Human Trafficking in Mauritius
The United States Department of State ranks the island nation of Mauritius as a Tier 2 country in 2022 in terms of efforts to eradicate human trafficking. This rank, unchanged from 2021, means the “Government of Mauritius does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in Mauritius

  1. Migration. Mauritius saw almost 30,000 migrants in 2019. The increase in migration and lack of regulation has affected human trafficking in Mauritius. Financial difficulties and rising unemployment rates mean many low-income migrants and their families are susceptible to trafficking and exploitation.
  2. COVID-19 Pandemic. According to Statistics Mauritius, “Relative to the first quarter of 2020, the number of employed declined by almost 129,400 units” and 18% of households reported a loss of more than half their income. Moreso, the overall unemployment rate rose to more than 10% by May 2020 from around 7%. These economic factors put many low-income workers at greater risk of exploitation, particularly in terms of human trafficking.
  3. Children. Children are at significant risk of exploitation in Mauritius. In June 2022, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Mama Fatima Singhateh, visited Mauritius to “promote strategies that prevent and combat the sale and sexual exploitation of children.” The 10-day-long visit aimed to tackle topics such as “the protection of children against sexual exploitation, child marriage, child trafficking for sexual exploitation, the exploitation of children living in the streets and the sale of children through illegal adoptions,” according to the website of the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. Singhateh also held the purpose of examining Mauritius’ progress in addressing the exploitation of children since the last country visit in 2011.
  4. Laws. The Mauritian government has ratified several International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, such as ILO 29 Forced Labour convention on December 2, 1969, and the ILO 182 Worst forms of Child Labor on June 8, 2000. These conventions solidify Mauritius’s commitment to eradicating issues relating to human trafficking. In addition, laws such as the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009, which criminalizes sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and the Children’s Act of 2020, which criminalizes child sex trafficking, show the government’s attempt to combat this issue on a legislative level.
  5. Challenges. An obstacle for the government is that traffickers utilize multiple methods to exploit their victims. Family members or domestic partners are often complicit in the exploitation of girls for sex trafficking. Traffickers also work with Russian and Kazakh criminal networks to exploit and move women into Mauritius from places such as Belarus and Ukraine. Additionally, more than 35,000 workers in the manufacturing and construction sector, hailing mainly from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Nepal, are most at risk of forced labor.

Looking Ahead

Regardless of the challenges, according to the U.S. Department of State, the Mauritian government showed positive efforts against trafficking. These include increased services for identified child trafficking victims, working alongside a global organization to “renovate a shelter and repatriate foreign victims identified in previous years,” educating migrant workers on how to identify situations of trafficking and “reconvening the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Trafficking in Persons (IMCTIP) after it was inactive for two years,” the U.S. Department of State website says.

Though human trafficking is an issue of concern in Mauritius, the government is implementing strong measures to ensure the nation’s most vulnerable citizens are protected from trafficking and exploitation.

– Saad Haque
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Serbia
The U.N. has stated that human trafficking is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.” Nicolas Bizel of the EU delegation to Serbia believes that human trafficking is “the most profitable criminal activity in the world.” In the 1980s, many considered Serbia more prosperous than its regional neighbors. However, the affluence of Serbia would not last. ASTRA – Anti-Trafficking Action suggests that due to the subsequent Yugoslav Wars, the arrival of different foreign military groups into the region allowed for human trafficking to thrive in Serbia. According to ATINA, Serbia today is considered a “source, transit and destination country for children, women and men trafficked for the purpose of sexual and labor exploitation.”

The Link Between Poverty and Human Trafficking

Serbia’s poverty rate was 24.3% in 2017. In comparison, Serbia’s neighbor Hungary had a poverty rate of 12.3% in 2019, significantly lower than that of Serbia. The GDP per capita in Serbia was $9,230 in 2021 and the unemployment rate was 10.1%. Transform Justice found a strong correlation between poverty and violent crime, whereas crime and corruption are more common in nations with higher poverty rates.

In 2021, there were a total of 46 officially identified victims of human trafficking, 39 of whom were Serbian citizens. However, it is increasingly difficult to estimate the true number of victims. ASTRA Anti-Trafficking Action understands that the number could be significantly higher. Many victims of human trafficking “remain invisible to the public eye.” The main reason for this seems to be that the exploited are working in closed-off environments such as abandoned factories or fenced-off estates.

Human trafficking in Serbia affects women and children significantly more than men. Women and children count for the majority of victims in Serbia. For women, it is most likely that traffickers exploit them for sex work throughout Europe. In fact, the thriving sex trade in Serbia has “overwhelmed the police” who have become unable to sustain the campaign against human trafficking and the sex trade. The Institute For War & Peace Reporting states that the campaign against the industry is sure to fail until many women stop viewing escort work as a way out of poverty.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, Serbia was downgraded to a tier 2 rating. This means that Serbia failed to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, however, it is “making significant efforts to do so.”

Serbia’s Response

Serbia has set penalties for sex trafficking and labor trafficking to two to 12 years imprisonment for an adult victim and three to 12 years for a child victim, according to the Trafficking in Persons Report. This is in line with serious crimes such as rape.

The Serbian Police filed complaints on 63 suspects, an increase from 57 in 2020. The Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) investigated 35 suspects in comparison with 22 in 2020. However, the PPO failed to prosecute more defendants than in 2020. Alongside this, courts convicted 16 traffickers compared with 18 in 2020, according to the same report.

ASTRA-Anti-Trafficking Action

ASTRA – Anti-Trafficking Action is a non-governmental organization fighting to eradicate all forms of human trafficking. During its journey to combat human trafficking, the organization has assisted 507 victims and aims to help many more in Serbia.

The organization has employed several methods to tackle human trafficking. Primarily, an information and prevention campaign in Serbia. This includes encouraging people to pay attention, recognizing human trafficking in their environment and reporting the case. Alongside this, ASTRA educates individuals on early potential signs that they may be potential victims such as whether a potential job offer is real.

ASTRA – Anti-Trafficking Action has acknowledged that it is fighting an increasingly difficult battle due to the indifference of the Serbian institutions. As a result, it has a hotline in case any individual would like to report a matter: 011-785-0000.

The Future

The Serbian government and ASTRA – Anti-Trafficking Action’s desire to eradicate human trafficking in Serbia could be a positive step. With human trafficking largely affecting the most vulnerable, any positive action can help improve the future living situation for the most exposed in Serbia.

A healthy and growing economy can only help the poorest in Serbia, raising the standard of living and reducing poverty. Reducing poverty makes it harder for organized crime to partake in human trafficking. Reducing the risk for the most vulnerable.

– Josef Whitehead
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Montenegro
Montenegro is a country located in the Balkan peninsula. Montenegro has close ties and relations with Serbia. Along with corruption and organized crime, human trafficking is a very common enterprise throughout the country. Due to the frequency of human trafficking in Montenegro, The U.S. Department of State classifies the nation as a Tier 2 country.

Human Trafficking in Montenegro

Because of the prevalence of human trafficking in Montenegro, everyone living there and in surrounding Balkan countries is extremely vulnerable to becoming a victim. Traffickers smuggle people of all genders and ages into Montenegro from nearby Balkan countries. Trafficking victims often become street beggars and forced laborers.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of State identified 48 victims of human trafficking in Montenegro. This is an uptick from the 39 official victims in 2019. Of those 48 victims, at least 46 individuals ended up in forced labor. Of those 46, seven became beggars. Meanwhile, 17 of the 48 victims were female, 31 were male and at least seven were children.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro, women and girls from Montenegro are more likely to be victims of sex trafficking. In Montenegro, Roma teenagers have often worked as prostitutes and at least a few of them were sex trafficking victims. Boys and men, on the other hand, are more likely to become forced laborers. Since the construction industry is rapidly growing in Montenegro, traffickers are moving more boys and men from foreign countries to work in Montenegro’s booming industry.

Aida Petrovic, the founder and executive director of Montenegro Women’s Lobby – a non-governmental agency that helps to support victims of trafficking in Montenegro – found that traffickers were forcing girls as young as 13 into forced prostitution. These were not isolated findings, however, as Petrovic also found that the majority of the victims of forced prostitution were underaged.

Addressing the Problem

Since the U.S. Department of State ranked Montenegro as a Tier 2 country, many preventive measures have been put into place to address human trafficking in Montenegro. In 2011, the government established a hotline to support victims of human trafficking. In 2020, the support hotline received at least 1,657 phone calls. About five possible victims of human trafficking also made calls to the hotline. Moreover, the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare opened a new shelter for trafficking victims in 2020. For this new shelter, the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare allocated $82,860, including $49,080 in operating expenses and up to $310 per month for every victim living at the shelter.

In 2019, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, U.N. Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, introduced new operational strategies in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration to help identify trafficking victims. She also helped develop “guidance on the implementation of the non-punishment of victims” in collaboration with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Lastly, a fund dedicated to compensating victims also underwent establishment.

The Road Ahead

It is imperative that victims of human trafficking receive psychological, financial and medical support for the trauma they have endured. The government of Montenegro is making strides in helping victims and preventing future trafficking, but it still has a long way to go in its fight against human trafficking.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Flickr

Southeast Asia's Fishing Industry
A 2018 article by The Asia Foundation stated that roughly 12% of the global population depends on fisheries and the aquaculture industry for their livelihoods and more than 50% of the global population relies on fish and seafood as a major source of protein. Over the past few decades, Southeast Asia has established a fishing metropolis but the region has struggled with illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. However, in the last five to 10 years, the region has begun to regulate Southeast Asia’s fishing industry and watch for illegal fishing. There are many important reasons to regulate the fishing industry, including keeping the ecosystem healthy and populated.

The Fishing Industry

Southeast Asia, consisting of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei and Timor-Leste, has some of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world. Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) estimates that Southeast Asia contributed approximately 52% of total fishery production globally in 2018, reaching 46.5 million MT of fish at a value of more than $51 billion.

Identifying the Problem

The Asia Foundation said that about “64[%]of the fisheries’ resource base is at a medium to high risk from overfishing.” Cambodia and the Philippines hold the highest risks. Some common methods of destructive fishing are:

  • Poison fishing – “using sodium cyanide to stun the fish and make them easier to capture.”
  • Blast fishing – uses “dynamite or grenades to indiscriminately kill fish in the immediate vicinity.”
  • Ghost fishing – leaving fishing gear in the sea, which will float in the sea and trap and kill marine life.

Most of the overfishing destruction seen in Southeast Asia is due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). In 2018, The Asia Foundation said that to keep the fishing industry of Southeast Asia alive, the region would “need to decrease all destructive fishing practices and reduce harvest by nearly 50%.”

Health Concerns

The world widely recognizes that fish is a vital source of food. Low in saturated fatty acids, a source of protein and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish is consumed across the world. There are several concerns when it comes to the relationship between overfishing and human health.

To begin with, overfishing harms the marine ecosystem. From pollution of oils and gas via fishing boats to removing an unnaturally large fish population from the seas, there is a clear trend of regression of reefs and shifts in the marine ecosystem food chain.

At the top of the food chain, humans feel the ripple effect below them. If the location of fisheries experiences pollution due to fishing techniques such as poison or blast fishing, then humans eat the polluted fish.

Although these factors may impact the health of humans, just as significant is the concern of food security. According to Reuters, “In Bangladesh, Cambodia, Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and some small island developing states, fish contributed 50% or more of total animal protein intake.”

Visible Progress

In March 2018, The Asia Foundation met with the U.S. Department of State, the Royal Thai Government and the People’s Republic of China to create a regional assessment of fisheries to safeguard food security in Southeast Asia and Southeast Asia’s fishing industry. Specifically, experts from these groups looked into developing a legal framework to improve fishery management and combat IUU fishing. In addition, the groups looked at “emerging new technologies to support sustainable fisheries management.”

Most of Southeast Asia consists of developing countries that do not have the accessibility and financial support to outsource fish and protein in the event of the fishing industry collapsing, not to mention the millions of job losses that would ensue. Policy and regulations to better control Southeast Asia’s fishing industry will not only allow for a sustainable fishing environment but will also increase food security and ensure better health for Southeast Asia.

– Sierra Winch
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Laos
Human trafficking in Laos, despite its moderate severity relative to other countries, nonetheless remains a critical driver of sexual exploitation and forced labor. The 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, issued by the U.S. Department of State, categorizes Laos as a Tier 2 nation. The Laos government thus falls short of the TVPA’s minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, in spite of efforts to meet such standards.

Targets of Trafficking

Traffickers predominantly deliver adolescent Lao girls and women to Thailand and China, though at times Malaysia and Vietnam, where they then coerce the victims into commercial sex. Otherwise, the women, under coercion, perform domestic, factory and agricultural work. In particular, traffickers frequently sell the women sent to China as brides. Trafficked Lao boys and men, on the other hand, typically enter Thailand’s fishing, construction and agricultural sectors. Traffickers attract victims with promises of reliable job opportunities in neighboring countries.

Lao victims of human trafficking are most often migrants seeking work abroad. Otherwise, they are impoverished students disinterested in continuing education and instead preferring to work to contribute income to their families, according to the U.S. Department of State. Such individuals either voluntarily and legally enter destination countries or traffickers enable them. The lax management at border crossings resulting from the insufficient training of provincial and district level immigration authorities especially enables illegal entry. Additionally, foreign traffickers have begun working with Lao middlemen to facilitate the transit of victims across borders.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, large amounts of both legal and illegal Lao workers have returned home. This created rampant unemployment and dramatically increased demand for work. Such conditions have rendered poverty-stricken Lao workers exceedingly susceptible to trafficking, seeing as they opt for low-paying and ethically-gray work within Laos. For instance, the closure of the Laos-Thailand border, coupled with increased willingness to engage in domestic commercial sex, has led to a surge in sex trafficking, the U.S. Department of State reported.

Existing Legislation

The Laos government gravely punishes any form of trafficking. For instance, Article 215 of the penal code criminalizes trafficking, punishable by five to 15 years of imprisonment. The fine is ranging from 10 million to 100 million Lao kip (equivalent to $1,080 to $10,780), according to the U.S. Department of State. The Article further stipulates that if the crime implicates an underage victim, the fine increases to 500 million Lao kip (equivalent to $53,880) at most.

Nonetheless, such measures prove insufficient for resolutely curbing trafficking. Several gaps exist within the current penal system. For one thing, law enforcement is often reluctant to extend severe punishments to first offenders. Moreover, there is little protocol for investigating potential perpetrators, so as to preemptively stem trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking Department also remains the only authority capable of identifying trafficked victims, according to the U.S. Department of State. Consequently, the Laos government lacks a comprehensive and standardized mechanism for identifying and helping victims.

Future Legislation

The Lao government is working internally with the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It also works externally with the International Labor Organization to implement several changes, as stated at the International Labour Conference. This includes expanding the government budget for anti-trafficking efforts and standardizing training for police and legal officers.

To this end, the government is also developing a formal curriculum for border crossing administrators, such that they more consistently identify victims. The government further seeks to collect and publicize government anti-trafficking efforts to improve transparency and increase public confidence.

Non-State Actors

Sengsavang, operating in Laos since 2006, is an NGO that works closely with the Lao government to rehabilitate Lao victims of trafficking. The organization has a rehabilitation center in Thailand, in Savannakhet, a hotspot of cross-border trafficking. Sengsavang specifically provides education and vocational training, such that victims can reintegrate into society. To this day, the organization has prevented more than 13,000 individuals from falling victim to trafficking. It also supported over 500 trafficked young girls and women.

In sum, human trafficking in Laos continues to enable and exacerbate human rights abuses. There is nonetheless hope for recovery. Consistent coordinated efforts between the Lao government and NGOs to administer tangible change would contribute greatly to decreasing human trafficking in Laos.

– Emily Xin
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking in Kosovo
Human trafficking in Kosovo has been a focal point of the fight against human trafficking. The main victims within the nation are young girls who traffickers force to work in the sex trade. While this problem still persists, the government is making active efforts to lessen the prevalence of the issue.

The Causes of Kosovo’s Trafficking Epidemic

Ethnic tensions between Serbians and Albanians residing in Kosovo have worked to increase human trafficking in the nation. Speculations determined that peace-keeping forces placed in Kosovo to prevent the two groups from clashing led to a large demand for sex workers. Trafficking rose to meet the demand. Before Kosovo’s official declaration of independence in 2008, young girls, who were trafficking victims, came from neighboring countries. However, independence meant more secure borders. As a result, the traffickers looked inward, targeting young Kosovan girls.

Human trafficking in Kosovo is undoubtedly a profitable business. It is estimated that a female forced into sexual exploitation in Western Europe can create around $67,200 in profit for her captors. Such a profitable industry is not one that many criminals or corrupt officials can ignore. GlobalPost found that Kosovan government officials were profiting from or taking part in the sexual aspect of trafficking in the past, but they never faced any charges.

Fight Against Human Trafficking

According to the U.S. Department of State, Kosovo qualifies as a Tier 2 country, meaning that while it does not meet every standard set for eliminating human trafficking, it is making a solid effort. These efforts include implementing new standard operating procedures, meant to increase prosecution efficiency. The government of Kosovo also dedicated more funds and resources to helping victims of human trafficking. A big part of this was the opening of state-run shelters for these victims.

These new measures are a massive improvement from a government that GlobalPost said is profiting off of the human trafficking industry in the nation. However, the problem is far from disappearing. Despite the high rates of human trafficking in Kosovo, very few traffickers face convictions. Kosovo’s Criminal Code sentences convicted traffickers to five to 12 years in prison. Of those convicted, most only serve between seven and 18 months, according to ONETrack International.

Next Steps

A report that the Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking group, GRETA, published, outlined improvements that Kosovo could make to lessen the prevalence of human trafficking in the nation. GRETA stresses the importance of ensuring the prioritization of trafficking cases in Kosovo’s judicial system. As well as this, GRETA emphasizes identifying victims of human trafficking, specifically child trafficking. A large portion of the trafficking victims in Kosovo are actually from Albania. Partly because of ethnic tensions, the country often deports these children back to their home country before making proper identification, greatly lessening the chance of catching the perpetrator of the crime.

The U.S. Department of State has also outlined recommendations to reduce human trafficking in Kosovo. It again emphasized prosecution and sentencing, with higher conviction rates and longer sentences as key points of discussion. Another measure Kosovo should take into account is the training of judiciary officials in each region so they can properly manage cases of human trafficking. It is unclear if Kosovo plans to implement any of these recommendations, but given the recent successes of the victim shelters and regionally assigned officials, some optimism remains.

– Thomas Schneider
Photo: Flickr

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 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 increased the vulnerability of people 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 UNODC, the campaign resulted in the rescuing of 194 people in 2019.


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 five to 15 years for human trafficking.

Moving Forward

There are still critical issues to resolve 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