknowledge some of the root causes of trafficking. One of the main causes of sex trafficking is poverty. Sex traffickers will exploit low-income families struggling to provide for themselves by offering them false opportunities or offering to buy off their children. Poverty also affects other contributing factors such as lack of education or limited employment opportunities and leads to vulnerable people migrating to new places in search of a better life.

Another important factor to remember is that sex trafficking is able to thrive because an open market exists for it that thrives on traffickers’ fearlessness regarding law enforcement. If sex traffickers believe they can get away with their business, and people continue to contribute to the business, sex trafficking becomes a classic case of supply and demand. This is why education is also so critical to not only the victims but also government and law enforcement officials. If victims fear punishment from law enforcement, they may be less likely to try and reach out for help.

Sex Trafficking in Aruba

In Caribbean countries such as Aruba, women have had to become the primary source of income for their families, which leaves children alone and unsupervised. In some cases, these children may even take up jobs to provide support. Oftentimes, the “support” these children are providing is through sex trafficking.

Migrants in Aruba

Many of the victims of human trafficking in Aruba are foreign and predominantly Venezuelan. Due to political turmoil and socio-economic insecurity, millions of people are migrating out of Venezuela, many of whom are coming to Aruba on visas and remaining past the visa’s expiration. These foreign victims are more at risk due to their situation. As illegal migrants, fear of deportation to the country they fled from can be a powerful motive to do anything to stay. Traffickers frequently exploit people in these positions, believing law enforcement will not protect them.

Traffickers often lure foreign visitors or migrants with false promises. Some of these examples include “a weekend of free entertainment,” opportunities to learn English and openings at modeling agencies or other job-like positions. Another reason these people get sucked into sex trafficking is that they are drowning in debt. These innocent victims looking to make a better life for themselves end up getting trapped in trafficking schemes with seemingly no way out. The “unknown” of the world around them also affects the trust the victims have. Often, the fact that many of these victims are immigrants results in them having trouble placing their trust in officials trying to save them. The victims have had traffickers shatter their ability to trust, so they struggle to place this same trust in officials. For many victims, leaving human trafficking means no source of income and potential for deportation as well. As a result, human trafficking victims hold onto a sense of security in the system for fear of the unknown on the outside.

Aruba’s Measures to Prevent Human Trafficking

With a lack of support, the impoverished victims of human trafficking in Aruba are frequently reluctant to seek help. Aruba has several programs in place to aid in the fight against human trafficking.

  1. Aruba has different committees in place to end human trafficking. These include a Laws and Regulations Committee, Publicity and Awareness Committee, Victim Assistance Committee and Prostitution Policy Committee. Together, they attack the different roots of human trafficking in Aruba.
  2. Much of Aruba’s effort went toward protecting victims of sex trafficking through several different programs to ensure their safety. One particularly useful practice for Aruba has been relocating victims to another island. Options such as these can provide security to victims fearful of retribution. Other efforts in place to help victims included a referral mechanism to guide officials to recognize victims seeking assistance, as well as a hotline, a plan for the construction of a victim shelter and immigration relief. Alternative shelter accommodations underwent negotiation with local NGOs, and risk assessments occurred in order to ensure the safety of the victims within the shelters. This ensures that victims will have a place to turn to once they experience rescue, which may be a substantial need for impoverished victims in particular.
  3. Because many victims of sex trafficking in Aruba are migrants, Aruba also allocates resources and support to non-citizens. One example of this is a residence permit with which non-residents can register with the Census bureau and can receive government assistance normally only accessible to citizens such as healthcare and free legal assistance. This is especially good news for illegal Venezuelans who fear deportation as a result of seeking assistance.
  4. The taskforce’s preventative efforts include organizing campaigns and seminars to help the people of Aruba recognize human trafficking. These seminars go over being aware of the issues, informed about what the government is doing about human trafficking and know what actions to take if they see or experience it. Because of Aruba’s small size, newspaper publications covered the entire public outreach campaign. Social media posts, posters and flyers in four different languages also underwent utilization to spread important information about human trafficking in Aruba. Because of Aruba’s small size, newspaper publications covered the entire public outreach campaign. A local TV station in 2018 also produced a documentary on sex trafficking, an important tool that the government used to train local officials.

These efforts strongly contribute to fighting human trafficking on the educational front. By making people more aware of what trafficking situations they could find themselves in, as well as how to safely get out of them, Aruba is attacking human trafficking at its core. This weakens the power traffickers have over potential victims.

Looking Ahead

Although several programs are supporting victims of human trafficking in Aruba, much more support is necessary. Aruba must allocate more resources to areas like immigration structures and mechanisms, the regulation of prostitution and the escort business and overall human and financial resources in order to best employ its budget to stop human trafficking.

– Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr