Brainstormed Solutions

Christian Science Monitor has been working on a fascinating project to analyze best-practices in combatting human trafficking and recently put together a list of 6 innovative and effective solutions. Check them out here!

 

Human trafficking: 6 solutions that are working

By: Michael Holtz of the Christian Science Monitor

January 25, 2016

 

1. ‘Fair food’ labeling for US produce

Farm workers in Immokalee, Fla., have pushed corporations such as Walmart to submit to “clean labor” audits to cut down on the exploitation of largely Mexican, Haitian, and Guatemalan migrants. Their efforts have helped spur the use of “Fair Food” labels for produce that is grown and packed ethically.

 

“In the past three years, [the tomato fields in Immokalee] have gone from being the worst to the best” in the country, according to Susan Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.

Last fall, Giant and Stop & Shop, two grocery chains in New England, began carrying the label. Similar labels such as “Food Justice Certified,” which expands farm worker protections to organic products, are also beginning to crop up on supermarket shelves across the country.

Such sourcing clues tap directly into the portion of the US consumer base that has begun to turn once routine shopping decisions into moral guideposts. Labor experts see a lot of promise in using labels as a tool to spread the reforms seen in Immokalee to other agricultural centers around the US.

2. Empower migrant workers and trafficking victims

One of the biggest challenges human trafficking victims face is what to do once they’re back on their own.

In Thailand, the Issara Institute helps formerly enslaved migrant workers by directly giving them cash with no strings attached. The philosophy behind the program is simple: No one knows the needs of human trafficking victims better than the victims themselves. Yet they often lack the resources to address them. By giving them the ability to make their own decisions, the unconditional handouts provide a sense of autonomy that these individuals haven’t experienced in months, if not years.

Across the United States, a handful of nonprofit organizations are working to connect with isolated domestic servants to show them that help is available.

Damayan Migrant Workers Association, a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino trafficking victims, provides a model for how to transform a cycle of victimization. Former victims become advocates for others, demanding changes to legal and economic structures that facilitate the trafficking of domestic workers. They also formed a co-op, allowing the former victims to become their own bosses.

They have pressured embassies when diplomatic immunity was shielding traffickers from prosecution, and have helped some women win financial settlements. Damayan’s members played a key role in New York becoming the first of several states to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

3. Joint police-NGO task forces

A small antitrafficking team in Seattle is showing how legal action can be an effective tool in fighting forced labor when detectives, prosecutors, and social workers learn to collaborate.

In its first decade of operations, the task force investigated more than 140 cases of potential human trafficking and prosecuted 60 of those. Given the difficulty of bringing such cases, this is well above average for a prosecutorial district. In September, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the task force an “extraordinary partnership.”

Experts say the force’s success stems from its ability to bridge the worlds of nongovernment organizations and diverse law enforcement agencies. Where antitrafficking efforts in some other cities have broken down, the members of this team “have come back to the table” after setbacks, says Kirsten Foot, the author of “Collaborating Against Human Trafficking.”

4. Labor trafficking lawsuits in US courts

In February 2015, a federal court awarded five Indian workers $14 million in a labor trafficking lawsuit against Signal International, a maritime construction company, for abuses they faced while repairing offshore oil and gas facilities damaged by hurricane Katrina.

Five months later, Signal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to implement a $20 million settlement with more than 200 other workers who had their own lawsuits pending. It was, lawyers say, the largest monetary penalty ever in a labor trafficking lawsuit, making it a model for how to fight labor trafficking – both in the courtroom and out.

In Mexico and the US, advocates say abuses that can add up to trafficking in the agriculture industry often go unchecked because foreign workers are required to leave the United States at the end of each season. Back home, they are far away from the US legal system that might help them push for justice against abusive or exploitive employers.

To correct this, lawyers, NGOs, government representatives, and migrant advocates have worked together pursue cross-border justice. This includes finding plaintiffs in Mexico and other countries willing to testify in US courts; many don’t know that they are entitled to legal recourse. The work is painstaking and time-consuming, but provides a path to reducing labor trafficking and migrant worker exploitation.

5. Make foreign recruiters register with the state

From Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, California industries rely on about 130,000 foreign guest workers to do everything from tech jobs to picking grapes, peaches, and almonds. Three out of four of them are hired through labor contractors, according to rough estimates. A new law has the potential to transform the way those contractors do business – and protect vulnerable workers.

The California Foreign Labor Recruitment Law, the first of its kind in the nation, requires recruiters to meet certain conditions and register with the state. Taking effect in July, it forces businesses that want to use foreign-labor contractors to work with only those that are registered, and to tell the state which contractors they are using. It provides a host of protections for workers, including a rule against charging them any fees.

“People should be able to look up in a registry who is legitimate and who isn’t,” says Kay Buck, executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking in Los Angeles. “With transparency, the prevalence of modern slavery decreases.”

6. Supply chain transparency

A cluster of California class-action lawsuits against corporations such as Costco is pushing the envelope on accountability for human trafficking in supply chains. The keyword is transparency: If companies are forced to disclose when labor abuses are involved in making a product, they may be more likely to vigorously police their suppliers.

That level of disclosure would go significantly beyond the letter of a 2010 law. The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act requires large retail and manufacturing companies to disclose on their websites what, if anything, they are doing to eradicate trafficking and slavery among suppliers.

In the global cocoa industry, efforts to clean up supply chains have already helped address widespread child labor abuses. Each of the world’s top five chocolate producers – from Nestlé to Mars to Hershey’s – are developing or expanding third-party inspection systems meant to, among other goals, eliminate child trafficking and child labor by 2020 on the farms where they source cocoa.

Meanwhile, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire – together responsible for about 70 percent of global cocoa output – have responded to international pressure by passing laws prohibiting child trafficking and overwork, and mandating primary school attendance.

7. How you can help

  • Here are some of the organizations featured in our series on human trafficking:
  1. The Association of People for Practical Life Education is a Ghana-based organization that works to free trafficked children, including those in the cocoa industry.
  2. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, the first transnational migrant workers’ rights organization based in Mexico, seeks to improve the conditions of low-wage workers in the US.
  3. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a Florida-based human rights organization that works to protect migrant farm workers and promote consumer awareness through its Fair Food Program.
  4. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking is a Los Angeles-based organization that assists labor trafficking victims and works toward ending all instances of human trafficking.
  5. The Damayan Migrant Workers Association is a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino domestic workers to fight for their labor, health, gender, and migration rights.
  6. Free the Slaves is a Washington-based organization that works in human trafficking hot spots across the world to liberate slaves and change the conditions that allow slavery to persist.
  7. The Global Workers Justice Alliance is a New York-based organization that aids transnational migrants through a cross-border network of worker advocates and resources.
  8. The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center is a US-based organization that leads national efforts to hold human traffickers accountable for their crimes and to raise awareness of victims’ rights.
  9. The Issara Institute is a Bangkok-based organization that aids human trafficking victims through unconditional cash transfers and other services such as legal support, medical care, and job placement.
  10. ProDESC, the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Project, is a Mexico-based organization that works with migrants, miners, and indigenous communities to defend and advance their rights.
  11. The Southern Poverty Law Center is an Alabama-based group that uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight human trafficking and other forms of civil and human rights abuses.
  12. The Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network is a coalition of non-governmental organizations that provide direct services to victims of human trafficking in the State of Washington.

 

Panama’s Human Trafficking Story

By: Izzy Ullmann

The human trafficking story in Panama is one I have heard before, but never officially: human trafficking does not exist. According to Jenise Lawrence*, an American attorney working to combat human trafficking in Panama, this is the story that the government puts out.

And yet, the US 2015 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report reports Panama as a source, transit, and destination country for primarily sex, but also labor trafficking.

I sat down with Jenise Lawrence* in Panama City to learn about the dynamics that she has noted working on this issue (almost solely in the country). As she explained, prostitution in Panama is legal above the age of 18, thus easing traffickers’ ability to sell their victims. About 80% of those trafficked into the sex trade are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many are brought through a specific visa program, called alternadora, which the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs explains specifically allows foreign national women to work in entertainment establishments [Read more here]. In a leaked report of the US Trafficking in Persons Office’s visit to Panama in 2006, Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez emphatically stated her distaste for what she deemed, “the alternadora visa for prostitutes,” and wished to speak to the president about abolishing the visa program.  According to Lawrence, however, 12 years later the visa is still being used rampantly.

As Lawrence explained, different mafias control much of the sex industry, which serves as one of the primary reasons that the government is paralyzingly tentative to intervene. She mapped out for me the domains of mafia- controlled prostitution.

Venezuelans and Columbians exert a great degree of control over the sex industry in Panama City and the Colón Free Trade Zone. In the Chinese community, there are a few families with concentrated power. These families go to China and bring back people who are willing to be indentured servants. They are then brought to work in Chinito stores for no pay and are provided housing above or behind the shops, subject to debt bondage. As the Russian embassy has gained in power in Panama, there has additionally been an increased presence of the Russian mafia bringing eastern European girls to the country for trafficked prostitution.

As she described it, human trafficking exists as a pretty well organized criminal network. The industry has been working to improve its sex-tourism, and has coordinated taxi drivers and hotel managers and staff to direct wealthy businessmen to prostitutes, all the while making a cut of the profits.

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Child Trafficking campaign poster in Tocumen International Airport, Panama City

In 2014, Panama’s Ministry of Tourism launched a measly effort to raise awareness about human trafficking with posters in the airport, but this was the extent of the campaign. It was catalyzed by a scandal in which a Columbian couple was caught kidnapping children, killing them, and selling their organs. This enraged people in Panama City where the scandal occurred, and provided fuel for the campaign, but the charges “mysteriously” were dropped and neither of the couple was prosecuted.

This reflects a much larger issue that Panama faces of a debauched legal system. Due process is typically nonexistent and according to several locals, the corrupt police force accept bribes for most crimes. Lawrence explained that along the Columbian border, the Panamanian guards are being constantly paid off by the Columbian traffickers to ensure that they do not expose the criminals.

 

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Immigrant sleeping in shelter, Darien Province, Panama

Another issue that feeds into the exploitation of humans is Panama’s identity as a destination and transit country for immigration. Because of its relatively stable economy, the World Bank calculated the net migration to Panama in 2012 as about 28,105, which (factoring in those that are emigrating from the country) comes to about 100 people immigrating into Panama per day.  According to Lawrence, about 60% of them plan to stay, while 40% are headed towards Mexico or the United States. Despite this high number of incomers, Lawrence explains that Panama only has two official shelters for incoming migrants: one which hosts 25 women, and another which holds 65 men. When these shelters reach capacity, government officials drive immigrants in cattle trucks to a central location where they  are dumped and told they have 48 hours to leave the country. According to Lawrence, “The problem is so overwhelming to the government.” She continued, “[Immigrants] are not allowed to settle. They are all illegal but the country does not know what to do. The people do not have papers for Panama, they are not allowed to go into Costa Rica or any other country that would allow them transit through Panama or to stay in Panama, and Panama does not have the resources to send them back to their country of origin.” And few people do leave immediately. Many of these people are expertly linked into underground networks of trafficking, especially for sex.

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Container ship, Panama Canal

With limited border patrol, trafficking a person into the country is fairly easy. Lawrence explained that people are trafficked over the Columbian border, through the airports, and in cargo ships through the Panama Canal. She described a survivor from Malaysia who she’d met in an orphanage who had escaped her container on a ship and swam to the edge of the Canal to freedom.

But it is not just foreign nationals; Panamanians are being trafficked too. Lawrence told me a story about two indigenous girls who were simply riding in a taxi one day and were kidnapped by their taxi driver, taken to the border where they were raped and drugged and then forced to work in a push button hotel [essentially a secret room with a menu of women who you can purchase at an hourly rate].  Below is a pretty gross video about push buttons.

 

While the US Trafficking in Persons Report for the past 10 or so years has placed Panama as Tier 2, and commended it for some steps towards combatting trafficking, Lawrence explains how each of Panama’s supposed efforts are moot. The 2015 TIP report says that in 2014, “authorities investigated 11 new trafficking cases, four for sex trafficking and seven for labor trafficking,” and has reported back similar numbers in the 2008, 2011, and 2014 reports, but according to Lawrence, “not one person has been prosecuted.” She explained that the judicial system and enforcement of component of law enforcement is essentially nonexistent. This sentiment was reinforced by many people I spoke to in Panama. The 2015 report also details a “dedicated helpline for reporting human trafficking cases,” but Lawrence counters that, “in reality, there is no phone number or anyone dedicated to the hotline, and if there was, I am sure they were not trained correctly.”

But underlying this slew of issues, Lawrence explains that there is a general apathy about human trafficking. Most people do not know it exists, and those that do are are plagued by the its-not-my-problem mentality. This blockades the serious action needed.

From mafia-controlled areas of the country to an overwhelming immigration problem to an uncoordinated and corrupt justice system to an apathetic public, Panama sure has a lot of issues on its hands. But they do seem solvable. Awareness needs to be raised more fully, especially in schools so that students know about the potential risks that could befall them. And the judicial and legal systems need to be made more accountable, through police trainings, crackdowns on corruption, and instilling an attitude of responsibility among law enforcement and justice officials.

Contrary to public knowledge, human trafficking exists in Panama. Foreigners like Lawrence could continue to enter the country and try to determine ways of combatting the human slavery, but the Panamanian people ultimately need to figure out how to improve their own system to eradicate this problem and protect their citizens and immigrants.

 

Read more about Panama’s human trafficking via The Protection Project’s report. 

 

*name has been changed for anonymity to allow her to maintain legal status in the country

 

Lobbying 101

Last week, in my group, Students Against Modern Slavery, I gave a short lesson on how to lobby and thought it would be valuable to share with you tips on how to lobby, in case you want to take your awareness about human trafficking to the next level by persuading a legislator to support anti-trafficking legislation. As I described in an earlier post, I lobbied Zoe Lofgren about the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act and successfully convinced her to cosponsor it. I also learned much of what I know through International Justice Misson’s Freedom Commons, so definitely check them out for more insight (I will include more resources at the end).

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When you are lobbying, you essentially want to effectively articulate a specific request in a short amount of time. It is crucial that you establish a context for your meeting, explain the issue, how you want your legislator to solve it, and leave having made a feasibly accomplished request. In order to accomplish this, you will need to have 1) done a good amount of primary research (which, lucky for you, I will help out with!) and 2) a clear meeting plan.

 

The planning stages:

It is important to have a strong basic knowledge of

  • the legislator** you are speaking to (check out how they have voted in the past on other trafficking-related bills here for the House or here for the Senate). Also, definitely do a little bit of research about the legislator and the issues that he or she cares about via his or her website.
  • the bill you are meeting with your legislator to discuss (Look up any piece of legislation here).
  • any potential issues about the bill that people have debated, things that may come up in the meeting (check out blogs or other articles written about it).

Then you should outline your meeting and rehearse it (no shame in talking to yourself in the mirror!) so that you are confident when you are sitting in front of the legislator. I learned the “4 Cs” of lobbying from the International Justice Mission and would highly recommend organizing your meeting in such a way.

Connect:  

Briefly introduceScreen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.12.06 PM yourself (2 minutes max) and establish yourself as an authority on the topic, explaining why the legislator should want to listen to you. This could include where you live (especially if it is in his or her constituency), the organization you are representing, and/or the work you have done/ way you have been exposed to human trafficking. If you have any way of forging a more intimate connection with the legislator, this would be the time to do it. (“My daughter goes to the school you went to.” “I saw you speak at such&such convention.” “We go to the same church.” “I was from Boston myself!”… whatever it may be!)

 

Context: 

This is where you establish why you are there and what you have come to talk about. I would suggest transitioning from connect to context by putting the legislator in his or her context. For example, you may begin with,  “As your voting record shows, you are already quite aware of the prevalence of human trafficking. I would like to thank you for voting for XYZ bill.” Make them feel good and appreciated. Legislators work hard and get a lot more backlash than praise, so showing that you recognize that they do positive work will set your meeting on the right foot. Once you’ve provided a context of why you are there specifically, give some context on the issue as a whole. This may mean giving some data, but also giving a short tidbit of how that data looks in the real world. Stories and statistics are always stronger together than alone, so try to give both, but no matter how you decide to capture human trafficking, ensure that you are painting it in its pervasiveness, not just as one sad story you heard about in India or whatever. Based on your research of the legislator, you will know how expansive his or her knowledge is about the topic. Some you may just need to say, “As you surely know, 27 million people are still enslaved to this day,” while others may need a more comprehensive definition of human trafficking and all that it entails. As well as short context on human trafficking, you will need to establish the specific reason you are there–basically the bill (what the problem is and how the bill will fix it). Read here about how I explained this problem-and-solution concept in terms of the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act. Basically, I told Zoe about the strength and comparative effectiveness of the Trafficking in Person’s Office in DC, yet how it is prevented from having the full capacity of impact because it is not a bureau (and thus does not have a seat at the table when State Department decisions are being made). I explained that this bill sought to promote it from an office to a bureau. It was simple and clear cut–a problem and a solution.

COMMITMENT:

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.06.57 PMNow that the legislator understands the issue, you need to have him or her commit to a specific plan of action (hint: this is the reason you are there!). By doing research on the bill and where it is in the legislative process (on this website), you will know what you should ask the legislator for. It may be to cosponsor it. It may be to have them talk to the head of someone on another subcommittee to encourage that person to move it along. If the bill is in their subcommittee or scheduled to be on the floor for debate, your request may even be to vote for it. Make sure your question is direct and clear, “Can I count on you to cosponsor this bill?” If they are unable to commit at your meeting, organize a time to follow up with them.

 

CATAPULT:

Look towards the future. Offer yourself as a resource in case they have any further questions, but more importantly, determine when you can follow up with the legislator or an aid about your request (make sure to pick up a business card). “Can I email you in two weeks for an answer? I will be available any time for information.” Give them your own contact information and also leave them a folder with further resources (statistics that you did not have time to address in the meeting, the full text of the bill, etc). And, of course, thank the legislator for his or her time.

After you leave, shoot off an email or letter of thanks to acknowledge the time and energy the legislator set aside for you.

 

SETTING IT UP:

While you are preparing, you need to actually set up your meeting~~on the legislator’s website, there may be a section to “Set Up A Meeting” or a contact page (look for the scheduler or chief of staff). Basically, just keep sending stuff (tactfully… wait a few days between emails) until you get a response. Usually, legislators are very busy and it may take a little while for a response, but if you show your resiliency, you will likely be rewarded. Also, the legislator may be in his or her DC (or state capitol) office when you want to meet. In this case, you can either meet with a staffer (totally recommended, see below) or wait until he or she comes back to your area. Either works, it is really up to you.

 

I am going to include a list of more resources (some repeated from the above links), for your research pleasure. Good luck and go get involved! Politics are so much more accessible than people think! And at the end of the day, politicians want to hear what you have to say~~show the passion (but really show that you intellectually know what you are talking about) and they will want to work to put it into practice!

 

Find your rep: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

The 4 C’s of Lobbying:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting/sample-district-meeting-agenda-four-cs

More tips for your meeting:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting/tips-successful-meeting-members-congress

The meeting I did as an example:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N4GSgNNZ4K93TCsJVlAWo41sBHA_VT_ZWiF3iqMTauU/edit?usp=sharing

Read the bill (if you want to lobby about the same one as me): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:H.R.2283:@@@P

Check out how your congressperson is doing (what they’ve voted for in the past): http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/house-scorecard

ALSO COME TO THIS ADVOCACY SUMMIT:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/action-alert/advocacy-summit-2014-action-alert

More Resources: http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting
(a TON more resources for preparing for your meeting).

Kate Case: (to contact if you want to set up a meeting on the West Coast or just for further advice~~The first time you email her, just say that I (Izzy Ullmann) gave you her info… she’ll know who I am)
kcase@ijm.org
Kate Case | Regional Advocacy Coordinator, West
Government Relations & Advocacy
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION
916.335.6934 | @IJMcampaigns

 

**every time I say “legislator,” this could also be a staffer~~do not be disappointed if you end up meeting with a staffer instead. They actually are the ones doing the research and passing it on to the legislators along with their own recommendations.

A Red X to Mark the Spot

Do you remember last year when everyone had red X’s painted on their hands? It was all over Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook. It was all over school. Those red Xs made a statement. They said: I know slavery still exists and I vow to try to stop it. This campaign was kickstarted by the END IT Movement, a coalition of anti-trafficking organization who have come together to shove human trafficking into the public’s face, calling attention to this vicious crime.

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We’re in a fight. And it’s raging all around us.


Shine a Light on Slavery Day is coming up. On February 27th, join Freedom Fighters around the world in drawing a red X on your hand, and to anyone who asks why, tell them you are wearing it in solidarity with those grasped by the chains of slavery. Tell them it stands for NO MORE! Tell them you are fighting a monstrosity and invite them to join you. I challenge you to tell them any one of these facts:

  • 27 million people are still enslaved around the world.
  • Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry.
  • The average age of sex trafficking is 12-13 years of age.
  • Sex trafficking victims may be sold up to 50 times a night.
  • The Bay Area has one of the worst human trafficking problems in the country.
  • The average age of a slave is $90. That is less than an iPhone (whereas during historical slave trade, slaves were worth today’s equivalent of $40,000).
Human Trafficking by the Numbers

Human Trafficking by the Numbers

Draw a RED X on your hand. Snap a pic. Share it using #ENDITMOVEMENT. Let’s make FREEDOM go viral.

 

Training Professionals to Spot Victims

Many people who are trafficked, whether for labor or sex, are physically moved from place to place. Sometimes by car, sometimes by ship, and sometimes by airplane. This past month, San Jose Mineta airport employees were trained to spot victims of human trafficking. As Congressman Mike Honda stated, “We value freedom and therefore must be compelled to protect it and that’s why we’re here today.” Significant signs include people who don’t have the normal luggage, those who can’t speak for themselves, and those who are not allowed to be separate from another person. If authorities can catch the crime in action, we may be able to prosecute traffickers and protect victims before it is too late.

Watch ABC7′s report:  
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news%2Flocal%2Fsouth_bay&id=9404543#

Human Trafficking as an Industry

A few days ago, I was discussing porn and sex trafficking with a friend and came to a seemingly fundamental realization about the true nature of human trafficking. It is an industry, subject to the laws of supply and demand. We have created this seemingly internationally- accepted culture in which if we crave something, all we need to do is buy it. If one has a sweet tooth and wants a candy bar, a candy store will shoot up to fill in that market. If one wants a car, a car dealership will be eager to serve. And if a man wants sex, sex will be supplied. In cultures which frown upon premarital sex, porn and prostitution are generally accepted alternatives. People have capitalized off of this universal demand, recognizing the sheer profitability of selling humans. Thus, sex trafficking. As long as we continue to demand easily accessible sex, pimps will continue to supply it, regardless of the desires of those being sold.

The same can be said for labor trafficking. We have created a demand for cheap products, products that should cost WAY more if everyone along the supply chain was compensated truly and fairly. If you think about it, it is impossible for a t-shirt to cost $3. How can it possibly be so cheap, if you calculate in the salary of the cotton picker, the cotton weaver, the fabric dyer, the factory truck driver, and the store employee, not to mention the factory-maintenance costs, the transportation costs, the fuel costs…? It all adds up to much more than $3. Yet as consumers, we are only willing to spend $3. So the cotton picker and the weaver and the dyer and all the factory workers and everyone else along the supply chain are underpaid. But even that may not equal $3. It may equal $5. And $5 is not a competitive price. So companies start to traffick workers, luring them in under false pretenses, holding them as slaves with concocted debts, ensuring that the total cost of production will be far under $3, so the corporation can still make a profit.

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Trafficking is a means to a profitable end. And quite a steep profit at that. It is an industry that nets $32 billion annually. And as CONSUMERS of its products, we are perpetuating it.

The Polaris Project acknowledges this reality as well. “To ultimately solve the problem of human trafficking, it is essential to address these demand-driven factors, as well as to alter the overall market incentives of high-profit and low-risk that traffickers currently exploit.”

They describe two the major drivers of the demand for human trafficking:

  1. “Low Risk: When the community is unaware of this issue, when government and community institutions are not trained to respond, when there are ineffective or dormant laws to address the crime, when safety nets for victims do not exist, and when law enforcement does not  investigate and prosecute the crime, human traffickers perceive little risk or deterrence to affect their criminal operations.
  2. High Profits: When individuals are willing to buy commercial sex, they create a market and make it profitable for traffickers to sexually exploit children and adults.
    When consumers are willing to buy goods and services from industries that rely on forced labor, they create a profit incentive for labor traffickers to maximize revenue with minimal production costs.”

Read more at http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/overview/why-trafficking-exists.

Force, Fraud, and Coercion

Force, Fraud, and Coercion. These are the three catchwords that differentiate human trafficking from other forms of manipulation and exploitation. They are the ways that humans get into the trade and the way that they are kept in. I think that to really understand human trafficking, one needs to have a true understanding of these three terms.

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FORCE

The first way that people are trafficked is through the use of force. This may be the primary vision that people have when they think of human trafficking. Force could include anything from kidnapping to starvation to forced confinement to drug dependence to abuse. A person who is forced into sex trafficking, for instance, may be picked up off the street, shoved into a van, and driven to a foreign place where he or she would be made submissive through rape, physical and verbal abuse.  Around the world, people are quite literally stuffed into trucks, the hulls of ships, even packaged up and sent across borders by traffickers.

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Many traffickers use drug dependence to manipulate their victims. Women in brothels are provided with drugs and form addictions to them. Even if they are able to escape or are rescued by aid workers, they will return to their pimps because their withdrawals from the drugs are too painful to bear.

Another way that traffickers keep their victims in check is by forced confinement, keeping them under lock and key with guards patrolling their very move. They control living conditions of their slaves. If there is any chance of revolution or backlash, a pimp can simply cut off water or electricity, essentially forcing those who have been trafficked to follow their rules. They will only let them out under close supervision, and some may even collect rent! This throws victims into an endless cycle of debt.

Pimps may keep girls under their control through force, abusing them physically, sexually, emotionally, and verbally. Read more about this in my description of Guerrilla Pimping.

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The second form that traffickers use to lure people in and keep people in is fraud. This form is quite multifaceted and can come in many disguises. One of the most common way is false promises, whether of employment, marriage, a better life for one’s children, education, etc. In the documentary, The Price of Sex, many of the women enticed into the sex trade were done so through fraudulent promises (usually of better jobs).

(for more on these women’s stories: read Broken People)

Many people are more likely to trust one of their own kind, whether that be religion, ethnicity, or even gender, and are most vulnerable to fraud coming from these people. A newcomer to the US from Cambodia may be offered assistance by a fellow Cambodian in finding work. She may put her trust into this person’s hands, unsuspecting the “helper”s true purpose of handing her over to a trafficker for monetary compensation. Without language, cultural, or legal knowledge of a place, a person becomes increasingly susceptible to fraud.

Fraud also includes false promises of immigration status. A person will pretend to sponsor another’s immigration, paying for legal documentation, only to demand repayment once the person has crossed borders. This hurtles a person into debt bondage, another rampant form of fraud. In the case of debt bondage, a person is either forced to or coerced into taking out a loan, only to have labor demanded for repayment. Because the debt just keeps increasing, this form can keep generations upon generations enslaved.

This form is especially prevalent in Pakistan, where 1/100th of the population is enslaved by debt bondage. Hear the story of one family:

 

COERCION:

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And the final form is coercion. A pimp or trafficker may coerce a victim by threatening him or her. The pimp may threaten to harm them or their family. They may threaten to tell their family or community, something which to a person from a culture based around honor and aversion from shame, is a detrimental concept. They may threaten blackmail with photos, confidential information, etc.

In many cases of coercion, a trafficker will hold onto a person’s legal or travel documents, making the victim dependent on the trafficker. Especially for an immigrant, being in a country without documents could be an easy reason or deportation. Without his or her documentation, a person is much less likely to escape from a pimp, for he or she recognizes the danger of being on the loose, undocumented.

 

Yet in most cases, these forms are not used independent of one another.  In Teresa Flores’s case, her pimp payed a lot of attention to her, smiled at her, and kindly offered her a ride home from school one day (fraud). Instead, he drugged and raped her (force). Then, took photos of her and threatened to show them to her father and his boss, essentially humiliating her and getting him fired (coercion).

 

There is no one way that a person gets trafficked or controlled. Because traffickers use such a multitude of tactics, it is so much more difficult to eradicate those base causes and prevent a person from being trafficked in the first place. And because the multifarious ways that pimps keep their victims under control, it is also extremely difficult to rescue a person from human trafficking. Once you can begin to understand these three forms, though, you can start to really appreciate the complexity that is human trafficking.

To read more about Force, Fraud, and Coercion, read How Human Trafficking Works.