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Human TraffickingThe fight against human trafficking stands as one of the most important causes in the modern world. Every year, it is estimated that some form of international slave trade traffics 600,000 to 800,000 people. Therefore, the fight is essential because it champions providing basic human rights to everyone and aids impoverished countries in improving. 

While not every single person has the capacity to stop slave labor physically, everyone can contribute in many ways, even by simply purchasing useful or pretty products. Here, we list five interesting products and companies that help stop human trafficking.

Purpose Jewelry

Purpose Jewelry is a company that sells handmade jewelry made by survivors of human trafficking. The company rescues the girls from brothels and sends them to live in its trademarked “Sanctuaries,” where it trains them to make jewelry. It also provides them with health care, mental care and education. The girls also earn full salaries for their work. The company invests 100% of its profit back into helping the victims. Currently, the company assists victims from Mumbai, Cebu, Kampala and Tijuana. 

Elegantees

Elegantees creates casual but stylish clothes that any woman can wear. Its priority is sustainability, using cotton and deadstock materials. Most importantly, the employees are primarily girls who are survivors or at risk for human trafficking from Nepal or India. “The Nepal-India border is one of the busiest human trafficking gateways in the world,” with a report showcasing that around 50 women are illegally transported from Nepal to India daily.

The company explains very simply that poor girls often get tricked into brothels because they are looking for jobs. If companies quickly provide safe jobs, human trafficking intermediaries are cut out. All workers are adults, earn a livable wage and receive overtime, vacation and any other benefits you would expect from normal working conditions.

Dignity Coconuts

Dignity Coconuts is a company tackling a unique poverty-related problem in the Philippines. Coconuts are the country’s largest crops grown, with both large plantations and small-scale farmers involved in their production. However, this has resulted in a serious issue known as “copra slavery.” Many companies and countries prefer to purchase products from large-scale farmers, which often drives smaller farmers into poverty. This leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking and at the mercy of larger farms. 

As a result, they are usually forced to beg for loans that they will never be able to repay. Dignity Coconuts changes this dynamic by enabling customers to purchase coconut oil directly from the farmers in the Philippines. The organization has more than 150 farmers on board, which means 150 farms providing jobs for people, protecting them from poverty and desperation that might lead them to trafficking jobs, including running the slave trade.

The Starfish Project

The Starfish Project is an organization that rescues girls from brothels and provides them with training in making jewelry and crafts. Additionally, the girls can continue their education while working there. They can move up in the company hierarchy from crafting to having full careers in fields such as accounting and photography. It is worth noting that the Starfish Project focuses on rescuing rather than prevention. More than 180 women have been able to escape human trafficking situations and turn their lives around thanks to the Starfish Project’s efforts.

Good Paper

Good Paper is a company that creates handcrafted cards for various occasions. The cards are produced in two locations: one in the Philippines, which supports victims of sex trafficking and the other in Rwanda, which helps victims of genocide. 

The Philippines is one of the highest-risk countries for trafficking, with 60,000 to 100,000 children being the victims of sex trafficking. You can make a difference in someone’s life by purchasing a card from Good Paper. Each card is signed by the person whose life you have helped change by supporting this company.

The above products are available for purchase by the average consumer. By buying them, you can help support victims of human trafficking and prevent more people from falling into this terrible crime. Furthermore, improving the economic situation of the victims can help reduce poverty overall.

– Varsha Pai
Photo: Pixabay

Human Trafficking in St. MaartenHuman Trafficking is a threat affecting millions worldwide, with 2021 figures estimating annual revenues of more than $150 billion worldwide. St. Maarten is no exception to the allure of this illicit enterprise. This article gives voice to the dangers of Human Trafficking in St. Maarten and what efforts are in place to combat it.

Trafficking in Persons Report

Estimates show that Human Trafficking affects more than 24.9 million people around the world today. States with ineffective political structures, weak government and amplified poverty and crime levels typically show the most noticeable effects of the Human Trafficking trade. As a means of evaluation, the Department of State for the U.S. designed the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report), a report used internationally to measure the efficiency of practice and response to Human Trafficking in different countries around the world. The report assigns countries to a Tier Ranking according to their capacity to meet the minimum standards for addressing the Human Trafficking trade for the previous year, operating on a hierarchical system.

The ranking system consists of three tiers:

  • Tier 1: Optimal. Governments fully comply with the minimum standards.
  • Tier 2: Falling just short of expectation but demonstrating promising efforts for improvement.
    • Tier 2 Watchlist: Falling just short of expectation but demonstrating promising efforts for improvement, although victim rates are at, or on the verge of, critical status and proportional efforts are not being made.
  • Tier 3: Fail to meet minimum standards and show little sign of improvement efforts.

Human Trafficking in St. Maarten – Under Review

In 2022 the TIP Report downgraded St. Maarten to Tier 3, labeled as “failing to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and making no significant effort to do so,” and has maintained this verdict in the 2023 report. This gives for bleak reading when considering St. Maarten’s ongoing battle with Human Trafficking in terms of protection, prosecution and prevention measures.

The government maintained the decreased minimal prosecution charges for trafficking in 2022, where incidents involving persons aged 16 or older could face up to nine years imprisonment or a fine, while those affecting children aged under 16 can be penalized for up to 12 years imprisonment or a fine. For the fifth consecutive year, St. Maarten failed to submit any reports of providing protection services to victims. For the third consecutive year, authorities identified no trafficking victims. No reported efforts have been made to screen regions and industries particularly exposed to the effects of trafficking. Government funding for protective measures such as care services, shelters and financial support is considerably lacking, with an NGO-run shelter for victims of domestic violence carrying much of the burden. (U.S. Department of State, 2023).

Trapped and Exploited

In St. Maarten, human traffickers use a host of tactics to manipulate their victims, with local accounts suggesting migrants seeking passage to the United States or Canada are most vulnerable. One common tool for manipulating victims is selling the idea of the “American Dream” under false pretenses. Typically migrants coming from poverty-stricken conditions in places such as Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are seeking a better life. Desperate, uneducated and undernourished, they are especially susceptible to the false promises of human traffickers. Human traffickers then employ intricate debt coercion schemes to pressure victims into sex work, forced labor and domestic servitude.

Captors maintain their control over victims by invoking themes of fear, violence, shame, isolation and debt. Traffickers frequently employ tactics to subdue victim rebellion, such as indoctrinating captives to believe government authorities are corrupt, confiscating means of travel vis a vis documentation, physical torture and rape. These conditions are applied mercilessly until the notion of escape becomes incomprehensible to the victim.

The Effort for Change

Human Trafficking in St. Maarten looked set to improve in 2022. They instigated a poster campaign focused on raising public awareness of trafficking and those who are vulnerable. They drafted a new National Action Plan (NAP) which set out important guidelines, including establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral and creating a national anti-trafficking hotline. However, St. Maarten did not implement this plan, and measures for change continue to fall short of national expectations.

The more local government proves lackluster, the greater the reliance on international aid. NGOs have become imperative to the country’s preservation from further collapse. Organizations like Lifeline Network International, the West Indee Committee and the Society of Mediators are playing an indispensable role in protecting even the most basic of human rights, establishing the platform for social, economic and agrarian education and facilitating the means for long-term sustainability.

The U.S. Department of State has articulated basic actions St. Maarten can take to revive this effort. These efforts include the re-adopting and implementing of the 2022 NAP, appropriate funding for protective and preventive services, educating authorities to be proactive in trafficking identification and informing the public, migrants and potential victims of their rights. Applying these basic actions sets the precedent for change and the foundations for a better future.

– Ruairi Greene
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in AngolaAngola is a country of origin and destination for men, women and children who are victims of trafficking, for the purpose of forced prostitution and forced labor. Domestically, victims of trafficking end up working in agriculture, construction, households and artisanal diamond mines. Women and children are often victims of human trafficking in Angola, with many women coming from Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Namibia, and traffickers sending many Angolan women and children to Namibia, South Africa and some European countries like Portugal. Since traffickers often lure victims with the promise of employment and a better life, Angola can implement several measures to improve the lives of its citizens. Here is some information about some of the challenges that Angola is facing that may play into the prevalence of human trafficking in Angola.

The Right to Form Unions

The law indicates that workers, except those that the armed forces or police employ, have the right to form and join independent trade unions. However, an issue is that authorities in Angola do not always enforce its laws adequately. The law states that for a union to form, at least 30% of workers in an industry or province must go through a registration process and receive approval from the authorities. The law also provides for the right to collective bargaining but excludes public sector workers. However, the country has prohibited strikes by members of the armed forces, police, prosecutors and judges, prison staff, firefighters, public sector workers and oil workers. 

Employment

The Angolan government enforced the Minimum Wage Act in the formal labor sector. In 2019, the national minimum wage was Kwanzas 16,503 ($52.60 USD) and the aim was for it to reach Kwanzas 21,454 ($68.30 USD) for the agricultural sector, Kwanzas 26,817 ($85.50 USD) for the trade and manufacturing sector and Kwanzas 32,181 ($102.50 USD) for the extractive industries sector. Furthermore, while the law guarantees a safe working environment for all sectors of the economy, labor protection standards do not protect most workers in the informal sector.   

Discrimination and Working Labor

The Constitution and the law prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, sex, religion, disability or language, and the government has generally enforced these laws effectively in the formal sector. The law provides for equal pay for equal work, and women often hold at least some high-level positions in state industry and the private sector. However, many women tend to hold low-level positions, especially in the informal sector. The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor too.

The government reportedly does not enforce this law effectively, partly because there are not enough labor inspectors. Penalties are reportedly inadequate to deter violations. Children under 14 are prohibited from working too. To obtain a work contract, children must prove that they are at least 14 years old and that the work does not interfere with their formal education or cause them physical or mental harm. Between the ages of 14 and 16, parental consent to work is necessary. Tuition is free and compulsory for children up to sixth grade.

NGOs and Immigration Policies

There are several hundred non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working for transparency, human rights and political reform regarding human trafficking in Angola. Organizations critical of the government are often subject to state interference and can experience the threat of legal action or closure. In 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that a 2015 decree requiring NGOs to register with the government and subjecting NGOs receiving donations to further scrutiny was no longer constitutional due to criticism from civil society. This criticism openly described the decree as restrictive and intrusive, as it required NGOs to obtain government approval before engaging in activities and allowed the government to monitor the organizations.

One of the best-known NGOs in Angola that is working on human rights is Missio, which has the main objective to support the Catholic Church in missionary dioceses around the world. The organization changes lives by listening to local needs and aiding in the creation of infrastructure, such as chapels, schools, orphanages, clinics and dispensaries and centers where young church members can thrive and grow. All this support is most tangible in the funds that it collects and distributes, but even more tangible in the spiritual and pastoral unity it creates. Therefore, the organization has two main areas of activity: mission animation and education and fundraising. It was registered in April 1996 and has raised more than £7 million to date and may have an impact on reducing human trafficking in Angola.

Several obstacles exist that prevent refugees and migrants from finding employment. Regulation 273/13 prevents refugees from obtaining a compulsory business license, which is necessary to own and operate a business. Refugees have also reported that they often have difficulty working in the formal sector because they cannot obtain legal documents. The government is making significant efforts to combat human trafficking in Angola. It has educated the public about the dangers of trafficking, amended the constitution to explicitly prohibit trafficking and maintained anti-trafficking funding despite a significant decline in government revenue and subsequent cuts to the national budget.   

– Manos S. Karousos
Photo: Flickr

Far outnumbering the global cocaine market, the “industry” of international human trafficking sees about $99 billion as of 2022. The connection between poverty and human trafficking manifests in how the crime tends to concentrate in lower-income countries such as Cambodia, Pakistan, Romania and Belarus. While authorities continue to work to eradicate the crime, Freekind and STOP THE TRAFFIK (STT) are two organizations combating human trafficking.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime that trades and exploits people for profit. According to the United Nations, three important elements define trafficking: the act, the means and the purpose. The act refers to the recruitment or transportation of victims. The means include the violence and deception that traffickers use to traffic victims. Lastly, the purpose is the exploitation of victims.

Different Types of Human Trafficking

There are two main types of human trafficking: sexual and forced labor. Sexual labor is the most common form of human trafficking. Research on sex trafficking shows that, on average, 4.8 million are sexually exploited at any given time. Among these victims, 99% of the sex trafficked are women and girls, according to the U.N. International Labour Office. The same report states that about 25 million were in forced labor in 2017. Of this group, 42% were male, and 19% were children.

Poverty and Human Trafficking

While human trafficking is a global crisis, lower-income countries often have the highest cases of trafficking due to a lack of resources. Lack of employment opportunities is highest in places with extreme poverty. Consequently, traffickers exploit this vulnerability by falsely offering jobs or training. Job seekers in lower-income areas frequently migrate for work. These migrant workers, particularly young people and children, become vulnerable targets. Sociocultural structures in other regions lacking equal rights for females also see more child and forced marriages.

Freekind and STOP THE TRAFFIK

Two organizations are combating human trafficking by using education and technology.

Freekind focuses on rebuilding lives and raising awareness. To meet these objectives, Freekind designed the Prevention Project curriculum in 2012.  This award-winning program was produced by human trafficking survivors, educators and advocates, rooted in the belief that “if change is going to happen, it must begin with the young generation.” The curriculum is designed for secondary school students and youth service providers. Through interactive sessions, many students have become aware of the seriousness of human trafficking and have become committed to combating the crime.

STOP THE TRAFFIK uses technology to fight human trafficking. Like Freekind, STT believes in uniting people across the globe through information, inspiration and mobilization to understand human trafficking better. In addition, STT also trains people to report trafficking with the STOP APP, a smartphone app that people can use globally to report suspicious activities of human trafficking securely and anonymously.

STT analyzes the app’s data to provide information on global human trafficking hot spots and trends. According to STT’s Final Impact Report of 2020, data from the STOP APP progressed 11 human trafficking cases to authorities.

Human trafficking is an issue that requires more attention from authorities. In areas with extreme poverty, individuals are at a greater risk of becoming targets of traffickers. Organizations such as Freekind and STT have dedicated themselves to combating human trafficking. Through prevention education and technology, both organizations address the seriousness of human trafficking and aim to bring people together to prevent trafficking from taking place.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Pexels

Nationality and Borders ActThe Nationality and Borders Act became law in the United Kingdom in April 2022. Despite many human rights activists, refugee charities and lawyers fearing the adverse impacts of the changes to the immigration system, the government claims its aim is not to prevent safe arrival and residence in the U.K. but to encourage a fairer system and prevent human trafficking and illegal entry.

The Requirements for Asylum Seekers

The act’s main changes to previous laws surrounding immigration include the imposition of a two-tier labeling system, categorizing asylum seekers as either Group 1 or Group 2 refugees.

  1. Group 1 Refugee. Someone who meets numerous conditions, and therefore, receives full “refugee permission to stay” in the U.K.
  2. Group 2 Refugee. Someone who fails to meet conditions, and therefore, receives “temporary refugee permission to stay.”

Furthermore, asylum seekers are now subject to a dual standard of proof to demonstrate that they are fleeing their home country due to “a well-founded fear of being persecuted.” Previously, the standard of proof was a “reasonable likelihood” of persecution. Now, the dual standard of proof assesses the situation based on both “a reasonable likelihood” and “balance of probabilities.” These standards leave some disparities within protection and support.

The Controversies

The Nationality and Borders Act functions on a system of differential treatment for asylum seekers traveling to the U.K. via a route that is not classified as ‘safe and legal.’ Those who pass by other ‘safe’ countries and do not claim asylum there are penalized for doing so and are placed in Group 2, which often denies them long-term residence and results in unfavorable treatment in comparison to Group 1 refugees. It is also possible that the U.K. will simply declare them ‘inadmissible.’ According to the International Rescue Committee, there are few “safe and legal routes to the U.K.”

Furthermore, by deeming the passing of a ‘safe country’ as a failure to seek asylum, the act does not account for numerous complications that may prevent an asylum seeker from stopping there. The new rules do not account for individual circumstances. For instance, an individual under the control of a smuggler, an individual enduring circumstances of violence, unsuitability of a certain country due to the refugee’s specific characteristics and a need to reside in the U.K. for purposes of family, cultural or linguistic links.

The Impact on Vulnerable Women

These new restrictions also pose specific risks to women. Research by Women for Refugee Women finds that around four out of five female asylum seekers have fled from dangers of a sexual and gender discriminatory nature. As a result of the sensitive and complex nature of trauma, victims struggle to promptly disclose the details of the violence, with research finding memory loss or inability to verbalize trauma as a common side effect of the trauma itself.

Once arriving in the U.K., any delay in applying for asylum and submitting evidence will lead to a penalty. Delayed submission of evidence impacts applicants’ credibility and could, therefore, hold “minimal weight by the decision-maker” assessing the asylum application. This deters applications from many traumatized women who have experienced violence and abuse.

The Route to Rwanda

Arguably one of the biggest controversies associated with the Nationality and Borders Act is the U.K.’s decision in April 2022 to relocate some U.K. asylum seekers to Rwanda as part of a £120 million agreement. The public views this as a ‘penalty’ as the U.K. will not permit some asylum seekers to return to the U.K. It is possible that this aspect is a breach of Article 31 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which states that even immigrants entering illegally will not be subject to penalties while fleeing persecution.

Despite global recognition of Rwanda’s growth and development, fact-checking by Deutsche Welle reveals issues. Over the years, reports indicate limitations on freedom of speech in the country, with violent consequences arising for journalists, politicians and others who have spoken ill of the government. Although homosexuality is not illegal, Rwanda is known for its intolerance of sexual minority groups, with the U.K. government’s own foreign travel advice page warning of abuse and discrimination.

Overcoming the Barriers to Safety

An Equality Impact Assessment for the Nationality and Borders Act has prompted the government’s promise to mitigate any negative effects of the act experienced by vulnerable refugees such as women, children and those with disabilities. The government has also vowed to improve legal aid accessibility.

Working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.K. government has committed to ensuring equality and fairness within resettlement programs for refugees. The U.K government also permits the Home Secretary to exercise discretion and allow asylum for refugees facing special circumstances.

The International Rescue Committee is an organization committed to providing humanitarian assistance to refugees seeking safety and highlights the need for the creation of safe routes for asylum seekers. If the U.K. delivers and increases the availability of resettlement schemes, such as the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, and prioritizes its application and support systems, it has the chance to prove that the Nationality and Borders Act will serve as an anchor to those seeking safety and not a barrier.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: WikiCommons

Human Trafficking in Malawi's Dzaleka Refugee Camp“The [human trafficking] situation was much worse than we first envisaged,” says Maxwell Matewere from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Malawi. “I even witnessed a kind of Sunday market, where people come to buy children who were then exploited in situations of forced labor and prostitution,” he says to the U.N. The place in question is Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Created in 1994, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR)  built the camp to accommodate 10,000 refugees escaping war and violence from neighboring countries. It now houses more than 50,000 refugees with even more refugees forced to return to the camp because of the government’s decree. The UNODC and Malawian Police Service have uncovered instances of human trafficking in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp.

Human Trafficking in the Refugee Camp

Human trafficking in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp takes many forms. Traffickers force men into hard labor while women and girls face sexual exploitation inside the camp or traffickers move them to the city or other countries in southern Africa. Traffickers even recruit children for farm labor and domestic work. Oftentimes, traffickers require refugees to pay off a debt accumulated from “being smuggled into Malawi.” Traffickers then force the victims into labor or prostitution to pay off the debt. The UNODC suspects that the camp may even be a transitory point for larger international human trafficking networks.

Why Human Trafficking Persists

Since the discovery of human trafficking in Dzaleka, the UNODC has taken measures to dismantle the organizations, identify and rescue victims as well as prosecute the perpetrators. However, several factors make dismantling human trafficking networks exceptionally difficult.

  • Victims are Afraid of Testifying. According to the Malawian Police Service, prosecution is difficult because many victims are afraid to testify in court. According to the U.N., the primary reason is that victims fear that traffickers may target them or their families. In some cases, victims related to the trafficker will object to testifying out of a remaining “sense of love or loyalty.” Furthermore, victims are sometimes reluctant to cooperate because they do not trust the officials.
  • Distrust of Law Enforcement. Many victims have difficulty trusting law enforcement. Not only does this make victims reluctant to testify but this also makes it more difficult to identify and rescue victims. According to Deutsche Welle, the basis of distrust comes from a history of corruption among Malawian officials. As Caleb Ng’ombo from People Serving Girls at Risk (PSGR) said, “We still have high levels of corruption, and so most of the trafficking cases are thriving… The people entrusted to do their job cannot do it because someone is paying them under the table.” With an underlying sense of distrust, victims from Malawi’s refugee camps may doubt the intentions of undercover police officers attempting a rescue, complicating the process.
  • Untrained Staff. Upon the discovery of human trafficking in Malawi’s refugee camp, the UNODC held an initial training at Dzaleka to train the staff on identifying and preventing human trafficking. According to Matewere, “There’s very little knowledge of human trafficking among the camp staff.” In fact, after initial training, some members experienced feelings of guilt when they realized the prevalence of trafficking within the camp. Now, the camp has implemented the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons in order to effectively prevent and respond to incidences of human trafficking.

Anti-Trafficking Measures

Despite the difficulty of dismantling human trafficking in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp, the UNODC and UNHCR are determined in their goals. Not only have they implemented new training and anti-trafficking procedures, but they have also coached 28 camp officials who will train their colleagues in turn. Furthermore, with U.N. intervention, victims now reside in safe houses instead of being placed in jail alongside perpetrators. With these steps in place, the UNODC has rescued more than 90 victims from the Dzaleka Refugee Camp as of June 2022.

Numerous NGOs are also working on the ground in Malawi. People Serving Girls at Risk (PSGR), for example, cares for women and girls who have faced trafficking or exploitation and handles more than 200 cases a year.

An undercover policeman trained by the UNODC identified and rescued a 16-year-old Congolese girl from forced prostitution. Trafficked at just 10 years old, she came to the camp in 2009 after leaving the DRC due to conflict and violence. At first, she did not trust the officer, but, eventually, he gained her trust. “That evening, I had been beaten by one of my clients for refusing to have sex due to a cut that was bleeding. I was in pain and it was visible. The officer was friendly and he took me to a safe house,” she said to the U.N. Now, she is taking computer literacy lessons and hopes to reunite with her family.

Looking Ahead

Although the path to eradicating human trafficking in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp is complex, progress is visible. Hopefully, with the combined efforts of the U.N. and the government, Malawi can eradicate human trafficking in the refugee camp.

– Emilie Zhang
Photo: Flickr

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

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

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

Three Key Improvements

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

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

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

The Road Ahead

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

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Hong KongHuman trafficking is a persistent problem all around the world, including in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region located in the People’s Republic of China. The Justice Centre Hong Kong produced a study in 2016 on human trafficking in Hong Kong and it was found that one in six of the 370,000 migrant workers in the city were forced labor victims. While Hong Kong does take steps to eradicate human trafficking, it is important to study human trafficking in every region of the world so that it can be prevented in the future.

Recent Changes and Legislation

Lawmakers in Hong Kong proposed that the government pass an anti-slavery bill based on Great Britain’s “Modern Slavery Act.” However, two of those lawmakers, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung, were removed from Parliament, leaving many questioning whether the bill would ever get passed. A member of The Mekong Club, a group in Hong Kong dedicated to fighting modern slavery said, “There is little chance that this important bill will move forward.” This, in conjunction with the current protests in Hong Kong likely means that lawmakers have had little time to focus on anti-human trafficking legislation.

Another recent development on human trafficking in the nation is that in mid-2020 the U.S. demoted Hong Kong from Tier 2 on the Trafficking in Persons Report to Tier 2 Watch List, suggesting that Hong Kong “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” The government of Hong Kong disputed the U.S. human trafficking report’s claims, arguing that the report was not based on evidence and looks at minor flaws rather than the big picture.

Hong Kong’s Approach to Resolving Human Trafficking

One problem with the nation’s current anti-human trafficking legislation is that the city only defines human trafficking as “involving cross-border sex trafficking for prostitution,” which means the legislation does not cover “labor exploitation, debt bondage, domestic servitude or similar practices.” Unfortunately, the legal system can make it difficult for those who are trafficked in Hong Kong to get the help they need or support from legal authorities.

While anti-human trafficking laws could be amended, lawmakers and academics have shown there are creative solutions to the problem. Reed Smooth Richards Butler, a law firm, worked with Liberty Asia, an anti-slavery charity, to create the Legal Gap Analysis report, which explains how other laws can be used to persecute human traffickers. For example, individuals responsible could be arrested for false imprisonment rather than human trafficking directly. Creative efforts like these are important to find solutions to salient issues, including the trafficking of people.

Protecting Human Rights

While the government can certainly improve its response to human trafficking in Hong Kong, the country has implemented many measures to help reduce human trafficking and protect human rights. Human trafficking needs addressing and analyzing the nuances in human trafficking policy can help incapacitate the industry globally.

Madelynn Einhorn
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Afghanistan Afghanistan currently faces a large-scale human trafficking crisis that is rooted in centuries of abuse. Children and women are sold or kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery or armed forces. With the Afghani Government failing to properly protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, the U.S. Department of State and a network of NGOs are working to alleviate the problem.

The Systemic Issues

One of the major issues contributing to the human trafficking crisis within Afghanistan is the continued practice of bacha bazi, or “dancing boys”, in which sexual abuse against children is performed by adult men. Although technically illegal, the centuries-old custom has been proven hard to get rid of, with many government and security officials being complicit with its continuation.

The U.S. Department of State has declared Afghanistan Tier 3, the highest threat level, meaning that it does not meet the minimum requirements for combatting human trafficking and is not making a significant effort to do so.

This has a significant impact on Afghanistan because according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the United States will not provide nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance to a country that is ranked on Tier 3. According to the June 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the use of child soldiers and bacha bazi has continued. Although there have been investigations and arrests made in an attempt to end bacha bazi, no police officers involved were prosecuted.

Addressing Human Trafficking in Afghanistan

The Afghani Government has shown efforts to end human trafficking within its borders. In 2019, it joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on a global initiative to stop human trafficking. This initiative aims to allocate resources to countries in the Middle East and Asia that need assistance in the battle against human trafficking.

USAID reported that in 2019,  Afghanistan increased the number of Child Protection Units within national police precincts, preventing the recruitment of 357 child soldiers. Furthermore, the National Child Protection Committee (NCPC) was created to respond to the practice of bacha bazi.

USAID has worked to assist the Afghani by training government officials to prosecute human traffickers and abusers as well as giving assistance to shelter workers that give legal and social resources to victims. It assisted in the creation of the Afghanistan Network in Combating Trafficking in Persons (ANCTIP), a network of Afghan NGOs that work with victims of human trafficking.

NGOs within the country have provided most of the assistance to victims of human trafficking. Approximately 27 women’s shelters in 20 provinces provided protection and care for female victims of trafficking. NGOs also operated two shelters for male victims under the age of 18.

Eradicating Human Trafficking

In order for Afghanistan to efficiently combat its human trafficking crisis and move to a lower tier level, Afghanistan needs to increase criminal investigations and prosecutions of suspected traffickers, especially in law enforcement and the military. Furthermore, traffickers must be convicted and adequately sentenced. This can be done by increasing the influence and powers of the NCPC and allowing the committee to remove public servants found practicing bacha bazi. Additional support from the country’s government must also be given to survivors of human trafficking. Only by rooting out the systemic abuse within the top institutions of the country can Afghanistan effectively address its human trafficking crisis.

– Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Examining Human Trafficking in SomaliaHuman trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or a commercial sex act. Today, human trafficking is a modern term for slavery. Mayumi Ueno, the counter-trafficking project manager at the International Office for Migration (IOM)’s Somalia Support Office, said the scale of human trafficking in Somalia is unknown. Somal women are often trafficked to Kenya, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates to be sexually exploited.

How Human Trafficking in Somalia Happens

Every day, Najib Jama Abdi’s sister got up and walked to school. One day, she did not return. The Abdi family heard from the media that she had been trafficked to Somaliland. “By Allah’s mercy she was saved,” said Najib Jama Abdi to The New Humanitarian. Organizations like the Somali Police Force’s criminal investigations division 40-officer Counter-Trafficking and Organized Crime Unit work to rescue girls who have been kidnapped off the street and sold into human trafficking, like Abdi’s sister.

Human Trafficking in Somalia is a widespread issue. Women and girls are sometimes lied to and offered job opportunities, marriage or education in far-away places and then sold into sex slavery. In 2009, IOM began the Counter-Trafficking Project for Somalia. In Puntland and Somaliland, its activities included promoting awareness and informing citizens of the risks and dangers of being trafficked through media such as billboards.

History of Trafficking in Somalia

For decades, military dictator Siad Barre committed widespread atrocities, which effectively destroyed Somali civil society. Then, in May 1991, Barre was overthrown. The east desert region of Somalia declared itself the “Republic of Somaliland” after the overthrow of Barre. Somaliland now has a population of 3.5 million people, a functional political system, its own currency and a police force.

Before 1991, the federal and regional laws criminalized slave labor and certain forms of sex trafficking. Then, after Barre was overthrown, No progress was reported again until September 2017, when a human trafficking law was drafted and endorsed by Somaliland.

What’s Happening Now

Officials said they are concerned about the increasing amount of human trafficking in Somalia, specifically in the region of Somaliland. This region lies in the south-central region of Somalia. As a result, the lack of government in Somaliland makes child trafficking easier for traffickers to get away with. In November 2017, the city-state of Puntland in northeastern Somalia made valid a human trafficking legislative framework. It was made of new criminal procedures, penal codes and laws that specifically prohibit trafficking. The authorities recorded two trafficking cases that involved six individuals in 2020, during the period the U.S. government reported on the issue.

The Trafficking and Smuggling Task Force was the government’s anti-trafficking coordinating body. However, slow steps are being taken by the government to mitigate human trafficking in Somalia. Nevertheless, new anti-trafficking initiatives are moving in the right direction to end human trafficking in Somalia.

Madeline Drayna
Photo: Flickr