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.


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.


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.


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

Migrants in ItalyIllegal immigration to Italy had been dropping significantly in recent years. The numbers went down from 181,000 in 2016 to 11,500 in 2019. However, in 2020, the number of migrants who landed in Italy by boat had risen by roughly 148%. This increase in numbers reignited negative attitudes toward immigration, which in the past had led to large-scale protests that called for stricter and more intensive migrant laws. In 2014, a mere 3% of people from a 999-person survey were bothered by migrants in Italy, however, by 2017, that number rose to 35% of those interviewed. The additional strain of COVID-19 increased the negative views already present, despite government insistence that migrants were but a smaller portion of the problem.

Immigration Policy in Italy

During the late 2010s, it was found that many in the Italian government were in favor of pushing for more emphasis on a migration-focused dialogue among the EU member states. The Italian government hoped that by communicating more with the countries of origin, it would be able to support migrants in a more humane manner that would give more control over the number of people on Italian land. The EU accepted several suggestions put forth by the non-paper called the Migration Contact. Some of these recommendations include urging greater investments in border control and security while also reaching out to readmission and resettlement programs to improve upon local asylum systems. This would give migrants better opportunities to return home should they be unable to stay or attain citizenship in Italy.

Slow Yet Steady Progress

Although the anti-immigration policies were strict, late 2020 and early 2021 have seen a slow but steady change to improve the laws that cracked down on those seeking asylum and any who tried to help them. The new legislation is currently taking steps to make it easier for migrants to become citizens and withdrawing orders given to coastal guards to harass those attempting to come ashore. One such action would be the reintroduction of special protection permits. This would be given to those who have relations with established Italian citizens, those with serious health issues (mental and physical) and people who do not meet asylum requirements but are escaping inhumane treatment in their homelands.

Current Migrant Policies

The political view toward immigration and migrants was originally negative, however, many in the government did not want to withdraw the extended helping hand from those who needed it. Italy’s current migrant laws have designated funds for integration policies, funding for language courses as well as intercultural activities, housing and educational purposes. The newer policies also want to focus on the risks involved when migrants come to Italy. This includes personal preferences such as refusing regular fingerprint collection, which used to lead to an immediate rejection of any requests for asylum.

Organizations Helping Migrants and Refugees in Italy

Organizations within Italy are working to provide the support that the government has not yet granted to refugees. Groups such as Choose Love, Donne di Benin City and Baobab Experience work within Rome and Palermo to ensure that migrants receive accommodation, food and clothing. The organizations also offer legal assistance so that individuals have better chances of gaining citizenship.

Choose Love has reached more than one million people through more than 120 projects in Italy and 14 other countries. These organizations help to fulfill the essential needs of migrants in Italy who are unable to return to their homelands and have no other means of support.

Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Conditions Improving in Lipa Migrant Camp
Deep in the snow in Bosnia’s Lipa migrant camp, hundreds of refugees huddle in wind-blown tents without food, water or heat. A fire outbreak destroyed the refugee camp in December 2020. The 1,700 inhabitants of the camp evacuated but, with nowhere else to go, 900 migrants returned to the remnants of the camp where they are now living in tents along steep wintery slopes.

Migrants Face Struggles

Many of the migrants in Lipa are coming from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Since the European Union shut its doors to new members in 2015, the migrants’ goal was to reach Croatia, which many see as a “gateway to the E[.]U.” According to The International Organization for Migration (IOM), 8,500 migrants are currently living in Bosnia with hopes of someday getting farther into Northern Europe.

The United Nations explains that thousands of migrants who have spent innumerable weeks outside in negative temperatures are in desperate need of viable shelters. Many migrants, according to The New York Times, live in tattered tents, have exhorted to washing themselves with snow and stand in line barefoot for food and supplies.

In October 2020, authorities in Bihać, Bosnia, closed its migrant reception center, the biggest in the area. Those living there underwent relocation to the Lipa, Bosnia, camp 75 kilometers away. Bosnia’s central government then ordered local enforcement to reopen the reception center in Bihać, Bosnia, but the local enforcement refused. Therefore, approximately 2,500 people currently live on the outskirts, suffering exposure to the elements.

Migrants’ Struggles Amid COVID-19

Due to the threat of the novel coronavirus, the IOM quickly established the camp in Lipa, Bosnia, in summer 2020 when the country had to close its borders.  Even before the fire, the camp did not prepare itself for winter. Migrants would usually have received thermal floor mats, insulation for shelters and tents, new blankets, stoves and fuel. But now, lacking amenities such as power, water, winter clothes and tents, the camp was virtually unsustainable.

On December 11, 2020, the IOM stopped funding the migrant camp due to the failure of authorities to make conditions sustainable through winter. Aid agencies left later that month. As of January 6, 2021, 700 people remained in the camp, finding shelter in abandoned shipping containers and the devastated remnants of tents. Bihać, Bosnia’s mayor apparently agreed to reopen the Bihać Reception Center and even sent buses to relocate the migrants. However, the buses left Lipa, Bosnia, completely empty. Migrants experienced outrage at the heating and sanitation conditions and went on a hunger strike to protest the issues.

Raising the Alarm

The approaching threat of harsh winter brought to light the migrants’ predicament. The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic raised alarm over the growing danger in December 2020. Conditions seem to be looking up for refugees in both Lipa and Bihać, Bosnia. Peter Van der Auweraert, chief of mission in Bosnia for the IOM, says that aid groups distributed winter sleeping bags, apparel and food. The army has begun to bring in heated tents for migrants living in the Lipa migrant camp in Bosnia in what Van der Auweraert calls an “important step forward.”

The Danish Refugee Council

The Danish Refugee Council has provided protection, shelter, food security, community infrastructure as well as water, sanitation and hygiene supplies. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, currently, 82 staff members from the Danish Refugee Council are caring for a total of 8,500 displaced peoples. Working alongside the Red Cross and the IOM, the Danish Refugee Council had distributed food, winter clothes, sleeping bags and hygiene kits to more than 1,500 displaced peoples. The Bosnian local officials agreed to relocate migrants from the Bosnian Lipa migrant camp to the reception center in Bihać, Bosnia, while reparations to the Lipa Emergency Reception Centre are taking place. The center will also have water and electrical services ready for occupants come April 2021.

Mijatovic continues to advocate for better conditions for migrants in Bosnia, including rapid procedures for asylum-seekers, ending the anti-migrant rhetoric of Bosnia, as well as better care for the approximately 500 unescorted migrant children. Currently, the European Union has provided Bosnia with €60 million, approximately $70 million, for emergency funding, including migrant centers. This response to the crisis is not uncommon. According to Nicola Bay, the country director for the Danish Refugee Council, “Every year we have this winter crisis and an emergency response is crafted at the last minute.”

Looking Forward

For the future, refugees hope that conditions will continue to improve, with further services and supplies going to those living in dangerous conditions. The Danish Refugee Council is focusing its efforts on improving human health and emergency response in regards to the migrant crisis. The organization is also currently working on improving the availability of primary healthcare services in reception facilities, providing mental and psychosocial support for refugees and documenting human rights violations experienced at the Bosnia-Croatia border. The humanitarian group supplied the migrants with doctors beginning in January 2021 when the migrants at the Lipa camp in Bosnia underwent screening for respiratory and skin infections, as well as other health conditions.

The Danish Refugee Council Secretary-General Charlotte Slente believes that the fault lies in the inherently flawed immigration policy of the European Union: “We believe it is necessary for the European Commission to move beyond the current crisis mode approach to migration and ensuring that there is sufficient long-term and predictable financial support made available, in this case to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to ensure that a dignified reception capacity can be put in place.” Hopefully, with the reopening of the Lipa Emergency Reception Centre in Spring 2021, those from the migrant camp currently bracing the cold will have shelter and safety.

– Nina Eddinger
Photo: U.S. National Archives

In the small town of Agua Prieta, Mexico, about 20 minutes past the US-Mexico border, live a resilient, selfless and connected people. Many interconnected organizations are working to improve the lives of the community; making it a safe and enjoyable place to work, live and visit. In the poem, “Home,” by Warsan Shire, it says: “You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.”

Here are five organizations working to improve life in Agua Prieta.

5 Charitable Organizations in Agua Prieta

  1. DouglaPrieta Works Co-op: The co-op promotes “a mutual-aid ethic among community members, with the goal of economic self-sufficiency.” They teach women to sew, cook, create jewelry, build furniture and more. This empowers the women of Agua Prieta to support their families. DouglaPrieta Works also encourages people to donate canned goods in return for a hand-made reusable bag. Additionally, migrants who are staying at the nearby shelter are invited to work in their woodshop and garden; in turn, earning money for their journeys to a new home.

  2. Café Justo: Café Justo is a coffee shop that hires recovering drug and alcohol addicts. They partner with Agua Prieta’s rehabilitation center, supporting people on their journey to a better life. The cafe also supports farmworkers’ financial well-being by buying coffee beans at a fair price and selling them at a fair rate.

  3. Frontera de Cristo: Located just five minutes from the US-Mexico border, this organization offers many resources for migrants who are waiting in line to cross the border, either into the United States or into Mexico. This includes information about asylum, warm-weather and winter clothing as well as information about the various organizations in Agua Prieta.
  4. C.A.M.E: C.A.M.E. is a migrant shelter in Agua Prieta that not only offers safe room-and-board but programs and classes for adults and children as well. Because Agua Prieta is right on the US-Mexico border, many migrants stop in this town while they are filing for asylum. Migrant families can be especially vulnerable to gangs; this shelter ensures the safety of each migrant. The shelter often invites students from different countries to converse with migrant families over dinner; these conversations are a meaningful way for students and migrants to connect.

  5. C.R.E.D.A: C.R.E.D.A is a substance abuse treatment center offering rehabilitation programs in Agua Prieta. They also work to help reintegrate those in recovery into society; assisting them in finding housing and jobs. C.R.E.D.A. often recommends Café Justo as an option of employment for those who complete their treatment program.

It is evident the community of Agua Prieta works together to support each other as well as the migrants passing through. These organizations are working to make their community a better place for all.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Ethiopia
The capture and trade of human beings for the sole purpose of sex, domestic servitude and/or forced labor is hardly anything new. It has had various names in the past, with one of the most notable being “enslavement.” While human trafficking has gained attention from governments and organizations worldwide, human trafficking in Ethiopia is prevalent and affects its residents.

Those Targeted

For years, migrants have been the main victims of human trafficking in Ethiopia. Another potential, vulnerable percentage of victims of human trafficking in Ethiopia are children of poor, pastoral backgrounds. This type of background ensures that the child would be susceptible to the promises of a better life; as a result, traffickers frequently lure these children to sell them into harsher, more cruel conditions. In 2018, both regional and federal governments intercepted 10,100 children and adults who had the intent of migrating for work, whereas they intercepted 27,877 men and women of transnational trafficking in 2019, many of them intending to leave Ethiopia for domestic work overseas. Meanwhile, in January 2020, reports determined that 62 potential child victims existed.

In 2018 and 2019, many trafficking cases involved the illegal smuggling of migrants. Migrants are more prone to experiencing trafficking because they may migrate illegally or through irregular migration, also known as “human smuggling.”

The Ethiopian Government’s Efforts

In 2020, the Ethiopian government made strides against human trafficking, despite it not meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in its region according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Person’s report. With the realization that there is a need for a proportional focus on sex trafficking internally and labor trafficking transnationally, Ethiopia put two separate prosecution datasets into place. This resulted in a system to keep track of whether a crime is an internal or transnational crime.

According to the Trafficking in Person’s report, government officials investigated and convicted transnational traffickers and, for the first time in 20 years, reported holding accountable traffickers by strict penalties for victims they exploited in forced labor or sex trafficking within the country. Penalties for traffickers caught involve prosecution and conviction by authorities.

Though inadequacy might still be prominent with the Ethiopian government involving the overall scale of the trafficking issue, it has done better with taking care of victims by jointly operating migration response centers in Afar and Metema, and operating child protection units in several major cities.

The United Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

In 2020, the UNODC has decided to support Ethiopia in its efforts to end trafficking. According to an article from the United Nations, the UNODC has actively contributed to developing regulations by stiffening penalties for trafficking and smuggling for the country’s new Proclamation on countering Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants 1178/2000.

The UNODC regional project Enhancing Effective and Victim-Centred Criminal Justice Responses to Trafficking in Persons in Eastern Africa involves a Drafting and Consultation Workshop to help offer support. According to the same article from the United Nations, the UNODC organized the workshop that local officials hosted, bringing together expert prosecutors from the National Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants Task Force Secretariat, the Legal Studies, Drafting and dissemination Directorate, representatives from the Ministry of Labour and UNODC experts.

Additional Aid

The nongovernmental organization called Hope for Children has headquarters in Perth, Western Australia. Jacqui Gilmour founded the organization in 2004 as an anti-human trafficking program with the goal of helping and providing opportunities to women and children in Ethiopia. According to its website, self-help groups or collective savings and loans are key to this strategy. It also provides quality vocational skills training so that vulnerable women can gain access to employment opportunities in the Ethiopian workforce.

The head of this program is an educator at AGAR Ethiopia, a charitable society focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of traumatized people in Ethiopia. Agar means “supporter” in Amharic. Although no percentage of how many this program has helped is available, Hope for Children is adamant about raising awareness about the vulnerability of migrant workers and the physical/psychological abuse they might face at the hands of their employers. Through other programs, Hope for Children has impacted impoverished families and aided in the education of children in Ethiopia.

With progress in ending human trafficking in Ethiopia through the support of the UNODC and Hope for Children, the Ethiopian government seems more determined than ever to provide the protection that its people deserve, most notably for those migrating in search of a brighter future across borders.

– Thomas Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Irregular Migration: Causes and Looking Forward
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were more than 100 million irregular migrants around the world in 2018. One of the aspects of irregular migration that people most widely recognize and talk about is which factors drive people to leave their homes in the first place. In recent years, the ongoing civil wars in Libya and Syria, as well as violent conflict in Central America linked to drug cartels, have often made the headlines in this regard, and many likely think of such factors as the primary drivers pushing people to migrate outside of the normal legal and bureaucratic channels. While many of these people have to leave their homes due to armed conflict, many more find themselves moving due to a lack of economic opportunity or due to environmental factors. Such factors are ones that the international community can and should be addressing through humanitarian aid.

What to Know

Without greater attention to these root causes, millions will likely have to leave their homes in search of physical and economic security, leading to greater irregular migration waves that countries have challenges handling. This can also fuel exploitation and benefit criminal networks taking advantage of people forced to migrate irregularly or who have experienced displacement. Many persons who experience displacement due to non-conflict factors will also fall into the category of internally displaced people or IDPs. IDPs do not have the same legal status as refugees, and, as a result, often have fewer institutionalized resources and services addressing their needs and the challenges they face.

As of 2018, only 40 countries had involvement with the Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics, or EGRIS. EGRIS works on international research into methods for tracking refugee statistics and possible recommendations to address the number of IDPs. While this exposes the need for serious reform around internally displaced people and how to address their plight, it also means that until countries adopt a more accessible and universal legal approach, fighting the root causes that lead to displacement must be a priority.

IDPs and Disaster Prevention

While ending conflicts driving displacement is a high-profile issue, more IDPs would benefit if a greater focus were to go toward disaster relief. According to data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center’s 2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement, the number of people that disasters displaced increased each year from 2008-2018.

While disaster prevention is at times difficult and the effects of environmental challenges may only undergo reversal or mitigation on a large time scale, countries can deal with the fallout from disasters through humanitarian aid and relief efforts concentrated on rebuilding communities and compensating for losses. However, such efforts must give equal thought to establishing long-term physical and environmental security in the areas dealing with the fallout from disasters. Without long-term investment focused on growth and rejuvenation, areas that are past sites of disasters will continue to be the point of origin for IDPs. A greater focus on disaster relief also allows NGOs and nonprofits more room for involvement since disaster relief is an area where many consider these groups legitimate actors and encourage their participation.


In 2016, USAID launched a five-year plan and a call to action to help irregular migrants in East Asia and the Pacific. The first year, $12 million went to strengthening collaboration across the borders of “source, transit and destination countries.” USAID is working to reduce human trafficking, which irregular migrants often fall victim to due to the lack of resources to protect them. Similar to EGRIS, USAID is collecting data to help discover even more effective ways to help irregular migrants. In its first year working in Cambodia, direct assistance went to 250 victims of human trafficking. Furthermore, in the vein of disaster relief, 5,400 deportees from Thailand received emergency assistance from USAID; 140 of those deportees were also victims of human trafficking.

By reframing the narrative around irregular migration and displacement to better reflect the root causes that contribute to the issue, the nonprofit and aid sectors can create better policies that will not only treat the symptoms of migration and displacement but ultimately reduce the push factors that lead to irregular migration in the first place.

– Matthew Cantwell McCormick
Photo: Flickr

BetterTogether ChallengeSince 2015, roughly five million people have left Venezuela in hopes of finding a better life. This marks the largest displacement of people in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Its economic collapse has rendered the local currency practically worthless and thrown Venezuelans into rampant poverty and hunger. The average Venezuelan lost about 25 pounds of weight in 2017 when 80% of the population lacked reliable access to food. The BetterTogether Challenge aims to support struggling Venezuelans.

The Collapse of the Venezuelan economy

Despite having one of the largest oil reserves in the world, the Venezuelan government’s mismanagement of its resources and economy led to a cataclysmic collapse. When measured by income, 96% of Venezuelans live in poverty and the average citizen lives off a paltry 72 cents a day. The 2019-2020 National Survey of Living Conditions found that 65% of Venezuelans live in multidimensional poverty, an increase of 13% from the previous year. Multidimensional poverty incorporates measurements such as access to health care and education, in addition to income.

A Mass Exodus of Venezuelans

The abject poverty Venezuelans have experienced has led to mass emigration to neighboring countries. Colombia and Peru collectively have had over two million Venezuelan immigrants. The integration of Venezuelans and their culture has been abrasive in countries such as Peru, where negative attitudes persist toward Venezuelans.

The displacement of millions of Venezuelans has disrupted a highly educated generation. A whole 57% of Venezuelans living in Peru have received higher education and roughly 25% have university degrees.

While negative views of Venezuelan immigration have limited the number of incoming Venezuelans, neighboring countries would be wise to recognize the inherent value possessed by the Venezuelan people. The displaced Venezuelans carry massive potential, which if properly harnessed, can have a substantial impact on local economies and innovation. Furthermore, the integration of Venezuelans into the labor markets of their host communities would provide additional cash flow that could boost local economies.

BetterTogether Challenge Empowers Venezuelan Innovation

As a strong and steady champion against poverty, USAID has partnered with the InterAmerican Development Bank to create the BetterTogether Challenge to support Venezuelans. The goal of the challenge is to fund innovative solutions from Venezuelans to support their resilience, test solutions to be integrated and promote communication between Venezuelans and their new communities. In August 2020, the BetterTogether Challenge Award winners in South American countries were collectively awarded $2.97 million.

The BetterTogether Challenge awardees are focused on increasing social cohesion, fighting xenophobia, empowering women, improving employment opportunities and improving access to health care, education and food. These solutions are crucial to rebuilding Venezuela and reducing poverty in their communities.

International Rescue Committee in Colombia

One of the most impactful organizations chosen for funding was the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Colombia. Nearly 1.5 million Venezuelans have found refuge in Colombia, with roughly 35,000 crossing into Colombia daily to purchase supplies. The IRC supports Venezuelans in Colombia by providing safety, access to healthcare and economic assistance while protecting the women and children that may be disproportionately vulnerable. A key initiative launched by the IRC is the Families Make A Difference Program, which provides essential management and support to children who have been harmed and educates families to prevent harm.

Supporting organizations such as the IRC are vital for fortifying Venezuelan resilience and providing people with life-changing resources during times of need. Furthermore, initiatives like the BetterTogether Challenge empower Venezuelans while addressing poverty.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

DouglaPrieta Works
In many cases of migration, dangers from gangs and community violence force people to leave their homes. Migrants also tend to flee because of economic challenges and persecution. A few women in Mexico who were part of these forced removals did not want to move to a new country. It was important for these women to stay where their families, cultures and traditions existed despite difficulties like finding sustainable jobs in Mexico. As a result, they decided to move to Agua Prieta, Mexico and become a part of the family at DouglaPrieta Works.

The Beginning

DouglaPrieta Work is a self-help organization that women founded to help the poor. Specifically, the founders had the dream of procuring the means to stay in their home country through the creation of a self-sufficiency co-op. To fund this, the women sell handmade goods such as reusable bags, earrings, winter accessories, dolls and more. They sell these beautiful crafts throughout Agua Prieta, neighboring cities and even in the United States. Their efforts all center back to the main goal of promoting “a mutual-aid ethic among community members, with the goal of economic self-sufficiency.”

How it Works

The first step in economic security is education. The women at DouglaPrieta Works understand this and all self-teach. They work together to learn how to sew, knit, craft, cook and read. The women utilize these skills to then sustain themselves, their families and the co-op. To further support themselves, the group incorporated a farm next to their co-op. They use the fruits and vegetables they grow for cooking. The women encourage sustainable food security through culturally-appropriate foods based on the needs of the people in their community. The group also built a woodshop to craft furniture for the community to maximize the benefits of their surrounding resources. The co-op does not exclude the children in all of this work either. Oftentimes, their children learn the skills along with them and work with each other in school.


In 2019, they led an initiative where people in their town could donate canned goods and receive a handmade reusable bag in return. This program allowed the women of DouglaPrieta Works able to donate hundreds of canned goods to those in need. Additionally, they were able to provide reusable bags to the community in order to encourage limited plastic bag use to better the environment.

DouglaPrieta Works often provides migrants working at its co-op with funds to help them and their families survive the journey of migration. There is a nearby migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, C.A.M.E, to house the travelers. While at the co-op, many migrants work in the woodshop at AguaPrieta Works in exchange for meals, funds and friendship.

Students and groups interested in learning about the U.S./Mexico border are welcome to join the women at DouglaPrieta Works for a meal, as the women provide stories and information about the border. The power of education and inclusivity is a core value at DouglaPrieta Works.

Helping Out

Overall, incredible work is occurring in the town of Agua Prieta, Mexico. These women are sustaining themselves to stay in the country they call home and they are providing food, resources and work for migrants. Their children are able to learn and grow together, as well as eat healthy, organic meals from the garden. To learn more about the co-op, visit its website.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Japan
The U.S. Congress released a Trafficking In Persons Report (2020) concluding Japan’s federal response to human trafficking as insufficient. Though the report recognizes Japan’s reformed policies, tightened visa checks and installation of victim shelters, its government has a history of not taking measures to fully criminalize and eradicate human trafficking in Japan.

History of Human Trafficking in Japan

In the early 1980s, human trafficking in Japan was common. Without Japan’s government regulation or extensive protocol, traffickers targeted many social groups including women, international students, foreign laborers and entertainers.

The majority of human trafficking came from the entertainment industry, due to Japan’s lenient authorization of all foreigners applying for the “Entertainer” visa. Women from Thailand and the Philippines migrated to Japan in the 1990s through this specific label, though only 20% were actual singers and dancers.

With a large demand for sexual services, targeted women in the entertainment industry were mostly from red-light districts. Though these cases for human trafficking were prominent, Japan did not take federal action and instead, dismissed them as “foreign cases.”

In other cases, external human trafficking groups traded women into Japan from foreign countries. Given fraudulent passports and tied to the organizations by debt bondage, victims paid off their contracts through sexual labor in Japan.

Activism to Reduce Human Trafficking in Japan

Despite the ongoing rise of human trafficking in Japan, many Japanese activist groups began to form and take action, specifically large organizations such as the Japanese Network Against Trafficking in Persons (JNATIP), established in 2003, or Kyofukai, the Japan Christian Women’s Organization, established in 1886. These advocacy groups provided victims shelter and protection, responding and reacting to women and children who were victims of human trafficking. As non-government organizations took on what the state neglected, tension began to spread throughout the state and human trafficking in Japan began to catch national attention.

The Japanese government’s lack of regulation and foreigner neglect continued these trends from the 1980s to 2000s. In contrast to Japan’s circumstances, other countries began to adopt the UN’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in response to the globally rising cases. Starting in 2000, the U.S. Congress strongly encouraged and monitored this collective stance, releasing annual reports on the results and efficiency of anti-trafficking measures in each country.

In 2002, Japan agreed to implement the Protocol Against Human Trafficking, which revised immigration protocols and adopted measures to combat human trafficking in Japan. It also signed the Action Plan in 2004, which strengthened immigration processing, provided victims government protection and declared trafficking a federal crime against human rights. Despite its efforts, the U.S. marked Japan as Tier 2, a subcategory that states this country does not fully adhere to the TVPA’s standards.

A Setback in Reducing Human Trafficking

Today, Japan still remains at Tier 2 in 2020, though the U.S. briefly advanced Japan to Tier 1 in 2018-19. Although human trafficking measures and policies are still in place, several factors contribute to Japan’s setback.

For starters, Japan has introduced a steady flow of migrant workers that have led to labor exploitation and debt bondage. The country has steadily dismissed these as “foreign cases,” coincidentally turning to direct its human trafficking policies on domestic cases. This shift in the government’s focus has allowed the state to avert attention from the exploitation of foreign labor.

Japan has also allowed an alarming amount of international students through foreign study-abroad agencies under the “Kaigo” visa. Students under contract are able to work off tuition through legal work, though in some cases, must work against their will. The 2020 Trafficking Report that the U.S. released states that Japan’s foreign student population is more and more at risk for human trafficking due to dishonest work-study contracts in unskilled unmonitored labor sections. The cases of both international students and migrant workers have steadily increased, especially with Japan’s lenient immigration policy change in 2018.

Moving Forward

All things considered, Japan has disregarded the global effort to eradicate human trafficking cases. Despite the state’s continued indifference, non-governmental organizations continue to respond to victims, advocate for further policy changes and attempt to discontinue trends of exploitation in Japan. Though the cases of trafficking have gone down over the last two decades, the insufficient federal response to human trafficking still affects many social groups.

Today, non-governmental organizations continue to protect victims and advocate for better policies to combat human trafficking in Japan. The U.S. 2020 Trafficking In Persons report and labor exploitation stigma have uncovered Japan’s underwhelming policies and scrutinized the country for its lack of completion and insufficient response. The JNATIP remains a major resource group for human trafficking victims, promoting the enactment of laws for trafficking victims. The political fight against human trafficking in Japan continues.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr