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

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

The Human Trafficking Institute

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

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

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

Importance of Biometrics

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

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

Belize’s TIP Ranking

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

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Uganda
Uganda is a country in East Africa that resides primarily on a central plateau that the rainforest mainly covers. Uganda is home to approximately 43 million people and a very young population, with an average age of 15.9 years old. Because of Uganda’s prominent position in Africa, it is an important destination for international tourism and trade. With large economic inequality and limited access to employment opportunities, Uganda’s population has grown economically vulnerable. This economic insecurity has lead to high rates of human trafficking in Uganda, as black market traffickers exploit vulnerable populations.

The Situation

Human trafficking is the crime of using “force, fraud or coercion” on people with the aim of exploiting them for profit. The exploitation typically comes in the form of physical labor, acts of service or sexual favors. Traffickers use varied tactics to lure their victims, including violent force, manipulation, romance and promises of well-paying jobs.

Human trafficking has become a major problem in Uganda. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report from 2020, estimates determined that traffickers are currently exploiting 7,000 to 12,000 children through sex trafficking in Uganda. The report also outlines how human trafficking in Uganda primarily takes the form of forced physical labor and sexual exploitation.

Uganda lacks employment opportunities, quality education and social welfare systems to aid the nation’s young population. The lack of opportunities and access to resources has left young Ugandans who live in rural and underserved areas vulnerable to exploitation. Most young Ugandans emigrants go to the Gulf States to work as laborers, security officers, construction workers and other forms of untrained labor, putting them at risk of human trafficking syndicates. The criminal justice system in Uganda is not adequately prepared to handle international crimes of this scope and nature. Special expertise and the cooperation of the international community are necessary to apprehend and bring to justice human traffickers and their accomplices.

The Fight Against Trafficking

Currently, Uganda has not met the minimum requirements to eliminate human trafficking but has made significant efforts to do so. Necessary measures for Uganda to eliminate human trafficking are varied. They include greater scale and intensity of federal investigations into human trafficking and a focus on prosecuting traffickers on the judicial side. Outside of criminal justice, assisting survivors of human trafficking and allocating resources to NGOs that provide protective services to populations vulnerable to trafficking are both crucial to ameliorate the damage that human trafficking has done. To successfully combat the menace of human trafficking, the Ugandan government must prioritize both survivor resources and relentless prosecution of human traffickers.

Despite its difficulties, the Ugandan government has taken the initiative to combat human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Institute, which emerged in 2015, has dedicated itself to combating modern slavery by empowering law enforcement to stop traffickers. The Institute has met with Ugandan leaders and planned the creation of specially-trained anti-trafficking units dedicated exclusively to combating human traffickers and the criminal infrastructure that enables them. The Institute is currently working with the Ugandan government to conduct trafficking investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. In 2017, the Institute led the training of 175 judges, police and prosecutors in Kampala, Uganda. Working with the Institute, the Ugandan government approved a specialized Human Trafficking Department in the Ugandan police force. The Human Trafficking Department now has approximately 250 staff members across Uganda.

Progress & Future Efforts

In 2009, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act became law in Uganda. Under the law, which prohibits sex trafficking of any kind and protects the rights of sex trafficking survivors, prosecution and conviction of traffickers have escalated considerably. In 2009, only a single human trafficker received a conviction in Uganda out of three prosecutions. In contrast, 2017 saw 50 prosecutions and 24 convictions of human traffickers and their accomplices in Uganda.

Nonprofits and advocacy groups have also played a role in the fight against human trafficking. Willow International is a nonprofit organization that Kelly Morgan founded in 2015, dedicated to fighting human trafficking in Uganda. After she visited the country and witnessed human trafficking firsthand, Morgan made it her mission to end slavery in Uganda. Willow International combats human trafficking in Uganda through advocacy, aftercare, partnerships, prevention and rescue. Hundreds of trafficking victims and survivors have benefited from Willow’s work, with an estimated 55,000 lives positively impacted through rescue, education and prevention efforts in Uganda.

These efforts by the Ugandan government and advocates from the world are promising and important initiatives. Legal reform and resources for vulnerable communities have helped Uganda’s underdeveloped rural population stand up to traffickers. Simultaneously, the Ugandan government has reaffirmed its dedication to fighting trafficking and cooperated with international organizations to implement its new initiatives. But Uganda continues to be an area with prevalent human trafficking, and as long as modern slavery continues in the country, the fight against exploited labor will and must continue.

Jose Ahumada
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts ABout Human Trafficking in Guatemala

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) about 15,000 young people are being trafficked for sexual exploitation currently in Guatemala and for every victim that is rescued approximately 30 more are exploited and kept hidden. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Guatemala.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Guatemala

  1. Poverty is considered one of the main causes behind human trafficking, given that three in five people live on less than $3.10 a day. As a result, most victims are often uneducated, unemployed and are lured based on false promises of potential job opportunities. Domestic violence can also be a main driver, given the engrained patriarchal mentality that exists in this society. Often, human trafficking situations arise from domestic violence from male relatives, in turn causing young children to flee home where they are then submitted to the harsh realities of human trafficking conditions.
  2. Only four percent of human trafficking victims in Guatemala are actually Guatemalan citizens, meaning that about 96 percent of the people who are trafficked in Guatemala are not native Guatemalans. Since the majority of the victims come from neighboring countries, human trafficking can be linked with northern migration. Guatemala‘s neighbor countries, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, are all part of the C-4 visa area, which establishes that citizens of these countries can travel freely back and forth. This means Guatemala may be seen as an attractive location to relocate for economic purposes.
  3. Of the approximately 50,000 sex trafficking victims reported in Guatemala, almost 60 percent are children. It is very common to see girls as young as 12 years old working in brothels and being forced to have sex with upwards of 30 customers a day. In some cases, traffickers can be found at schools where they recruit virgin schoolgirls to partake in such acts. With the high number of children being sold for sex trafficking, the revenue is equivalent to 2.7 percent of Guatemala’s gross domestic product (GDP).
  4. Along with young children, women are also at higher risk for victimization. According to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CIGIG), women make up 64 percent of victims, of which several are little girls as young as eight years old. Because there is often a higher demand and willingness to pay more money for specific traits in girls such as virginity, traffickers must often target younger women.
  5. Although efforts are being made to stop human trafficking, only about three percent of cases are detected every year. Additionally, there are only two prosecutors country-wide who are working solely on sex trafficking cases. Because of this, human trafficking convictions in Guatemala are extremely low.
  6. Due to a misidentification of human trafficking victims, the number of victims is actually higher than what has been reported. Over the past five years, approximately 1,568 victims have been detected annually as human trafficking victims. Of these, 317 are sex trafficking victims and 810 are human trafficking victims.
  7. The Human Trafficking Institute has listed some of the challenges that Guatemalan authorities have faced when it comes to reducing and eliminating human trafficking. Some of these challenges include the human trafficking rings that currently exist, gang related crime and high levels of poverty. Furthermore, many victims include indigenous peoples who may not speak Spanish well enough or at all in order to report the traffickers to the respective authorities.
  8. The Guatemalan government has taken notice of the increasing problem of human trafficking and is taking the appropriate measures to stop it. The government has recently released its anti-trafficking action plan for 2018 to 2022, which establishes that it aims to provide a victim protection protocol in differing languages and dialects for those whose first language is not Spanish. Additionally, the government will open an anti-trafficking unit that will operate regionally and attempt to process and bring more traffickers to justice.
  9. Although a lack of education can lead people to become prey to human traffickers, becoming more educated can help survivors overcome the trauma they have undergone. Not only does education help victims but it can also prevent people from becoming victims by raising awareness of the problem and providing them with solutions to avoid being trafficked. Education can also help young people develop a skill or interest after the fact, in order to help them move on and lead a normal life.
  10. The UNODC has developed a trust fund in order to help victims of human trafficking. This program works by rescuing victims and slowly reintegrating them into society, while giving them a much-needed support system. However, this program not only benefits the victims of human trafficking, but it also aims to raise awareness and educate the general public in how to keep human trafficking from occurring at all.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Guatemala shed light on what a pressing issue it is, however efforts are being made by the government as well as international organizations to continue progress in ending human trafficking worldwide.

—Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose central location makes it an important destination for trade and tourism. However, large economic disparities and high unemployment levels have led to a rise in the crime of human trafficking. Inadequate funding of law enforcement units and high levels of poverty make the general population of Uganda vulnerable to human trafficking, including children. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Uganda.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Uganda

  1. Sex trafficking: According to the United States Bureau of International Labor Affairs, children in Uganda are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sex trafficking. Minors from the Karamoja region are trafficked to Kampala and other large urban areas where demand for child labor and sex slavery is high. Children from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also exploited in forced agricultural labor and sex trafficking in Uganda.
  2. Education: Limited access to education makes children particularly vulnerable to forced labor. The law provides free public education; however, the cost of school materials such as uniforms and writing utensils make access to education a challenge for many. In addition to the barriers to accessing education, children often experience physical and sexual abuse at school by teachers and peers.
  3. Rural areas: Children from rural areas are about three times more likely to be trafficked into child labor than city children. The child employment rate in rural areas is 34 percent while in urban areas it is 11 percent. In Kampala, only three percent of children are employed illegally, while 45 percent of children in the central region are employed.
  4. Sectors of child labor: In Uganda, child labor is broken up into four categories:
    • Industry sector: Children are forced to mine, work in quarries or make bricks.
    • Service sector: Children work in the streets selling products and collecting and selling scrap metal.
    • Agriculture sector: Children work in industries of tobacco, coffee and sugar cane.
    • Worst forms: Children are sold into commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking or forced to labor in agriculture. Sometimes minors are used for illegal activities such as smuggling and stealing as well.
  5. Lord’s Resistance Army: The “worst forms” category is mainly related to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in northern Uganda, founded by Joseph Kony. The group has been active since 1987 and has been known to kidnap children and force girls into sex slavery. The group also trafficks boys as child soldiers and uses brainwashing techniques to ensure their loyalty. Eighty percent of the LRA members are children. From 1987 to 2009, approximately 38,000 children were kidnapped. Girls were employed as cooks and sex slaves for the LRA soldiers, while boys must learn to kill or be killed.
  6. Fighting child labor: In 2012, the government took the first steps in creating legislation to get rid of the worst forms of child labor. The Ugandan government started the National Action Plan (NAP) and created a Counter-Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) office and an inter-ministerial Task Force to organize anti-trafficking strategies.
  7. Legal work age: Ugandan law prohibits the labor of children under 12 years of age. National labor legislation forbids the involvement of children aged 12–13 in any form of employment except for light work that is supervised by an adult older than 18 years of age. “Light work” must not get in the way of the child’s education.
  8. Ensuring education: Right now children in Uganda are only required to attend school up until age 13, however, in 2016, the government passed the Children (Amendment) Act which establishes the age of 16 as the minimum age for work. The act also criminalizes the sex trafficking of children. The act is meant to encourage children to stay in school since they legally cannot work until 16 years of age.
  9. Humanium: The international non-governmental organization, Humanium, works in Uganda to combat the abuse of children’s rights. They have set out six policies that must be implemented to combat child labor. These include:
    • Education and second chance learning: These are essential for reintegrating adults into society who have been harmed through forced child labor.
    • Expand social protection: Serve to prevent vulnerable households from having to resort to child labor to support their families.
    • Promote greater public awareness: Providing information on child labor can increase public outrage and support for child protective legislation.
    • Promote social mobilization against child labor.
    • Strengthen child labor inspections and monitoring.
    • Advocacy of political commitment: This is essential to ensure that child labor reduction policies occur.
  10. The Human Trafficking Institute: The Human Trafficking Institute is working closely with the Ugandan government. So far they have approved the creation of a specialized Human Trafficking Department in the Ugandan police force. The department is supposed to have over 250 staff members as well as specialized human trafficking officers posted across the country. The department will support the rehabilitation of trafficking victims and a crackdown on other forms of child labor.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr