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10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Russia
Human trafficking is one of the most critical humanitarian issues of the century and virtually operates everywhere in the world. It involves the transport of persons, who are either entirely unwilling or misinformed about their destination, to a new place, usually to engage in forced labor or prostitution. Currently, Russia is facing a human trafficking crisis and yet, it is doing little to prevent this issue and protect those human trafficking already affects. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Russia.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Russia

  1. Economic Crisis: The fall of the Soviet Union exacerbated human trafficking in Russia. With the economic crisis in Russia, employment in the country decreased and travel restrictions meant that employers could not fill several jobs legally. These conditions made a lucrative niche for human traffickers. 
  2. Tier 3 Country: The U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report ranks Russia as a Tier 3 country, or one where the government does not meet the standards to eliminate trafficking. In addition, it is not making significant efforts to eradicate trafficking.
  3. Human Trafficking Law: Russia only has one law that criminalizes human trafficking. Russia passed the law in 2003 under President Vladimir Putin but it does nothing other than label human trafficking illegal. Meanwhile, all the other countries previously part of the Soviet Union have passed over 100 laws against human trafficking. The lack of strong legislation makes it more difficult to arrest, incriminate and convict perpetrators of human trafficking in Russia.
  4. Cities: The dominant use of trafficking is for labor so traffickers concentrate most victims in larger cities, like Moscow and St. Petersburg. These areas have not only the large population to mask a victim’s presence, but also house companies and factories where they can work.
  5. Russia’s 2016 Statistics: In 2016, the Global Slavery Index reported that there were more than one million human trafficking victims in Russia. Out of all these cases, only 38 traffickers received convictions as of 2013. Following these statistics in 2016, Russia ceased providing information on prosecution and victim rehabilitation to the United States’ Trafficking in Persons report.
  6. Exploitable Workforces: Many victims of human trafficking become members of exploitable workforces. For example, during the FIFA World Cup in Russia, many construction workers could have suffered trafficking, but instead, their employers denied them wages and forced them to work in brutally cold conditions. Agencies that lie about the quality and nature of the work first recruit these victims and force them to stay in Russia. These circumstances fit the qualifications for modern-day slavery.
  7. Treatment of Victims: People in Russia treat trafficking victims as criminals and the victims receive little to no protection. The public and the government see them as willing illegal immigrants. In a survey, 41 percent of Russian citizens responded that those who had ensured trafficking and were working in the prostitution industry were to blame for their own conditions. This lack of public sympathy for victims makes passing more substantial legislation difficult for politicians and keeps it acceptable for authorities to prosecute, detain and deport victims without knowledge of their circumstances.
  8. Prosecution of Government Officials: In recent years, there have been criminal cases against government officials for facilitating human trafficking in Russia. Namely, officials allegedly accepted bribes from employers to halt investigations, protected traffickers and returned victims to their captors. Although nothing came of these cases, the fact that courts hear the cases at all is an important step.
  9. Organizations that Help: There is very little government funding or organizations for rehabilitation and protection of victims. Most of the work to help victims happens through NGOs or international groups, such as the Russian Red Cross or Help Services for Nigerians in Russia.
  10. Challenges of Catching Traffickers: In cases of sex trafficking, catching perpetrators can be difficult because of the consequences women face for speaking up. In addition to bringing up painful memories, talking to law enforcement bears the risk of them returning the women to traffickers, as well as communities ostracizing them.

Despite the current inaction of the Russian government in response to the human trafficking crisis, pressure from activists within the country and outside of it could help create substantial change. Not only would this assist current victims, but it would make eradicating human trafficking in Russia a real possibility.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Fresh off of his World Cup win, German soccer player Mesut Ozil has partnered with Big Shoe to help provide Brazilian children access to surgery. Initially, Ozil had pledged to support 11 surgeries, one for each player on the field, but he increased his promise to 23 surgeries. Each surgery signifies the effort of one of the 23 players of the German national team.

Ozil isn’t the only representative of the soccer world to support the organization. United States national soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann also voiced his support for the initiative.

Ozil is expected to donate his FIFA World Cup winnings, approximately $600,000 according to The Telegraph, to aid ill children in Brazil. Throughout the World Cup, the German national team bonded with the Brazilian people.

In the aftermath of the World Cup, many FIFA players have felt this same warmth and generosity toward the host nation.

The Big Shoe Initiative, which Ozil aligned himself with, was founded in 2006 around the time of Germany’s own World Cup. The organization relies on both donations and efforts of countless doctors in order to provide access to surgery for impoverished children. Ozil’s video campaign for the Big Shoe Initiative, a video now on YouTube and many social media websites, has helped garner attention for the nonprofit.

For its work in Brazil, the Big Shoe Initiative hopes to raise enough money to pay for 100 future surgeries.

The surgeries performed by the organization include burn and scar tissue removal, cleft palate corrections and congenital heart and limb disorders among others. The medical treatments are often either too expensive or too specialized for the regions in which the Big Shoe Initiative works.

The World Cup rejuvenated attention and support for the Big Shoe Initiative. Ozil’s generous donation, in particular, will help the organization begin to realize the potential of its coming impact in Brazil.

– Kristin Ronzi
Sources: Big Shoe, The Telegraph,  YouTube
Photo: The Telegraph

z1_world_globe_borgen_africa
The World Cup truly defines the idea of international competition. With the current 2014 World Cup only two weeks in, the viewership of clips, games, advertisements and the like are higher than any other international competition. According to latinpost.com, people have watched over 1.2 billion minutes of World Cup-affiliated advertisements, which is four times more views than the 2014 Super Bowl ads received.

FIFA research supports this, demonstrating numbers from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Over 3.2 billion people tuned in for at least one minute of the games, compared to 900 million that tuned into the Olympics Opening Ceremony, which is the most highly watched portion of the event.

3.2 billion people represents a large demographic of the world, many of whom represent developing countries. The World Cup represents the level of accessibility isolated countries have to opportunities even to just watch a game. There is a level of danger to watching games in some countries such as the 48 people who died in Kenya at a viewing party, but the dedication to their countries trumps their socio-economic status.

Few events draw the attention of billions, however the World Cup bonds nations. The U.S. typically has a low viewership rate of Major League Soccer in comparison to the NBA, NFL and NHL views.

The Miami Herald reported that 15.9 million Americans tuned into ESPN and Univision to watch the U.S. versus Ghana game, which is the second highest recorded viewership for a World Cup match in the U.S. It pales only to the U.S. versus England match of 2010 which held 17.1 million viewers. Trumping this, are the 18.2 million people who tuned in to watch the U.S. and Portugal battle it out, according to CNN Money.

The possible reason for this is the higher number of countries filming and reporting on the event, with 48 countries present and 34 ultra-high definition cameras watching from all angles. The more access countries have to the games, the more people who will flock to small businesses who play the games for those without home access.

Many of the countries competing represent developing countries, such as Colombia, Uruguay, Nigeria, Ghana and many others. These countries typically have low participation and success in other international competitions such as the Olympics, so they find their nationalism and support in the World Cup due to the accessibility and commonality of soccer.

The number of people tuning to watch their home countries fight for international competitive prestige shows that even in times of turmoil and struggle, nations can be united through watching a small, fuzzy screen of their teams playing everyone’s favorite sport.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: CNN, Latin Post, Miami Herald, Reuters
Photo: Zap 2 It

child labor
Right now more than 168 million children ages 5 to 18 are victims of child labor practices. Of these children, 85 million work in conditions that endanger their health and many are exploited in varying ways.

It is these shocking truths that have motivated the likes of Travis Barker, Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger of Incubus and world-renowned composer Hans Zimmer, to collaborate on a song titled, “Til Everyone Can See.” The song features Minh Dang, a survivor of child trafficking.

The inspiration for the anti-child labor tune originated from their visit with the International Labour Organization. The ILO is the oldest agency of the United Nations, and their child labor program is the largest in the world. Following the visit, the artists joined the ILO campaign, Red Card to Child Labour.

The campaign’s use of the red card is intentional, as the timing of the campaign lines up with one of the most highly viewed sporting events in the world; the FIFA World Cup. This global symbol of a red card is known for being synonymous with the concepts of wrong and stop, making it an ideal symbol for the campaign.

The song was released on June 12 of this week, which is also the World Day Against Child Labor. The music, written by Einziger of Incubus and the violinist, Ann Marie Simpson, has a global vibe. However, this is not the first time musicians have used such songs to take a stand against child labor.

Similar musical initiatives include Global Music against Child Labor, through which musicians of all genres have dedicated events and concerts to the movement. The awareness these artists raise undoubtedly plays a key part in ending child labor practices.

As the heartfelt song declares “no one can be free when there is slavery…its time to do our part, give children of the world a brand new start.”

— Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: ILO, Look To The Stars, Music For Good, USA Today
Photo: Flickr

Brazil_Sochi_Global_Health
The passing of four years signifies the completion of an important unit of time for the sporting world, a marker that brings the World Cup and the Olympic Games back, blissfully, to the forefront of the global stage with 2014 being no exception. This year, Brazil will host the FIFA World Cup and Sochi will host the Winter Olympics, to begin June 12 and February 6, respectively.

Headlines anticipate security concerns for both events, which include the threat of terror attacks, widespread protests and general mayhem.

In Sochi, officials have mobilized thousands of security cameras, instituted new security checks and passport screenings, deployed scores of military personnel and amped up surveillance to ensure that “everyone in the city… feel[s] at home and safe.”

Authorities in Brazil are making similar arrangements in hopes that extensive precautionary measures will entice tourists despite the nation’s — particularly, Rio de Janeiro — volatile and violent history. Furthermore, Colonel Alexandre Augusto Aragon, head of the Brazilian National Security Force, recently revealed that 10,000 hand-selected riot troops would police the 12 cities hosting soccer matches this summer.

These reports serve as reminders that mass gatherings, even of sportsmen, can spell danger for participants and fans alike. These events are, moreover, virtual breeding grounds for another invisible threat: pathogens.

The less-publicized public health risks inherent in occasions similar to the Olympic Games are familiar to virtually every global health organization. The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains a Global Alert and Response page dedicated to mitigating risks associated with mass gatherings, which top officials consider “a stress test for public health.”

Even nations with well-established health services and fully-briefed support staff can be overwhelmed by the burden associated with an unexpected outbreak in a mass gathering situation. Not only do gatherings draw visitors from a variety of geographic areas (read: different regions of germs) but they are also, by nature, densely packed and fraught with opportunities for transmission.

WHO officials employ the International Health Regulations to govern disease surveillance programs in the 196 countries that have agreed to certain legal rights and obligations described in the regulations in applicable circumstances. Should unexpected cases of influenza, polio or respiratory illness surface, Russia and Brazil will undertake highly targeted, pre-mediated actions to prevent a public health nightmare.

Unfortunately, very real risks to traveler and fan health go generally unmentioned by the press, whose stories generally touch on political and public interest stories associated with the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Any participant in 2014’s festivities should ensure that they are up-to-date with annual and seasonal vaccines, including the flu and measles.

Appropriate action and active awareness will spell gold for Russia and Brazil, nations hoping to leave a positive public health legacy on the landscape of sports history.

Casey Ernstes

Sources: CBS News, The Huffington Post, The New York Time, The World Health Organization

Photo: The Age

Qatar FIFA 2022 World Cup Migrant Workers Exploited
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be hosted in Qatar and the construction on hotels and stadiums has already begun. This internationally-renowned sporting event will boost Qatari infrastructure, economy, and national spirit. However, groups like the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) claim that thousands of migrant workers will die before construction is finished, and have called for policies that will prevent the exploitation of these workers.

Many migrant workers from countries like India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have been entering Qatar for employment, joining the already 1.2 million migrant workers present in this country. Although many migrant workers are needed to prepare Qatar for the World Cup, the current system of employment may mean that many of these workers will never return home.

Unless reforms are made, 600 migrant workers a year could die on building sites due to harsh working conditions and lack of safety protocols.

Recently, 30 migrant workers fled to the Nepalese Embassy in Doha, Qatar to escape these conditions. They reported having their passports withheld in order to prevent them from fleeing, being denied water and a salary, and being forced to work in intolerable heat. Some equated such hardships with modern-day slavery. In addition, workers have been found living in unsanitary and crowded conditions, resulting in illness.

Employees that complain are often fired, with no means of returning home or finding more work. With passports and salary withheld, most migrant workers have no choice but to continue to work in such conditions.

Nepalese migrant workers aren’t the only workers turning to their embassy for help. Thousands more have complained to the Indian embassy in Qatar. According to the Indian ambassador, more than 700 Indian workers have already lost their lives in these deleterious working conditions.

The ITUC stresses the need for significant changes in workplace sanitation and safety. Otherwise, the organization estimates that at least 4,000 migrant workers will lose their lives by the 2022 World Cup.

These working conditions come as a surprise to many, as Qatar is the world’s richest nation in regards to income per capita. The country is expected to spend over $100 billion on infrastructure, hotels, and other facilities for the World Cup alone.

The ITUC has also commented on the need for FIFA to send a strong message to the Qatari government on how this system of modern-day slavery is unacceptable.

Rahul Shah

Sources: Middle East Online, Opposing Views, The Guardian
Photo: BBC

patriciaamira_opt

Africa produces some of the most brilliant artists, athletes, and activists worldwide.  From the media industry to the political stage, these African celebrities are working to improve lives.  The Borgen Project presents the top 10 African celebrities to follow.

1. Patricia Amira, Nigerian, TV Personality

Patricia Amira is a self-proclaimed “optimistic realist” and “closet artist.”  She is the “Oprah” of Africa and hosts one of the continent’s most popular talk shows.  The Patricia Show transcends national boundaries and identities.  The show focuses on achievements across Africa and aims to create social and cultural transformation. The Pan-African talk show is broadcasted in over 45 African countries and averages over 10 million viewers.  She currently serves as the Director of the Festival of African Fashion and Arts.  The festival encourages collaboration among designers and emphasizes the importance of artists.  Amira is also a spokesperson against human trafficking.

2. Nneka, Nigerian, Musician

Nneka is a soul musician of Nigerian-German descent.  Investigative journalism and philosophy inform her music, and she often writes about poverty, war, and and social justice issues.  Nneka emphasizes the importance of understanding balance and harmony.  “It’s important that you recognize yourself as part of the system, too, and that the only way we can make things work is by realizing we are part of the same entity,” Nneka said.

3. Didier Drogba, Ivorian, Soccer Player

Didier Drogba was a leading striker for England’s Chelsea football club and head captain of the Cote D’Ivoire national team.  His performance on the field is impressive, but he made headlines at the 2006 FIFA World Cup for something much greater.  Drogba begged on live television for a cease-fire on the Ivory Coast.  The warring factions subsided within one week.  The Telegraph reporter Alex Hayes noted that Drogba is “the face of his country; the symbol of a new, post-civil war Ivory Coast.”  He also created the Didier Drogba Foundation, a foundation “to provide financial and material support in both health and education to the African people.”  The foundation recently partnered with United Against Malaria (UAM) to help fight malaria.

4. Wole Soyinka, Nigerian, Playwright

Wole Soyinka is a playwright, author, and political activist from Nigeria.  Soyinka entered the political stage after lobbying for a cease-fire during Nigeria’s civil war.  “The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism,” Soyinka said.  This led to his imprisonment for 22 months.  He was released in 1969, and he began publishing again.  Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.  His novel The Interpreters analyzes the experiences of six different African intellectuals.

5. Neill Blomkamp, South African, Movie Director

Neill Blomkamp is a movie director known for his documentary, handheld cinema style.  He blends natural and computer-generated elements effortlessly.  Blomkamp co-wrote and directed District 9.  The film focused on extraterrestrial refugees in a South African slum.  The title derived from real events during the apartheid era at District Six, Cape Town. The film received international fame, and box office sales totaled $200 million.  Time magazine named Blomkamp one of the “100 Most Influential People of 2009.” 

6. Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan, Author

Binyavanga Wainaina founded the first literary magazine in East Africa, entitled Kwani?.  The magazine is known as “the most renown literary journal in sub-Saharan Africa.”  Wainaina created the magazine after winning the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing.  The Caine Prize is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer.  He is known for authoring “How to Write About Africa.”  The short story is known as one of the most satirical pieces ever written about Africa.

 7. Genevieve Nnaji, Nigerian, Actress

Genevieve Nnaji skyrocketed from a middle class upbringing to Nollywood stardom.  She is one of the most popular African celebrities.  Nnaji grew up in Lagos, Nigeria as one of eight children.  Nnaji began her acting career at eight years old on Ripples, a Nigerian soap opera.  She is now one of Africa’s most popular actresses.  At only 32 years old, she has starred in over 80 feature films.  She is one of the best paid actresses in Nollywood—Nigeria’s feature film industry.   “I have always maintained that when they [Hollywood directors and actors] are ready for a young African woman to take part in a project that they will come looking for us,” Nnaji said.

8. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian, Writer

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of Africa’s leading contemporary authors.  She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun.  Adichie delivered a popular TED Talk after publishing The Thing around Your Neck, a collection of short stories.  She warns against judging a person or country based on limited information.  “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story,” Adichie said.  Nigerian history and tragedies inspire her literature.  She is one of the most notable authors of disaporan literature.

9. Rokia Traoré, Malian, Musician

Rokia Traoré became famous in 1997 with the release of her first album Mouneissa.  Malian singer Ali Farka Touré helped Traoré develop her sound, and she later earned “Best African Discovery” from the Radio France Internationale.  Traoré’s father was a Malian Diplomat, and she traveled extensively as a child.  Her travels in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France, and Belgium influenced her music.  Traoré joined the 30 Songs/30 Days campaign in September 2012.  The campaign supported the Half the Sky movement, based on the book by the same name.  The movement focuses on sex trafficking, sexual violence, and female education.

10. Alek Wek, Sudanese, Supermodel

Alex Wek is a supermodel, fashion designer, and political activist.  Wek fled Sudan at the age of 14 to escape the civil war. She moved to London, England with her parents and eight siblings and was later discovered at an outdoor market.  Ford Models, one of the world’s top modeling agencies, signed her in 1996.  By 1997, she was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle magazine.  Wek continues to model but is also a member of the U.S. Committee for Refugees’ Advisory Council.  Wek works with World Vision to combat AIDS.  She is also an ambassador for Doctors Without Borders in Sudan.  She belongs to the Dinka ethnic group

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Forbes