Posts

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

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

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

Three Key Improvements

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

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

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

The Road Ahead

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

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

The Opium Epidemic In MyanmarMyanmar has been suffering from an opium epidemic for decades. The country’s political instability and lack of economic opportunities outside of the world of illicit drugs are driving it. However, various initiatives are emerging to encourage another way of life. A French coffee company has emerged to give opium-producing communities hope and offer them an alternative livelihood.

The Opium Epidemic in Myanmar

Myanmar is the second-largest producer of opium in the world. The poppies the country produces end up as heroin, which is transported to neighboring countries. Alternatively, Myanmar citizens themselves purchase it for use. Opium use has historically been medicinal or traditional, with people offering it at ceremonies such as weddings. However, more serious drug-related issues have arisen. There are now many cases of HIV/AIDs and hepatitis C. This is due to the general switch to the more cost-effective manner of injecting heroin rather than smoking it, resulting in the unsanitary sharing of needles.

Due to the long-lasting political instability in the country, the health system collapsed whilst international aid dwindled as a political response to the deteriorating governance in Myanmar. In this time, the production and consumption of drugs also skyrocketed.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), between 2006 and 2014, the production of opium increased from 240 tons to 670 tons per annum. This is due to a mix of factors, such as poppies being more lucrative than other crops. This resulted in a rise in living costs for these impoverished farmers. Ultimately, for many, there are no other viable means of making enough money. However, an initiative to fight the opium epidemic in Myanmar with coffee has emerged to make a difference.

Alternative Development

The UNODC works with governments and other organizations in Southeast Asia, where poppy cultivation and consumption is rife, to create programs of alternative development. The aim of this is to permanently eradicate poppy cultivation by providing sustainable alternative livelihoods to producers.

In 2014, in an attempt to alleviate the opium epidemic in Myanmar, the UNODC set up the Green Gold Cooperative (GGC), which brings together many families from various villages in the Shan state to give them an alternative livelihood to opium production. Shan is a northern state of Myanmar, producing 90% of the country’s opium.

The cooperative provides a change in occupation for almost 1,000 farmers. In addition, it is giving the community social space facilities such as nurseries. This initiative works on several levels, including working to improve gender equality, with 50% of the administration board being women. The cooperative continues to evolve as a success story, having received its Fairtrade certification in 2019.

Malongo and the Green Gold Cooperative (GGC)

Malongo is a French coffee company, and in 2017, it formed a partnership with the GGC and the UNODC, subsequently launching its new Shan Mountain Coffee in 2019. For Malongo, this was not simply a charitable act to fight the opium epidemic in Myanmar with coffee. First and foremost, this was a business initiative as the company wanted to create a market alternative where the workers benefit from the added value of the high-quality coffee they produce, and, where consumers can be sure of the quality when purchasing it on the international market. Malongo, therefore, provided training for each stage of coffee production.

There were other substantial local benefits that came from this business initiative. Not only did it provide livelihoods, but it also increased peace through uniting different ethnic groups in the region that historically were in conflict to work together and leave poppy cultivation behind. These local groups can also consume their coffee, an evidently safer alternative to the opium they used to produce.

Coffee production has also helped environmentally as poppy cultivation brought about deforestation, soil erosion and decreased biodiversity. Now, many former poppy fields are becoming forests and the replacement production of coffee provides eco-friendly and sustainable crops. The farmers take great pride in coffee production. The particular coffee even became internationally sought out in top markets due to its high quality.

The Role of Foreign Aid

The importance of foreign aid in fighting the opium epidemic in Myanmar with coffee is unprecedented. Germany and Finland were the main financers of the development program, with Switzerland providing resources directly to the GGC.

USAID has also played a key role by giving technical assistance and market advice to locals since 2013, helping more than 8,000 farmers with the quality and sale of their coffee beans. This foreign aid has, in turn, meant these countries benefit directly from their work abroad as Myanmar now exports coffee to more than 16 countries, including the U.S.

These alternative production initiatives have significantly improved the economic, social and environmental situations for the farmers involved, and, overall opium poppy production is decreasing in Myanmar. This has served private sector interests as Malongo’s return from its investment is embodied in its high-quality coffee range. Additionally, countries such as the U.S. can now enjoy an emerging and increasingly stable trading partner in Myanmar. This initiative, benefiting all parties involved, is proof that public and private interests can overlap and bring about profound and long-lasting change in suffering communities.

Hope Browne
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Bhutan Forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation of children are forms of human trafficking occurring around the world, including Bhutan. Limited research means precise statistics on human trafficking in Bhutan are hard to find. The Royal Government of Bhutan has not accepted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, a treaty that 147 states signed and enforced in 2003. This often leads to Bhutanese courts dismissing charges that meet the international definition of human trafficking.

The Definition of Human Trafficking

The international definition of human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion) for an improper purpose.” Bhutan’s definition is an individual who “recruits, transports, sells or buys, harbors or receives a person through the use or threat of force or deception within, into or outside of Bhutan for any illegal purpose.”

Human Trafficking in Bhutan

According to the U.S. Department of State, “Bhutan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” The U.S. Department of State upgraded Bhutan to its Tier 2 Watch List because of several positive signs of progress. For instance, Bhutan convicted one person under the human trafficking statute and appealed dismissed trafficking charges in another case. Furthermore, Bhutan investigated “reports of labor exploitation” and worked to implement “anti-trafficking training and public awareness events.”

Bhutan is on the Tier 2 Watch List, which means that the country does not completely comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. However, it is making an effort to meet the standards set. Bhutan has this designation because there is not enough evidence supporting the successes of the government’s actions to combat trafficking and estimates determine that the number of victims is significant or increasing.

Tier 1 refers to countries that fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and Tier 3 includes countries that do not comply and are not making an effort to improve. Bhutan was designated as a Tier 3 country in 2019 and ranked as a Tier 2 country from 2013 to 2017. Bhutan has been on the Watch List as of 2018. While it appears the Royal Government of Bhutan is making strides, evidence is scarce regarding the success of its anti-trafficking measures.

Protecting and Assisting Victims

Project hope was founded in 2004 by Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck. In 2019, Project Hope changed to Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW). Project Hope formerly protected children from labor exploitation by providing shelters. However, the program expanded to RENEW, which not only gives shelter to both women and children but also provides counseling and rehabilitation to victims. Women and children are often the victims of human trafficking, necessitating a program with a special focus on them. From January 2020 to December 2020, the program provided counseling services to 39 people affected by human trafficking.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Office funded a $750,000 program to help the Bhutanese police investigate human trafficking in Bhutan. The UNODC is responsible for implementing the program. The program helps enforce the Standard Operating Procedure for Multi-Sectoral Response to Address Trafficking in Persons in Bhutan. So far, the program has provided training for 16 journalists, 82 police officers and 95 prosecutors. The program also includes training so that people know how to protect themselves from human trafficking when working overseas.

Communication Through Task Forces

Organization is essential for efficiency and the Child Labor Task Force focuses on organizing efforts from multiple agencies and ministries. Government officials, international organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector make up the Task Force. However, a lack of research on its activities means its efficiency is unclear.

Monitoring trends of human trafficking in Bhutan, advising policies to implement and organizing anti-trafficking efforts are some of the main responsibilities of the Trafficking in Persons Special Task Force. The Department of Law and Order leads it but other government agencies and civil society organizations help the task force.

Eliminating Human Trafficking in Bhutan

Continued improvements and diligence are essential to eliminating human trafficking in Bhutan. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of State recommends several possible and plausible solutions. These include:

  • Use the international definition of human trafficking
  • Train and educate people to improve proactive victim identification
  • Create and publish an assessment of any and all forms of human trafficking in Bhutan
  • Increase funding to projects helping victims
  • Educate labor inspectors to identify cases of forced labor
  • Increase investigations and prosecutions of traffickers and increase sentencing
  • Eliminate recruitment fees for workers and investigate contract switching or cases of not paying wages

Human trafficking in Bhutan can decrease even further with solutions created by organizations and programs already in place. Cooperation, organization, enforcement and education can and are undergoing improvement, especially in the last few years. However, more clear evidence is necessary to fully understand the full picture.

Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Ecuador
Human Trafficking has become a global and commonplace issue that hampers the needs and will of millions of people around the world. Human trafficking rings have become commonplace in Ecuador, a South American country with a population of more than 17 million people and 4 million in poverty. Criminal organizations have targeted people in Ecuador so they can attain wealth and power in a place full of unemployment and economic struggles. However, many new programs have emerged to combat human trafficking in Ecuador including a joint campaign between the Ecuadorian government, the U.N. and the U.S. government.

The History Behind Trafficking

Researchers at the University of New Mexico reported that 5,000 yearly cases of child kidnappings have occurred related to human trafficking in Ecuador since the beginning of the early 21st century. The researchers also found that 80% of all cases involved women and girls. Ecuador’s human trafficking situation began as a serious issue that consumed the country of Ecuador starting in the early 1980s but has picked up steam in the last five years.

The crumbling economics of South American countries like Ecuador and neighboring Venezuela has created an influx of migration, mainly between Venezuela and Ecuador. These individuals have become susceptible to trafficking rings that use them for illegal activity such as child labor or domestic service upon plantations, fishing plants and mines to name just a few. Although many trafficking rings have operated without interaction, Ecuador has started a change within the country, stemming from outside help, to establish a better protective wall against illegal human trafficking. As mentioned in the article from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “According to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 72 per cent of detected human trafficking victims are women and girls. Ecuador fits this trend, but groups such as people with disabilities, returned migrants, indigenous communities, and youth with access to the Internet are also vulnerable.”

The Reasons for Human Trafficking in Ecuador

Human trafficking in Ecuador has become a commonplace issue due to its weak monetary and social infrastructure. Many people are out of jobs and live off dangerous side hustles, resulting in them being a target for many trafficking groups. A recent profile of human trafficking in different regions of Ecuador from scholars at The University of New Mexico found that traffickers are likely to target certain individuals. Many of these individuals are immigrants who come from neighboring countries like Venezuela, which has been suffering financially for the last decade. Discriminated groups like the LGBTQ community are also likely to fall into human trafficking in Ecuador.

Solutions

Although human trafficking has become a growing epidemic in Ecuador, various measures and movements have emerged to dictate a change from within Ecuador, a country that had a poverty rate of higher than 24% in 2017. One of those changes was the introduction of increased international support from the U.S. The U.S. Department of State has recommended stronger prosecution laws regarding the criminalization of labor traffickers. As a result, Ecuador’s laws prescribe penalties from 13 to 16 years of imprisonment as opposed to the previous penalties of an average of 8 years.

The Ecuadorian government has also dictated a new code of ways to prevent human trafficking in Ecuador. With the U.S. government, it created a campaign named #AQUIESTOY with the intention of creating an awareness of human trafficking in the country. The campaign reached over 88 million people by April 2019. Ecuador also established a hotline that people can use to counter human trafficking situations.

Along with a stronger force of prosecution and prevention, protections have emerged for human trafficking victims. Units such as the Office of the Prosecutor General’s formal witness protection program (SPAVT) provide aid to victims of human trafficking by granting them medical care, legal provisions, aid in garnering employment or accessing education and more. Reports determined that investigative and financial support of up to $400,000 went towards helping victims and potential victims.

Concluding Thoughts

Ecuador is an ever-developing country that kidnappings and trafficking have hit. However, the situation should be able to improve with help from the Ecuadorian government as well as outside sources. With more time and support, human trafficking in the country can become an unlikely tragedy rather than an everyday situation.

– Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Nigeria
Human trafficking in Nigeria is an issue that requires improvement. Human trafficking, commonly defined as a form of modern-day slavery, is an issue that affects individuals globally. The Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) provides global human trafficking data that governments can use to enforce laws and aid victims. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is one of the laws that the U.S. government enforced to convict traffickers and prevent further cases.

A four-tier ranking system, included in the TIP Report, classifies the extent of government efforts in reducing human trafficking, based on the standards that the TVPA states. For example, Tier 1 ranked countries have made significant efforts in fighting human trafficking while Tier 3 ranked countries have not made any significant efforts according to TVPA standards. In 2020, the Trafficking in Persons Report noted that Nigeria has Tier 2 status, which means that it does not meet TVPA standards in fighting human trafficking but is making significant efforts. One reason why Nigeria ranks on the Tier 2 watch list is that it did not always provide protection to victims. If Nigeria continues to rank on the Tier 2 watch list, it will obtain the lowest category, Tier 3, which would result in some government foreign aid restrictions, according to the TVPA.

The Situation in Nigeria

Though Nigeria is rich with natural resources, several issues exist such as a lack of job opportunities, social injustices, exclusion and discrimination. All of these make many individuals vulnerable to human trafficking. Due to weak child protection laws and family protection services, many women and children are subject to exploitation. Traffickers most commonly smuggle these victims of human trafficking in Nigeria into foreign countries. The U.S. State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has found Nigerian trafficking victims in more than 34 countries, with most of them in Europe.

Some causes of human trafficking in Nigeria include globalization, corruption and gender inequality. Globalization results in traffickers setting up routes that allow for easier transportation and minimizes prosecution. Corruption within government allows for bribery of individuals employed in government institutions, also minimizing the prosecution of traffickers. Gender inequality is also a major issue in Nigeria. Gender inequality results in women being less educated and living in poverty more often than not. Individuals living in poverty are more susceptible to human trafficking because of the desire to escape poverty which traffickers exploit.

Preventative Measures

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is working with the Nigerian government to establish anti-trafficking measures. NAPTIP promotes public awareness among the population to identify what human trafficking looks like and to educate about the scale of the issue. NAPTIP also enforces prosecution measures with anti-trafficking laws that criminalize the act of sex and labor trafficking. The anti-trafficking law, the Trafficking in Persons’ Law Enforcement and Administration Act (TIPLEAA), creates a penalty of imprisonment of at least two years and a charged fine. Also, non-governmental organizations that are dedicated to raising awareness campaigns and other rehabilitation and reintegration systems for aid to survivors of human trafficking in Nigeria have created several programs.

In addition to the preventative measures that the government and NAPTIP, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) joined the efforts in combating human trafficking in Nigeria. Travel by air is the main form of transportation for human trafficking, as the data that traffickers moved 20% of 225,000 victims worldwide by plane between 2003 and 2016 shows, according to the UNODC 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. To decrease this number of people becoming victims of trafficking, UNODC, NAPTIP and the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) set up initiatives to inform the public of the issue and create opportunities for airline workers to stop potential traffickers. To achieve the mutual goal, in 2019, the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs provided a $400,000 grant to aid in the education of the public on human trafficking.

Additional Support

One way in which Nigeria is combating human trafficking is through an app called iReport. The Nigeria anti-trafficking agency created the iReport app in 2003. It allows its users to report and alert the local authorities about cases of human trafficking that they witness. In 2018, reports determined that the app resulted in the conviction of traffickers in 359 cases since its launch.

Human trafficking also results in long-term mental and physical health issues for victims, which the Nigerian government’s measures are also addressing. Further aid in the form of shelters and rehabilitation is available for victims. Though these measures are in place, they are not of high-quality standards, which makes them ineffective. NAPTIP shelters house both victims of human trafficking in Nigeria and other survivors of violence. These mixed shelters make it difficult to aid trafficking survivors in their own specific needs and undermine the scale of the issue. Also, shelters often have poor living conditions, according to several accounts from women and children survivors. Reform is necessary for several areas of the Nigerian government and NAPTIP to not only improve essential recovery services but also to strengthen community efforts to decrease instances of human trafficking.

– Simone Riggins
Photo: Pixabay

Human Trafficking in Tunisia
Human trafficking in Tunisia is prevalent, while also existing in several other countries. Trafficking has three parts including the act of moving an individual, manipulating an individual’s free will and using an individual for exploitation.

The Situation

Between April 2019 and February 2020, the National Authority identified 1,313 trafficking victims from among the potential victims that some government agencies referred to it along with 780 victims that the previous reporting period identified. Tunisia is a destination for human trafficking involving forced labor and forced prostitution, where traffickers coerce or manipulate individuals to work under no contract for less than minimum wage.

Trafficking is a large topic of world discussion. Most victims in Tunisia are children, women and people with disabilities. Women and young girls are the most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Traffickers force the victims into a domestic servitude partnership or involvement in criminal activities. Due to the severity of human trafficking in Tunisia, many new tactics have emerged to tackle the issue. Here are seven facts about human trafficking in Tunisia.

7 Facts About Human Trafficking in Tunisia

  1. Tunisia passed an anti-human trafficking law. In July 2019, the government of Tunisia started making procedures and guidelines for the National Authority and four other trafficking commissions to put more focus on monitoring, testing, studying, developing and tracking trafficking victims’ cases. The new law will criminalize sex and labor trafficking. Thus far, the new law has helped identify victims of human trafficking in Tunisia and push victimizers into the courtroom to undergo prosecution. The Tunisian government is also making efforts to address human labor trafficking recruitment practices. The Agency for Placement Abroad in Private Establishments (EPPA) filed 30 complaints to private employers for cases of fraud, extortion or abuses of Tunisian workers. The Tunisian government has officially requested that the Ministry of Women shut down the seven private employers that are recruiting Tunisian workers without proper EPPA registration.
  2. The National Authority created an anti-trafficking efforts website in February 2020. This online platform helps to provide education on how to stop and fight against human trafficking. This website is open to anyone who is a victim of human trafficking or has witnessed someone be a victim of human trafficking. The website includes a human trafficking hotline, education for health care professionals on red flags, shelter resources and more. To date, the website has aided trafficking victims so that they can receive medical and social support.
  3. More accountability exists for traffickers in Tunisia. Tunisia has implemented an increase in trafficking investigations. Tunisia increased its investigations in 2016 due to the passing of new legislation in July of that year. Human trafficking in Tunisia now has a punishment of 10 years in prison and a 50,000 Tunisian dinar fine, or $16,620 USD for cases with adult victims. Meanwhile, trafficking cases involving children in Tunisia are now punishable with 15 years in prison and a fine of 50,000-100,000 Tunisian dinar or $16,620-$33,230 USD. Tunisian law enforcement has worked on the implementation of several anti-trafficking laws as well.
  4. Human trafficking victims in Tunisia can receive legal assistance with protection and medical care. When Tunisia adopted legislation in August 2016, it started providing medical and social help for victims of all types of human trafficking. Tunisia is currently working on providing employment to victims as well. It has also assured rights to protection and medical services for human trafficking victims. The Ministry of Health runs hospitals in Tunis that have units with trained personnel committed to helping victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Additionally, Tunisia has dedicated 79 centers to trafficked youth in Tunisia and another three for men. These centers have provided health care to 69 foreign and local trafficking victims. Moreover, the Ministry of Social Affairs gave psychological and socio-economic assistance to 83 victims.
  5. The U.N. and Tunisia hosted workshops to aid in the fight against human trafficking. The Tunisian Ministries of Justice and Interior worked along with the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) to hold three-day workshops called “Capacity-Building for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Tunisia.” These workshops operated from April 16, 2013, to December 31, 2018, with the purpose of addressing topics like identifying human trafficking, judicial considerations, protection and help for victims and international assistance in fighting the problem of human trafficking in Tunisia. The meetings tried to dismantle the trafficking systems by implementing new tactics. The session of meetings led to Tunisia drafting anti-trafficking legislation.
  6. National victims referral mechanisms aid in rescuing Tunisian trafficking victims. The new national victim’s referral mechanism in Tunisia is helping trafficking victims. These new centers, which work to specifically target victims of human trafficking in Tunisia, utilize national hotline systems. Tunisia has used the network to rescue over 150 victims.
  7. Governmental efforts create positive changes for trafficking operation investigations. From 2014 to 2018, the number of victims Tunisia identified increased from 59 cases to 780 cases with a significant number of those cases being foreigners. A judge ended up overseeing 31 of the cases with one case ending with a conviction. Four of the cases against human trafficking in Tunisia will now undergo criminal prosecution, while the rest require further investigation.

Looking Ahead

The Tunisian government is steadily working toward reducing human trafficking. Tunisia is making victimizers more accountable and providing victims with further protective resources, while national organizations like the U.N. are stepping in to lend a helping hand. The fight to ending human trafficking is long but Tunisia is headed in the right direction.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Pakistan
Every year, the U.S. State Department publishes a report on the status of human trafficking around the globe. It ranks countries using a tier system from one to three. A score of one signifies that a country is combating human trafficking at a highly proficient level. A score of three signifies that there is ample room for improvement. In 2020, Pakistan received a tier two rating for its handling of human trafficking in Pakistan.

The biggest obstacle standing between Pakistan and a tier-one rating is the prominence of bonded labor. Bonded labor is when a person, whether it is a man, woman or child, must work in order to pay off a debt. This labor is intense and usually takes place on farms or in brick kilns. The amount of debt is often ambiguous, and laborers do not receive clear contracts. On some occasions, human traffickers force entire families into bonded labor under unclear terms for open-ended spans of time. While there is still work to do, Pakistan has made major strides in the right direction.

Starting the Conversation

In order to resolve any crisis, the first step is effectively communicating that a problem exists. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has successfully pinpointed hotspots where human trafficking in Pakistan is most prevalent. These hotspots are the primary targets of hundreds of thousands of posters and flyers informing the general population of the human trafficking problem. The posters and flyers display a message that is loud and clear. “Stand up against human trafficking and migrant smuggling, it is illegal, unethical and un-Islamic.” That phrase is especially powerful, as more than 95% of Pakistanis are believers in the Islamic faith.

Cracking Down

Pakistan first took measures to combat human trafficking at the national level back in 2002. Since then, the Pakistani government has been working to pass more and more legislation to effectively resolve the problem.

In 2018, Pakistan passed the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act (PTPA). The PTPA calls for prison sentences ranging from 2 to 10 years for labor and sex trafficking violations, as well as fines of up to $6,460. Prison terms are steepest when the victim is a child.

Under the new PTPA and existing Pakistani laws, more than 1,000 human trafficking investigations took place in 2019 according to the most recent State Department report. As a result, the country made 161 convictions and there was a specific uptick in convictions related to bonded labor in comparison to the previous year.

Uncovering New Networks

Human trafficking in Pakistan is not limited to its borders. Elaborate trafficking networks between Pakistan and China have recently come to light.

A growing problem is the arrangement of fraudulent marriages between young Pakistani women and Chinese nationals. The Chinese nationals lead the Pakistani women to believe they are law abiding, financially well off citizens. However, upon arrival in China, several women have reported that the men do not fit the profile they initially received. Instead, many women discover that their “husbands” have bought them in order to use and sell them as sex slaves. Luckily, some Pakistani women have escaped these situations, and have been fighting back.

Activists Emerge

Survivors are drawing more attention to the trafficking of women between Pakistan and China. Women who have escaped provide valuable intel. Their knowledge is critical to breaking the cycle of human trafficking between the two countries.

Saleem Iqbal is a Pakistani gentleman devoted to providing safety and security (which his name literally means in Arabic) to victims. He has been working diligently to aid in the escapes of young Pakistani women from China and gain a deeper look into how these trafficking rings operate. Iqbal ensures that the women receive care and that others listen to them upon their return to Pakistan. While it is difficult at times for survivors to talk about the horrendous conditions they faced in China, the information is invaluable. With survivors and people like Iqbal working together, police can gain a much better picture of who to investigate and where.

Moving Forward

Human trafficking in Pakistan remains a high priority issue and the country can certainly take more steps to combat it. The silver lining is that there is a solid foundation to build on. That foundation includes the UN working to raise awareness, government officials passing new legislation, and survivors providing intel to law enforcement. With all of these parts working in tandem, Pakistan is one step closer to attaining a tier-one rating.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

human trafficking in Africa
Today estimates determine that over 40 million people live in modern-day slavery, making it more rampant than it has ever been in human history. A significant amount of this trafficking takes place in Africa. These 10 facts illustrate what human trafficking in Africa looks like and highlights some organizations that are combatting it.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Africa

  1. Twenty-three percent of global human trafficking takes place in Africa. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, over 9.2 million people living in Africa are living in modern slavery. This makes up nearly a quarter of all human trafficking around the globe. When it comes to countries within Africa that have the highest amount of victims per 1,000 people, Eritrea has the highest prevalence with 93 victims per 1,000, followed by Burundi with 40 victims and the Central African Republic with 22.3.
  2. Nearly 40 percent of those trafficked in Africa are in forced labor. In Africa, forced labor is the reality for an estimated 37 percent of trafficking victims, according to the Global Slavery Index. Labor trafficking can take on many forms including work in agriculture, mining and fishing industries. Traffickers often force victims to work extensive hours in extremely dangerous conditions and potentially abusive environments with little to no pay.
  3. Over half of human trafficking victims in Africa are in a forced marriage. In Africa, traffickers force an estimated 63 percent of victims into marriage without their consent, many of whom are children. According to the International Labour Office, forced marriage of young girls and women can be in exchange for money, paying off debt or to settle disputes among families. Forced marriage can result in sexual and physical abuse, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. According to the Human Rights Watch, Africa and other governments included ending child marriage as one of the targets in the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Since then, UNICEF says several African countries have started to create and utilize preventative action plans and strategies to address child marriage.
  4. A lot is still unknown about human trafficking in special case countries. Libya and Somalia are both special case countries according to the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report. In other words, it is impossible to accurately measure the extent of trafficking due to extensive conflict in the area. It is Libya’s fourth consecutive year to have this classification. Violence and unrest in the region have led to a lack of authority and law enforcement, making it difficult to track human trafficking and combat it. Somalia has been a special case country for 17 consecutive years now, facing ongoing insecurity and a humanitarian crisis. Conflict in the area has continuously hindered efforts to prevent human trafficking.
  5. No African country fully meets the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. These minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) that the U.S. Department of State set includes four main parameters. These include prohibiting severe forms of trafficking, punishing trafficking crimes accordingly and making serious efforts to eliminate modern-day slavery. While no African countries fully meet these minimum standards, 19 are on the Tier 2 Watch List. According to the U.S. State Department, this means they are “making significant efforts” to comply with the TVPA’s standards.
  6. Over half of those suffering exploitation for labor are in debt bondage. According to Anti-Slavery International, debt bondage is the most common form of modern slavery. Through debt bondage, traffickers force victims to work in order to pay off a debt. However, in most cases, traffickers make debts impossible to pay off by giving laborers insufficient compensation or none at all. According to the Global Slavery Index, debt bondage accounts for 54 percent of people exploited for their labor in Africa.
  7. Over 400,000 people in Africa are victims of sexual exploitation. This accounts for 8 percent of forced sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation of children around the globe. According to the International Labour Office, women and girls account for over 99 percent of these victims. 21 percent of all victims are children under the age of 18. These victims are men and women who traffickers have exploited for commercial sex. In some cases, victims may have voluntarily entered the industry but are not able to leave.
  8. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the highest absolute number of human trafficking victims. Over one-quarter (26.3 percent) of all victims of human trafficking in Africa are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the U.S. Department of State, although the DRC government is not making significant efforts to end trafficking, it has made some progress. The government of the DRC has taken steps to prevent the use of child soldiers and has repatriated several trafficking victims. Congolese law has also criminalized all forms of sex trafficking, but only some forms of labor trafficking.
  9. South Africa launched the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons National Policy Framework. South Africa is not only a major destination for human trafficking but according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), many also consider it a transit country for trafficking in North America and Europe. In 2019, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in South Africa created a framework of the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants. This National Policy Framework (NPF) engages governmental organizations as well as civil stakeholders in anti-trafficking efforts and aims to strengthen the criminal justice system in regards to human trafficking in South Africa. This framework is a four-year initiative in collaboration with the European Union and the UNODC.
  10. People traffick thousands of children on Lake Volta. Lake Volta is the world’s largest man-made lake and is essential to Ghana’s expansive fishing industry. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), thousands of children work on this lake, many of whom traffickers force to work against their will. Often, traffickers force these children to do dangerous tasks such as untangling fishing nets and deep diving. The majority of trafficking victims are 10 years old or younger. Violence and starvation are common among these young trafficking victims and many are hard for the government to track as they are working on unregistered boats.  Since 2015, IJM has been able to rescue 164 victims from Lake Volta’s fishing industry and continues to partner with Ghana’s criminal justice system to bring traffickers to justice.

Human trafficking in Africa is a serious problem. However, with the help of organizations like the UNODC and IJM, awareness of modern-day slavery in Africa is increasing. The new legislation is helping to protect vulnerable populations and many African countries are joining the fight to end modern-day slavery.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Flickr

Drug Reform in Southeast Asia
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has set forth its own sustainable development goals to reduce global poverty systematically. The third objective of its mission is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages,” and Target 3.5 within that states its intent to “strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug use such as opium and heroin.” In suit with this target, the UNODC has recently progressed drug reform in Southeast Asia.

Taking Action

In Bangkok on November 19, 2019, the UNODC concluded a two-day meeting with ministers and other government officials from Mekong countries including Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The collaboration between the six states and UNODC produced the establishment named The Mekong Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Drug Control. The sole purpose of the November discussion among these states was to confer over the implementation of necessary legislation that focuses on drug reform in Southeast Asia.

The current illicit substance situation in the Mekong countries is primarily the selling and use of methamphetamine in either pill or crystal form. China and Thailand make up significant shares of the global methamphetamine market (a USD $61.4 billion market) with the largest seizures of the illicit substance reported there. Another concern is the trafficking of precursor chemicals necessary to concoct these synthetic drugs and emerging new psychoactive substances (NPS). On a global level, Mekong countries and China, in particular, have become the largest suppliers of NPS as a result of their advanced chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Illegal horticulture for opium also continues at high levels in this subregion of Asia.

Progress Against New Psychoactive Substances

Previously initiated drug policies have kindled substantial efforts to combat the war on drugs in the Mekong. Record high seizures of substances have occurred in most recent years. In 2018, Thailand law enforcement seized 515 million methamphetamine tablets, which is 17 times greater than the amount for the entire Mekong region 10 years ago. Moreover, Thailand authorities captured more than 18 tons of crystal meth, resulting in a larger number than what authorities found in East and Southeast Asia combined five years ago. The Thai government implemented suppression campaigns along the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand) borders, forcing the trafficking routes to its western border, by the Andaman Sea through Laos and Vietnam. These areas have had seizure numbers in the first half of 2019 that already surpass the 2018 totals.

While significant headway has occurred, the UNODC and MOU know continued actions need to happen to increase the suppression of narcotics within the region. UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Jeremy Douglas, explains, “the epicenter is North Shan in Myanmar, with active supply routes in and out. And the organized crime syndicates behind the trade have demonstrated they can maintain production even if labs are seized, and that new precursors can be used when others are unavailable.” Consideration of all the relevant circumstances for the illicit substances in Mekong countries is essential when countries and organizations formulate further drug reform in Southeast Asia.

The two-day negotiations in Bangkok are proof that the governments of the six states plan to keep moving in a forward direction. Jeremy Douglas added that the consensus from the meeting is to “emphasize dampening market demand through preventive education and addressing health, harms and social consequences, by increasing cross-border operations, joint training and justice cooperation, and continuing to support impoverished opium farmers in Myanmar and Laos to transition away from the drug economy.”

Eyes on Organized Crime

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam made a statement in Bangkok addressing organized crime’s hand in its drug problem, “Organized crime takes advantage of gaps and vulnerabilities that result because of uneven law enforcement capacity and coordination problems. The Mekong MOU helps by providing a framework through which we can deliver a more coherent regional approach.”Organized crime in this subregion of Asia is its government’s new primary focus. It is evident that in future years, there will be a global reduction in illicit drugs, specifically in methamphetamine and NPS, due to the continuing drug reform in Southeast Asia.

Ariana Kiessling
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Bangladesh  
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that faces many hardships due to poverty. Many residents are struggling to survive, and in turn, crime follows. A crime like human trafficking is detrimental to Bangladesh and the millions of victims it affects. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh to broaden the scope of what effects poverty has on human trafficking.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh is a hub for trafficking. The geography of Bangladesh plays a major role in its human trafficking issues. It is located near the Gulf region that links to South Asia. Traffickers transport people on boats to one of the 20 specific drop-off zones in any of the 16 districts in the area. Traffickers could also transport victims to many other South-East Asian countries. There were around 25,000 trafficking victims from January to April 2015 and the drop-off zones were in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Teknaf and Ukhia. Bangladesh’s Coast Guard also reported the rescue of 116 people between the ages of 16 and 25 from the Bay of Bengal in June 2015. Using boats as the main vessels of transportation started in 2003 and caused an increase in human trafficking.
  2. Limited available jobs can lead to vulnerability. Bangladesh is not only a hub because of its geography, but also its limited jobs and resources. Someone can easily become deceived into becoming a human trafficking victim because they would like to obtain a job. The unemployment rate is 4.30 percent with an average salary of $60 a month. There are 27 million in Bangladesh facing extreme poverty and 31 percent living in chronic poverty in less developed areas. Within these circumstances, people in poverty to this degree are willing to take any job opportunities they can find. Human traffickers use this to their advantage and lure unknowing people into job scams; the traffickers promise a good career in another country, but in reality, they will use desperate people for any number of torture, prostitution and labor schemes. Giving way to more economic growth would reduce the number of people who fall victim to human trafficking substantially.
  3. Women are especially prone to human trafficking. Among the 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh is that women make up the most trafficking victims and they have little protection. Reports determined that Pakistan was a transit location for two million women and that Cox’s Bazar had trafficked 3,500 young girls in a matter of 10 years. Women are susceptible to forced prostitution and face abuse, rape and possibly murder. Traffickers traffick 400 women a month in Bangladesh. This trafficking has become a larger-scale operation and around 200,000 women, some as young as 9, have gone to different countries unwillingly.
  4. Sex trafficking is a rising form of human trafficking. There are different forms of trafficking and sex trafficking is one of the most profitable. This kind of trafficking makes up for half of all trafficking profit and only accounts for 5 percent of victims. The victims often suffer in this industry for years and it becomes a lifestyle. Since prostitution became legal in 2000, workers receive little protection. An estimated total of 100,000 women and young girls are working as prostitutes, but less than 10 percent are working voluntarily. Forced sex work is an issue affecting women and girls all over Bangladesh, but the country rarely criminalizes it. Out of 6,000 people that authorities arrest for sex trafficking-related crimes, only 25 people received a conviction.
  5. The BNWLA advocates for progress in women’s safety. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) is an organization that emerged to protect women. The BNWLA formed in 1979 focusing specifically on the legality of human trafficking. It advocates for new laws, fights for prevention and protection, and supports local woman lawyers to make a change. The BNWLA successfully advocated for a Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection Act) that eventually passed in 2010. This act was a huge feat and protected women and children against four kinds of abuse.
  6. Organized crime and gang violence tactics are ever-changing. When there is a large population of people living in a country where there is extreme poverty, organized crime is highly likely to occur. Gang leaders (better known as mastaans) are always looking for new ways to get some fast money. Manipulation of children to aid gangs in human trafficking is a tactic that is especially heartless but has shown to be successful. Organized crime involving children is becoming alarmingly popular; estimates determine that there are 1.7 million children with crime exposure crime and that number is rising. Mastaans take advantage of how vulnerable children are in poverty and use them merely as another means of profit. Legislation has made some progress to reduce the risk of children’s exposure to the life of organized crime or human trafficking with the New Children’s Act, but there is little consistency with enforcement.
  7. Lack of education is another factor in human trafficking. Education in Bangladesh lacks a proper structure for children 14-18. The dropout rate for that age group was 65 percent and over half of household heads do not have any education. Seventeen percent of these household heads were on the low end of literacy. Since it is not a requirement for children to attend school, they have to find ways to keep occupied. They do not have anyone closely watching them like children in school and it makes them vulnerable to human trafficking.
  8. Consequences and laws against trafficking are at a minimum. Bangladesh has made progress in its strides towards ending global poverty with the emergence of The Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act in 2012. While any progress is good, there are many gaps in the enforcement of legislation. In 2017, there were 778 reports of human trafficking with a single conviction. Numbers like these are astounding and show a huge lack of governmental support in ending human trafficking. Protection services in Bangladesh receive limited support as well; services for victims of human trafficking have proven to not thoroughly address the needs of the victim, nor do they include adult men at all. Major governmental reform is necessary to stop human trafficking.
  9. Local organizations are pushing for better treatment. The Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) is a woman-focused, local nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that aids survivors of human trafficking to start new lives. The goal for TMSS is to create businesses and jobs and give any extra support to those struggling to live in Bangladesh. TMSS has many departments within the organization including finance, events/training, market research and development.  Little access to health care is a huge issue that TMSS addresses with a growing number of immunizations, pre and post-natal care and overall education. From 2004-2009, tetanus immunizations in women aged 15-49 grew from just 335 to 1,231 women. The health education from 2004-2009 grew from 13,248 to 55,440. TMSS has been a huge benefit to Bangladesh by providing these potentially life-saving immunizations and education.
  10. The United Nations Global Initiative. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is reaching out to strengthen Bangladesh’s ability to fight trafficking on a legal and financial level. Mr. Syed Muazzem Ali, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, works with the UNODC regional office for South Asia. Mr. Ali notes that there have been tremendous amounts of progress in Bangladesh including improvements in life expectancy, total fertility rate and infant mortality rate. Human trafficking became a topic of interest for the UNODC in March 2007 with The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Within this initiative, the UNODC listed Bangladesh as a country especially in need of change against human trafficking. Through this initiate, countries like Bangladesh had to hold more accountability for human trafficking and acquire education on factors that aid trafficking.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh determine that it and the many forms it takes is a serious issue that puts the lives of men, women and children in grave danger. The life of extreme poverty in Bangladesh increases both the risk becoming a victim of human trafficking and becoming involved in organized crime. Weak consequences for trafficking clearly leads to little change, and governmental actions must happen to make these changes. Optimistically, organizations locally and internationally (like TMSS and UNODC) are putting their best effort forward to give the people of Bangladesh access to health care, education and funding to end human trafficking.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr