Posts

Human trafficking in Honduras
Human trafficking in Honduras is one of the most prominent human rights issues in the country. A 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State identifies Honduras as a Tier 2 country since it is making great strides in reducing human trafficking cases. However, the country still needs to meet the set baselines. With the new legislation, a new anti-trafficking plan and advocacy efforts by government-backed programs, Honduras is on its way to creating a safer society.

Causes of Human Trafficking in Honduras

The main causes of human trafficking in Honduras are unemployment, lack of economic opportunity and family issues. These issues leave people desperate to have a stable income and, unfortunately, make them more vulnerable to human trafficking. According to the World Bank data, the unemployment rate in Honduras reached 10.98% in 2020, about a 5% increase from the unemployment rate of 5.7% in 2019. Often, traffickers lure victims to other countries with false promises of an escape from poverty and crime-ravaged areas, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Honduras is primarily a source country for sex trafficking and forced labor. Oftentimes, traffickers exploit victims within their own communities and homes. Traffickers transport women and children, who are primarily victims of sex trafficking, abroad to experience exploitation in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States. Additionally, traffickers usually transport people for forced labor to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

As the U.S. Department of State reported, traffickers force their victims to beg on the streets, traffick drugs and work in the informal sector. Children have to work in dangerous occupations such as the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and mining industries. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that 9% of children from ages 5 to 14 in Honduras are working. Around 53% of these children work in the agricultural sector, 12.7% work in the industry sector (mining, construction and fireworks production, etc.) and 34% work in the services sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, negatively impacting economic opportunity further. This has caused more people to be vulnerable to human trafficking in Honduras, according to the 2021 report by the U.S. Department of State.

Government Initiatives

The previously mentioned report shows that the Honduran government is taking action to reduce cases of human trafficking in Honduras in the following ways:

  1. Increasing funding for Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT): In 2019, the Honduran government increased funding to 5.5 million lempiras (USD 221,400). CICESCT uses this funding to provide assistance to victims such as protection and therapy. In 2020, CICESCT’s immediate response team provided 67 victims with these services. Additionally, CICESCT works with other organizations and NGOs to provide further assistance to victims such as medical care.
  2. Identifying More Victims: Law enforcement and social service providers have certain procedures to follow to identify symptoms of human trafficking and refer suspected victims to the CICEST immediate response team.
  3. Enacting a New Penal Code Provision: The definition of trafficking is now as per international law. However, the new penal code lowered the penalty for trafficking, resulting in the crime not being on par with other serious misdemeanors.
  4. Implementing the 2016-2020 National Anti-Trafficking Plan: This plan includes measures such as providing anti-trafficking training to the public (virtually during the pandemic) and providing awareness-raising campaigns through social media. The Honduran government also formed a network of 32 government agencies and NGOs to help carry the plan out.

UNODC Campaign

In 2019, the Honduran government joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Blue Heart Campaign. The idea is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Honduras and to prevent these crimes. The Blue Heart Campaign focuses on advocacy and seeks to recruit others to help prevent human trafficking crimes by building political support to take more action against it. The campaign sends its donations to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, whose goal is to aid other organizations and NGOs globally to assist victims. According to the U.N. Office of Drug and Crime, the campaign resulted in the rescuing of 194 people in 2019.

CICESCT

CICESCT is a Honduran government agency that aims to reduce the number of human trafficking cases and to provide care for victims. Since its formation in 2012, Honduras has increased funding for CICESCT. This allows for more aid and investigations into human trafficking cases. In 2018, more than 300 victims received aid, protection and services (mental health counseling, food, housing, legal care and medical care) to integrate back into society. Also, 28 people received prison sentences with time ranging from 5 to 15 years for human trafficking.

Moving Forwards

There are still critical issues to reach a resolution regarding human trafficking in Honduras. However, the country has made significant progress and is continuing to work on eradicating human trafficking from the country. If this level of progress and awareness continues, Honduras can achieve a trafficking-free society.

– Shikha Surupa
Photo: Unsplash


Human trafficking is a global problem. Unfortunately, human trafficking in Ireland worsened in the last few years. The U.S. Department of State ranks countries on a three-tier system when it comes to human trafficking. In 2020, Ireland dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 2 watchlist because the country does not meet the minimum standards. However, Ireland is making efforts to eliminate trafficking. Here are four facts about human trafficking in Ireland.

1. In Western Europe, Ireland is the Only Country on the Tier 2 Watchlist.

Ireland now stands with areas of the world like Hong Kong and Romania on the tiered system. In Ireland, the trafficking problem progressively worsened. In 2012, the An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) detected or reported 48 victims, “44 in 2013, 46 in 2014, 78 in 2015 and 95 in 2016.” However, while human trafficking in Ireland intensifies, the rest of Western Europe remains at a higher tier designation.

Additionally, the Irish government did not report on the victims. Yet, the U.S. State Department’s report pointed out that “traffickers subject Irish children to sex trafficking within the country.” Sr Kathleen Bryant, a charity worker, believes Ireland is in “denial” about sex trafficking. She speculates that Ireland cannot admit that Irish people are exploiting one another.

2. Sexual Exploitation Exists Within Human Trafficking in Ireland.

The majority of victims are women. Sadly, the majority of these victims experience sexual exploitation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime observed that the majority of human trafficking victims in Ireland are victims of sexual exploitation.

Recently, authorities found two women in Ireland guilty of human trafficking. They ran a prostitution ring in Ireland, and their victims journeyed from Nigeria only to experience exploitation in Ireland. One victim described herself as a “sex machine.” Sexual exploitation is a large component of human trafficking in Ireland. The U.N. report shows that 194 victims suffer from sexual abuse by 2016. Additionally, 108 people were victims of forced labor.

3. Labor Trafficking Exists in Ireland.

Besides sex trafficking, labor trafficking is prevalent in Ireland as well. There are at least 8,000 people in Ireland working as slave labor. The traffickers coerce and manipulate people into traveling to Ireland. They work in “the restaurant industry, waste management, fishing, seasonal agriculture and car-washing services.” In particular, many accuse the fishing industry of exploiting migrant workers. The current system leaves migrants with only one employment option, consequently, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

4. Ruhama is Fighting Human Trafficking in Ireland.

NGOs are fighting to eliminate human trafficking in Ireland. For example, the NGO, Ruhama, is working to give support to victims of human sex trafficking. The U.S. State Department report mentions how the Irish government does a poor job of identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking. Ruhama fills that gap by providing free and confidential assistance to women who are victims of sex trafficking.

Additionally, Ruhama has been lobbying and campaigning to change the systems that allow sex trafficking to happen. Ruhama began in 1989, and it helps thousands of women stuck in prostitution and sex trafficking. Ruhama’s 2019 annual report revealed that Ruhama worked with 116 victims of sex trafficking. Ruhama implements casework, Education & Development Programme, Outreach, Counselling, Bridge to Work, Holistic Therapies and Policy Work to help these women. Ruhama also played a significant part in lobbying for the 2017 Sexual Offences Act which intends to help sex trafficking victims.

Western Europe is one of the wealthiest parts of the world. Yet, human trafficking in Ireland illustrates how poverty around the globe creates problems that spread to every corner of society. Through better government oversight and continued work from organizations like Ruhama, Ireland could eventually regain its Tier 1 status.

– Mike Messina
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Iraq
The media has brought attention to violence, war and terror in Iraq. Unfortunately, there are other effects of the ongoing conflict and instability in Iraq, particularly human trafficking. Human trafficking in Iraq prevailed under the Sadam era, but in the years following the end of his regime, the issue continued to worsen. As a result, the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S. Department of State ranked Iraq as a Tier 2 country. A Tier 2 status means that the Iraqi government has implemented measures to combat human trafficking but has not been successful so far.

These measures included identifying 70 victims of trafficking; however, some have acknowledged that the number is far greater than this because of the lack of functional infrastructure to accurately report and combat human trafficking. For example, the report from the Department of State determined that “as of February 2020, the KRG reported 2,893 Yezidis — including men, women and children — remain missing. Some reports have indicated that the missing women and girls remain with ISIS in Eastern Syria and Turkey or have been exploited in other parts of the region, Europe or Asia.” Yezidis are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking in Iraq.

The Link Between ISIS and Human Trafficking

More than seven years of war and the emergence of terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, wreaked havoc on Iraqi public and political infrastructures, leaving organizations such as the Ministry of the Interior under-resourced and lacking in accountability measures for its anti-trafficking department. Additionally, cultural stigmas have made Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian women and girls particularly vulnerable to trafficking. These stigmas include customs such as temporary marriages or traditions in some areas that a woman should marry her rapist.

Officially, Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December 2017. However, during the height of ISIS’s power, ISIS trafficked tens of thousands of women and children as sex slaves and many more children as child soldiers. ISIS trafficked an estimated 1,100 child soldiers from Iraq and Syria after taking control of large regions of the nation in June 2014.

The terrorist organization continues to have a presence in Iraq, leaving many victims vulnerable. This is especially true because victims often do not have a support network after escaping their traffickers. In this context, it is important to understand the measures that the Iraqi government can take to improve its anti-trafficking efforts on a systemic level.

There are clear steps that the government can take to address human trafficking in Iraq that will hopefully act as a framework to guide other nations struggling after the presence of war and terrorism. The U.S. Department of State published a 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report that provides suggestions on how to best combat this issue.

Investigating Traffickers

Authorities do not hold military officials in the armed forces accountable for complicity in human trafficking in Iraq. Unfortunately, reports determined that corrupt officials are working in trafficking networks themselves without repercussions due to a lack of internal accountability. Additionally, due to a lack of education, military officials who are in charge of preventing trafficking and punishing traffickers easily fall prey to bribes and schemes that blame victims for crimes that traffickers commit. Investigating, prosecuting, convicting and sentencing all complicit traffickers indiscriminately and disregarding their positions in the government or military has the potential to make a significant impact toward ending trafficking.

Regulating Trafficking and the Iraqi Government

Since Iraq has been struggling with its infrastructure, it has had challenges bringing traffickers to justice because there is a lack of framework and regulations for this cause. One important suggestion from the Trafficking in Persons Report is for officials to receive education on regulations so that they can implement the regulations better. As a consequence of a lack of education, victims of trafficking frequently experience punishment for crimes traffickers forced them to commit, such as prostitution and child soldiering.

In some cases, traffickers accuse their victims of petty crime in retaliation due to the victim reporting them. As a result, authorities arrest the victims and return them to the traffickers’ custody. Therefore, it is crucial to educate officials to better recognize trafficking and ensure they have the training necessary to respond to trafficking instances appropriately.

The anti-trafficking programs that are in place, while lacking, are a promising start. The Iraqi government prosecuted and identified more traffickers in the year 2020 than in 2019, additionally providing shelter for a limited number of victims in Baghdad. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also allowed an NGO to build a shelter for victims of trafficking for the first time and helped liberate hundreds of Yezidi individuals from ISIS. These efforts show that the Iraqi government is moving in the right direction to combat human trafficking in Iraq.

Supporting Victims of Trafficking

Ending human trafficking in Iraq is the ultimate goal, but it is also important to think about care for those who are victims. Currently, it is against the law in Iraq for an NGO to build a shelter for victims of human trafficking. Additionally, victims are unable to move or work freely during a trial prosecuting their traffickers and need better protection services during trials. Increased access to basic needs and services such as medical care, long-term housing help and counseling services for their trauma are important first steps toward providing crucial support for victims. The Iraqi anti-trafficking framework is currently lacking in victim resources. Therefore, more focus on the direct wellbeing of victims could provide noticeable and tangible results for those affected.

Unfortunately, there are at least 27 known human trafficking networks in the Iraq and Kurdistan region. This is an ongoing and urgent issue, but while Iraq has many barriers to face, there are also clear pathways that the Iraqi government can take to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and systems of governance.

– Abigail Meyer
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Azerbaijan
An Azerbaijani woman called Gulnara took a job in Turkey to support her daughter and her sick father. Upon her arrival, Gulnara’s contact in Turkey took her passport and forced her into prostitution. After a year, Gulnara was able to escape and return to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani Government Department on Combating Trafficking in Persons referred her to a shelter for human trafficking survivors. The IOM-implemented shelter is part of an initiative that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds. Azerbaijan has been working tirelessly to combat human trafficking to ensure vulnerable people like Gulnara receive protection.

5 Ways to Combat Human Trafficking in Azerbaijan

  1. Decrease the Gender Gap. Azerbaijan has one of the highest gender inequality gaps of the countries that left the Soviet Union. Women lack the economic opportunities that men have. The women’s workforce participation rate in 2018 was 68.7% in contrast to 73.9% for men, a statistic that has barely changed since 2012. Further, females form 96.6% of people who do not work due to household and caregiving responsibilities. Minimal economic prospects can lead to people being lured into sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Providing women with more and improved economic opportunities could help prevent these situations.
  2. Provide Long-term Assistance. In 2018, the Anti-Trafficking Review published a study in which it interviewed 22 Azerbaijani survivors of human trafficking. The survivors believed that long-term help, including assistance with “job placement and family reunification,” could better help them rebuild their lives. Only nine of the 22 interviewees had full-time paid jobs at the time, while nine others had no paid jobs at all. Secure employment provides a steady income flow to economically empower women.
  3. Reunite Survivors and Families. Victims of human trafficking in Azerbaijan often end up disconnected from their families. By reconnecting with their families, victims can return to some semblance of normalcy. However, there is a stigma surrounding sex work that can impact familial relations. If organizations work to combat this stigma, survivors can repair relationships and gain much-needed emotional familial support that will reduce the chance of victims falling prey to human trafficking again.
  4. Address the Root Causes. People struggling economically, like Gulnara, are prime targets for human trafficking. Using foreign aid to create more programs to combat poverty could decrease human trafficking in Azerbaijan. In a 2020 report, the U.S. Department of State noted that Azerbaijan had increased the funds allocated for victim protection and shelters from $86,760 to $114,530. This is an important increase, but it only helps after the fact. Greater funds could go toward helping people living below the poverty line before traffickers lure them into human trafficking.
  5. Prosecute Human Trafficking in Azerbaijan. The U.S. Department of State encourages Azerbaijan to convict more traffickers and issue harsher sentences as many Azerbaijani judges issue suspended sentences. In 2018, 20 traffickers received suspended sentences. The Azerbaijan government can create a powerful deterrent by more effectively convicting human traffickers.

Azerbaijan’s Progress

In 2020, Azerbaijan remained on the Tier 2 Watch List of the U.S. Department of State. This designation means the country “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” From 2020 through 2024, the government of Azerbaijan’s National Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings will target and address the root causes of human trafficking while improving support services for victims.

USAID Assistance

Since 2015, USAID has supported three shelters in Azerbaijan. These shelters “provided direct assistance to more than 100 confirmed and presumed victims of trafficking” between 2015 and 2018. The shelters also helped more than 1,000 people who were vulnerable to trafficking. The shelters provide “psychological, medical and legal support” services.

Azerbaijan created a human trafficking hotline center to provide information on services and relay necessary information to law enforcement officials. As of 2021, the hotline aims to incorporate an online system to allow workers to screen calls in a more efficient and detailed manner.

Human trafficking in Azerbaijan is progressing in the right direction. With commitment and continuity, Azerbaijan can improve its human trafficking tier ranking, protecting thousands of vulnerable people in the process.

Alessandra Heitmann
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Problems and Solutions with Human Trafficking in India
With its current population of 1.3 billion people, India is the second-largest country in the world. However, with its size comes a myriad of human rights issues. With so many people in one country, many of them can easily fall under the radar. Human trafficking in India is one of the most prominent human rights issues within the country.

In India, kidnappings for labor and sexual needs have been constant. In 2020, a U.S. Department of State report identified India as a Tier 2 country. In spite of many genuine efforts, the country remains hindered by its inadequate solutions to alleviate the problem and the department feels that India did not sufficiently ensure the mitigation of the issue. Enslavement has also been a common issue. In 2016, the Global Slavery Index found that 18 million people out of 46 million people are enslaved in India.

Trafficking of Women

Within the system of human trafficking in India, most of those victimized are either women or minors. In 2016, The National Crime Records Bureau estimated that 33,855 people in India have been victims of kidnapping for the purpose of marriage. Half of this percentage consisted of individuals under 18 years of age. Kidnappers most commonly force women into commercial sex and indentured servitude.

Bride trafficking has also been a consistent commodity due to skewed sex ratios in certain areas. There has been a lack of women for the larger male population to marry, so many buy their partners. A UNODC report in 2013 found that of the 92 villages of the Indian state of Haryana, nine out of 10 households bought wives from poor villages in other parts of the country. The report also mentioned that most of the women experienced abuse and rape as well as working like slaves.

Child Kidnappings

Alongside the trade of women, many child kidnappings occur. Kidnappers force many of the victims into servitude within industries of agriculture and manufacturing. In 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation estimated that 135,000 children become victims of human trafficking in India annually. Many of the Indian train stations, such as Sealdah in the city of Kolkata, have had reports of youth kidnapping. Due to the frantic environment of the station, most of these disappearances go unnoticed. A lot of these children either live near the station due to poverty and abuse at home or travel out to work despite the danger and illegality of child labor. Children have also experienced kidnapping during natural disasters. During an earthquake in Nepal, traffickers targeted children whose parents had lost their lives. Wherever traffickers send these children, they work in brutal conditions and receive little pay or nothing at all.

Action in Legislation

Despite the magnitude of the issue and the bleakness it presents, there are glimmers of hope. The government and the public have pushed to mitigate these problems. Prosecution and the tracking of victims are becoming a focus of legislation creation. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has worked to develop a new law to combat the issue. The draft law will include measures to make placement agencies compulsory and rules to monitor where workers are from and where they are going. The 2020 Department of Justice report recommended that increased prosecutions and legislation are necessary to combat the issues.

There are also Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that can give outside assistance in helping trapped women escape. One such group is Chetanalaya, which is the social action group of the Archdiocese of Delhi. Started in 1970, the organization focuses on mobilizing volunteer groups and state and union governments to assist in its efforts. The group has managed to liberate more than 800 enslaved domestic workers in the past two decades.

Helping Faceless

With the rise of technology in India, many have looked to use new innovations to assist in their cause. An example of this is the app Helping Faceless. Created in 2013, it helps fight child kidnapping and trafficking through the use of search engines that use facial recognition to help find wandering youth. To assist in helping women, the website is available for anonymous documentation of sexual assaults and other horrific experiences. By 2015, 5,000 downloads had occurred and the app continues to grow with attempts to improve the technology. Moreover, some are proposing to bring it to other countries that have similar human rights issues.

Going Forward

While the current issues regarding human trafficking in India are immense, the information and technology available can help alleviate the problem. Looking into a problem is one of the best steps in creating a good future and, while it may take a while, there is reason to hope. With the large population in the country, there are many individuals who have survived these experiences and are ready to fight to ensure that others will not endure them.

– John Dunkerley
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Lesotho
The most recent Trafficking in Persons Report, which the Department of State of the United States issued in 2020, asserts that the government of Lesotho does not meet the minimum requirements for the elimination of human trafficking and is not acting significantly enough to reach them. Aided by the severe lack of financial resources in the African nation, crime and violence can proliferate at a significant pace.

Overview of Lesotho’s Economy

The latest estimates by The World Bank place Lesotho among the poorest countries in the world with a nominal per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $1,299. Meanwhile, expectations have determined that real GDP growth will average 0.6% between 2019 and 2021 down from the average 1.6% that the country experienced between 2015 and 2019.

Over the last few years, a myriad of factors has contributed to the slow growth of the economy. The overall sluggish global economic growth, especially in emerging markets, the grave instability within the political sphere, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic woes of South Africa, a country which encircles Lesotho land-wise while being its major trade partner, are the main culprits for the current predicament.

Unemployment remains high at 22.83% in 2020 but the country has made improvements in recent times. Namely, the national poverty rate decreased from 56.6% in 2002 to 49.7% in 2017, led by a 13% reduction in urban poverty. Meanwhile, the extreme poverty rate decreased from 34.1% to 24.1% over the same period.

Overview and Root Causes of Human Trafficking in Lesotho

Despite the lack of consistently reliable data, recent studies show that Lesotho is principally a country of origin where traffickers target women and children to traffick them both internally (from rural areas to urban areas) and externally. Due to the particular geography of the region, most victims end up in the bordering nation of South Africa.

The economic conditions that the last section described greatly influence the occurrence of this type of crime. Impoverished communities, high unemployment, low levels of education and pronounced gender imbalances overlap with an ever thriving demand for cheap labor, thus generating an optimal environment for the spread of human trafficking in Lesotho.

Lesotho offers particular allure to traffickers due to the monetary rewards that human trafficking offers along with Lesotho’s particularly lenient penal prosecutions. In the case of sex trafficking,  Lesotho punishes with fines instead of imprisonment. Occasionally, victims themselves voluntarily cross the border on false hopes of employment and ameliorated living conditions only to fall prey to violence and abuse.

Government’s Response

The U.S. Department of State classifies countries within four tiers in its Trafficking in Persons Report. The Tier rating does not reflect simply the size of the problem of human trafficking in particular places but also the effectiveness of governments’ responses to it. The latest Report downgraded Lesotho to Tier 3, the worst possible classification. This means that the U.S. Department of State did not witness sufficient efforts from Lesotho’s government to mitigate the level of human trafficking during the previous year. The report urged Lesotho’s officials to further investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers through fair trials, adequately invest in shelters and protective services for victims and fund its Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU), which is responsible for handling trafficking cases within Lesotho law enforcement.

However, the report noted that some were taking steps to address human trafficking in Lesotho. The government partnered with an international organization and an NGO to conduct awareness-raising activities, it continued to participate in a regional data collecting tool and trained 27 diplomats on trafficking in persons. The state is also backing several projects with the aim of boosting economic growth, such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP II) and the improvement of service roads, therefore aiming to solve the root causes behind criminal activity.

– José Miguel Neves
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Eritrea
Eritrea is an isolated, one-party state where children must frequently leave school for mandatory military training along with a large percentage of farmers and agricultural workers. This leaves food, water, education and shelter from violence almost inaccessible. For these reasons, many Eritrean citizens seek shelter in neighboring countries or refugee shelters where human trafficking is the most rampant. Human trafficking in Eritrea is very common due to over 30 years of violence between neighboring countries leaving it extremely militarized and vulnerable.

Human trafficking is a serious crime and a violation of human rights that occurs in almost every country in the world. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation and harboring of people for the purpose of forced labor, prostitution, slavery or any other means of exploitation. Trafficking runs rampant in underdeveloped nations, highly militarized and war-torn states and countries without sufficient protection systems in place.

Current State of Human Trafficking in Eritrea

Eritrea is classified as a source country. This means that the majority of human trafficking in Eritrea happens within the country’s borders, mainly for forced domestic labor with sex and labor trafficking happening abroad to a lesser extent.

Most trafficking occurs inside Eritrea’s borders because citizens face “strict exit control procedures and limited access to passports and visas,” trapping them in the country or forcing citizens to flee to refugee camps where they have a high chance of getting kidnapped and returned. Kidnappers commonly try to coerce victims with a promise of reuniting families, food or shelter.

Sinai Desert Trafficking

Between 2006 and 2013, non-domestic human trafficking in Eritrea increased exponentially. Smugglers of neighboring countries were kidnapping Eritreans from refugee camps in order to hold them in the Sinai Desert for ransom. Victims often experienced extreme violence like torture, organ harvesting and rape. Of the estimated 25,000 to 30,000 victims of Sinai trafficking, estimates have determined that about 90% are Eritrean.

Current Protection in Place

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Eritrean government has not reported significant efforts to identify and protect human trafficking victims in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report: Eritrea.

The government has not reported any systems in place to protect victims and the Eritrean court used to only require perpetrators of human trafficking to pay restitution and/or fines, but now it offers jail time along with a fine of $1,330-$3,330. The government has not identified or persecuted any government officials of human trafficking but did arrest 44 military officials for conspiracy to commit trafficking crimes in 2015.

Prevention and Progress

The U.S. Department of State ranks Eritrea as a Tier 3 country in human trafficking matters meaning that it does not meet the minimum anti-trafficking standards and is not making an effort to do so. The government did not report any protection systems in place for trafficking victims, it does not provide services directly to victims and it does not show significant effort to create legislation to punish traffickers.

Even though the Eritrean government continues to subject its citizens to forced national service, in 2019, it increased international cooperation on human trafficking and similar matters. Officials were active in an international anti-trafficking workshop that created a regional and national level action plan to combat trafficking.

In the past decade, Europe has offered to reinstate aid to Eritrea to help stimulate the economy and reduce the number of people attempting to leave the country. Europe is a destination point for many migrants who stop through Sudan and Libya on the way, but many do not make it through due to the difficult journey.

More recently, the Eritrean government has been educating its citizens on the dangers of irregular migration and trafficking through events, posters, campaigns and conventions to hopefully prevent men, women and children from entering high-risk trafficking zones. This is one of the best things the government can do for its citizens as it better informs them of their surroundings on a day to day basis.

The U.S. Department of State has also recommended the continuation of anti-trafficking training to all levels of government, as well as the enforcement of limits on the length of mandatory national service for citizens and the enactment and enforcement of anti-trafficking laws that criminalize the act and prosecutes the perpetrators of human trafficking in Eritrea.

One of the most important ways to slow or stop human trafficking would be to end mandatory national service or impose strict time limits on such service. Many Eritreans attempt to flee or experience trafficking by military officials because they are in service for an indefinite amount of time with no way out. Once Eritrea begins to persecute any and all human traffickers and can break free from an authoritarian one-party political system, it can begin to be a safe country for its citizens.

 – Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Aid
People have historically looked at U.S. foreign policy as a stool supported by three legs: Defense, Diplomacy and Development. The final leg, development, refers to foreign aid. U.S. foreign aid is a vital tool in the U.S.’s national security toolbox and yet its 2019 budget did not even account for 8% of the budget for the first leg, national defense.

The need for national security is obvious, but the apparent belief that defense spending is the unilateral key to achieving this goal is dangerously reductionist. The U.S. federal budget represents a heavy reliance on military strength and a contrasting disregard for the other two facets of security. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, called for a “whole of government approach,” when asked in his Senate confirmation hearing about how the U.S. should approach its competitive coexistence with China.

Where Does the Money Go?

In 2019, over $46 billion went toward foreign assistance, representing a roughly $6 billion decrease from appropriated funds in 2015. Where those tax dollars go matters when understanding the investment they represent in American safety and prosperity. The vast majority of those funds went to the U.S. Department of State and USAID. These are the two principal government agencies with the charge of managing U.S. foreign aid. Within those two federal agencies, funds go into nine categories with Peace and Security, Health and Humanitarian Assistance making up the bulk of aid.

Looking more closely, the Health sector received $9.5 billion in appropriations in 2019. The majority of that figure went towards HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. This can have a substantial impact on reducing poverty as AIDS-related illnesses greatly reduce life expectancy in the countries that the epidemic most affected. Additionally, statistics have proven that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has slowed economic growth in Africa as it often prevents those affected from receiving an education or obtaining a job. Prevention and treatment of this epidemic is just one aspect of U.S. foreign aid.

Slow and Steady

Proving the results of U.S. foreign aid has long been a complicated task. The absence of conflict in a region is hard to credit with just one measure and not nearly as easy to point to as the existence of conflict elsewhere. Specific examples of changes in spending do however uncover gradual successes. Peace and Security funding goes towards military equipment, training and development. However, as the situation improves incrementally in certain countries, USAID and the Department of State are able to shift their efforts towards Democracy, Human Rights and Governance projects.

One example is Afghanistan, which received more U.S. aid in 2019 than any other nation. One should not ignore the fact that 17% of funds went to Peace and Security while 49% went to the aforementioned Democracy, Human Rights and Governance sector. This represents a marked shift as previous years focused the majority of aid on the military. Furthermore, it is representative of the slow yet undeniable progress that just about 1% of the federal budget has made.

When USAID first started working in Afghanistan in December 2002, the literacy rate was 50% for men and 20% for women. The budget that the Afghan government operated on came exclusively from donor support and accounted for just $600 million. The GDP per capita, a useful measure of average living standards in a country, was $250. By 2017, the GDP per capita had risen to $2,000. In 2018, the literacy rates had increased to 55.5% for men and 29.8% for women and the government’s budget had risen to $2.2 billion. These figures are not indications that the task is finished, but just some examples that U.S. foreign aid made the task possible.

Foreign Aid is Key to Grand Strategy

U.S. history has demonstrated the strategic gains of foreign aid countless times throughout U.S. history. Dating all the way back to the Marshall Plan in 1948, the U.S. provided more than $13 billion in aid to Europe so that the continent could rebuild after WWII. This allowed the U.S. to build stronger bilateral and multilateral ties with Europe, forming lasting alliances that reaped benefits in trade and a return to reduced conflict in the region.

During the 1960s, the U.S. improved upon this practice with the creation of USAID and the Peace Corps. From there, U.S. foreign aid expanded beyond to areas like education, agriculture and health. As a result, the U.S. could continue to project more than just military might. Key democratic values like education for girls and boys, free and fair elections, freedoms for the press and more could be developed around the globe. This all occurred in the context of a great power competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union with a clear understanding of the benefits of a three-legged approach in lieu of a military standing alone. As recently as 2017, a letter to Congress authored by roughly 120 retired U.S. admirals and generals called for a continuation of aid funding in the interest of, “preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”

An End to “Forever Wars”

As the world becomes ever-more intertwined, the U.S. must evolve its own foreign policy to meet new challenges. Relying solely on the military places an impossible task on its shoulders as it attempts to help rebuild nations, improve foreign governments and end global poverty. This work requires professional diplomats trained for these tasks and foreign aid that allows governments and NGOs to do it themselves. In the long term, more foreign aid could mean the sending of fewer troops to war.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr