Category Archives: News

Initial Reports on Human Trafficking at Olympics Clash

by Amanda Kloer

In the months leading up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a number of organizations were giving Canadians a strong warning: human trafficking, and especially child sex trafficking, increases around major sporting events like the Olympics. Organizations working with trafficked women swear up and down that when a big athletic event comes to town, they do more business. Other organizations, often those working with prostitution but not human trafficking issues, have claimed these predictions are baseless fear-mongering. Well, information from the latest Olympics is starting to roll in, and of course, the results are different in the eyes of different groups.

Having only been over for a couple weeks, Vancouver is still recovering from what was a very busy Winter. However, a couple reports regarding prostitution and human trafficking in the area have come out. Local organization Prostitution Alternatives Counseling and Education (P.A.C.E) has said that street level prostitution in the most common areas, whether voluntary or involuntary, was slow throughout the games. They’ve categorically stated that the Olympics caused no bump in human trafficking, which was what they predicted. Another organization, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, claims that trafficking was a reality during the Olympics. They said they served at least five internationally trafficked women and saw at least 100 domestically trafficked women. They also postulated that a lot of the commercial sex was taking place indoors, where no one was looking for it. Continue reading

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Apple Admits Child Labor & Sweatshops Used to Build iPhones

by Amanda Kloer

Yesterday in their annual report, Apple admitted that it had identified at least 11 children working in overseas factories which produce iPods, iPhones, and computers. In addition to the child labor, illegal and exploitative working conditions for adults exist in some of Apple’s factories as well. Surprisingly, Apple made these findings public themselves in their most recent annual report. But are they doing enough to prevent the exploitation of children and workers in their factories?

In addition to the factories that allowed underage children to work there, some of Apple’s other factories have been called “sweatshops.” The company admitted that just over half of its overseas factories ignore the company policy that employees cannot work more than 60 hours a week. And the factories in China, where the majority are located, regularly break Chinese labor laws which prohibit employees from working more than 49 hours a week. Only 65% of factories were paying the wages and benefits due to workers, and 24 factories in China violated minimum wage laws. One factory even fabricated documentation to hide their underage workers and workers’ rights violations from Apple. Apple has now stopped using that factory. Continue reading

GENOCIDE AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR

A discussion with Washington Post reporter Shankar Vedantam, author of The Hidden Brain

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 1 p.m.
Helena Rubinstein Auditorium
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

How do we explain the actions of perpetrators, collaborators and bystanders in genocide? Fundamental questions about human behavior raised by the Holocaust continue to be debated in light of Rwanda, Bosnia and 21st century mass killings. Join us for a discussion with Washington Post reporter and author, Shankar Vedantam, whose new book, The Hidden Brain, explores how groups and unconscious bias shape human behavior and decision making.

Shankar Vedantam is a national science writer at the Washington Post. Between 2006 and 2009, Vedantam authored the weekly Department of Human Behavior column in the Washington Post. He is the winner of several journalism awards and is a 2009-2010 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University

Reservations are requested at: www.ushmm.org/events/shankarvedantam

STOP THE TRAFFIK:Take Part in START FREEDOM

START FREEDOM a campaign for young people

Stop The Traffik

A global campaign for schools and young people who will become aware of the issues surrounding human trafficking and realise the power to make a difference. Please go to www.startfreedom.org and download the Start Freedom resources. Teachers, there are great resources here to discuss this important world wide issue in the classroom.

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Texas D.A. Prosecutes Girl, 13, For Prostitution While Her Pimp, 32, Walks

by Amanda Kloer

Patricia R. Lykos, District Attorney

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the king-sized failures of the justice system are no exception. A Harris County District had a major justice FAIL recently when he prosecuted a 13-year-old girl for prostitution, despite the fact that she’s legally a human trafficking victim and not old enough to consent to sex. And her 32-year-old “boyfriend” (aka pimp) who was having sex with her and likely facilitated her prostitution? Well, he walked off free and clear.

The Texas Supreme Court is hearing the case this week, and it’s unclear whether they’ll decide that a trafficked child too young to consent to sex can be prosecuted for prostitution.

The girl, who media are calling B.W. to protect her identity, was picked up in 2007 when she offered to give an undercover Houston police office a sex for $20. Quickly, the police discovered that she was a minor, and that she had run away from a foster home placement two years earlier, when she was just 11. After running away, she moved in with a 32-year-old man whom she called her “boyfriend.” While staying with him, she used a number of illegal drugs, acquired several sexually transmitted diseases, and had two abortions.

While B.W. never admitted to being engaged in prostitution between the ages of 11 and 13, the high number of STDs and abortions are strong indicators that her “boyfriend” may have been pimping her out, even at that young age. But she did plead guilty to the prostitution charges related to her arrest.

So why is there a legal battle currently raging in Texas over whether or not to charge a young girl, clearly victimized by an older man, with prostitution? B.W.’s lawyers are arguing that it’s just plain ridiculous for a 13-year-old to be prosecuted for prostitution when lawmakers have otherwise determined that a child of that age is legally incapable of consenting to any sex act, much less one that involves an implied contract (minors that age are also too young to legally agree to contracts). They say a prostitution conviction would create an inconsistent legal precedent which states that a child is at the same time both legally capable and legally incapable of consenting to sex.

The D.A., on the other hand, claims B.W. was agreeing to engage in the sex act, which does not require legally-effective consent. Plus, in Texas, state law allows minors to be charged with prostitution, so they claim her consent doesn’t even matter. They also claim that in jail, B.W. will have access to all sorts of educational, rehabilitative, and other services, whereas if she were free, she’d just go back into foster care, run away, and be back on the street.

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ICE participates in Human Trafficking Awareness Day in South Florida

Reposted From: ethiopianreview.com

MIAMI – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Homestead Police Department (HPD), the Miami Dade Police Department (MDPD), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida (SDFL) participated in Monday’s national Human Trafficking Awareness Day to inform members of the community about the horrors and the prevalence of human trafficking and how to report it to law enforcement.

“ICE is committed to working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to inform our communities that this 21st century form of slavery exists in this day and age throughout the country and law enforcement is dedicated to rescuing victims and holding traffickers accountable,” said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Miami. “Because this heinous crime is extremely well-hidden, we need to help educate members of the public about human trafficking, and encourage them to keep alert for possible human trafficking victims.”

On Jan. 11, as part of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, special agents and victim advocates of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Miami along with officers and detectives of the HPD, MDPD, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office SDFL held an informational forum presented to school staff and counselors, parents and middle and high school students that are part of a Miami Dade’s Public School Program located at the Redland Housing in Homestead, Fla. Additionally, ICE special agents and HPD officers conducted outreach to farm and day laborers by giving out brochures and informational materials on human trafficking at labor drop-off and pick-up locations in downtown Homestead. Students also had the opportunity to participate in a leadership and rock climbing wall at the school. Councilman Elvis R. Maldonado is sponsoring and supporting this event on behalf of the City of Homestead.

Human trafficking is a tragic, serious cross-border crime, and ICE is the lead U.S. federal government agency responsible for investigating and dismantling human trafficking organizations. It is estimated that 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked around the world each year. These victims are trafficked into the commercial sex trade, and into forced-labor situations throughout the world. Many of these victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs; instead, they are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor.

The greatest challenge in combating human trafficking is victim identification. Surprisingly, many people are unaware that this form of modern-day slavery occurs every day in the United States. Victims may end up in a foreign country; are often unable to speak the language, and have no one to advocate for them. Traffickers often take away the victims’ travel and identity documents. They tell their victims that if they attempt to escape, their families back home will be either physically or financially harmed.

ICE is asking for the public’s help to remain alert to recognize and identify victims of modern-day slavery who are in our midst. They are domestic servants, sweat-shop employees, sex workers and fruit pickers who were lured here by the promise of prosperity. Ultimately, they are forced to work without pay and are unable to leave their situation. ICE is committed to giving them the help they need to come forward and help us end human trafficking with vigorous enforcement and tough penalties. As a primary mission area, ICE has the overall goal of preventing human trafficking in the United States by prosecuting the traffickers, and rescuing and protecting victims.

In 2008, the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force (SFHTTF) was created. The task force is housed in the ICE Office of the Special Agent in Charge Miami and consists of agents and officers of ICE, FBI, State Department-Diplomatic Security, Miami Dade Police Department, Homestead Police Department, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. The SFHTTF investigates all instances and allegations of human trafficking in the South Florida region which includes cities as far south as Key West and as far north as Fort Pierce.

Additionally, the SFHTTF works closely with non-governmental and social service organizations in its human trafficking efforts. These organizations routinely forward information regarding potential victims and trafficking networks to the task force for investigation. The task force works with organizations to provide training to other law enforcement agencies and conduct outreach to other governmental agencies, such as foreign consulates, for the purpose of identifying potential victims that they may encounter at the local consulate offices.

(Source: ICE)

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How Haiti’s Quarter Million Slaves Will Survive The Quak

BY AMANDA KLOER

What has been a slow crisis of poverty and enslavement for almost 250,000 child slaves in Haiti, known as restaveks, turned into an immediate crisis this week with the brutal 7.0 earthquake that hit the country. Mere hours after the news of the devastation in Haiti broke, America and countries around the world saw an outpouring of aid from international organizations and individuals. Groups have organized drives for everything from donations to shoes to volunteers.

But as we all get that warm and fuzzy feeling from helping our neighbors in their time of great need, it’s important to remember that millions of Haitians needed aid before this earthquake, and they’ll continue to need it long after the media fervor has died. And those with the greatest need will be the enslaved restaveks.

Restaveks are a huge part of Haitian society and the economy. They are usually children from extremely poor families who are sent away to work as domestic servants in wealthier homes. The children aren’t paid for their work, but provided shelter and a sometimes meager meal supply. In the best case scenarios, families will send their restavek children to school. But restaveks often work long days performing a variety of household tasks for nothing more that a meal or two a day. Two-thirds of restaveks are girls, and they are extremely vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse from the families who house and control them. The life of a restavek child in Haiti often varies between bleak and hopeless, and many children never successfully leave their slave conditions.

Restaveks are also the least likely to benefit from the tide of international aid washing onto Haiti’s shores, though they might be the ones most in need of it. A restavek’s hunger and wounds take a distant backseat to those of their employer. And some restaveks are not officially registered with the Haitian government as people.

While it’s impossible to predict the exact long-term effects of a natural disaster of this magnitude on a country where the poverty is so immense and the enslavement of millions of children is a common and socially-accepted part of life, I feel comfortable predicting that even more children will become restaveks. And while life will get significantly harder for everyone, restaveks will be hit the worst.

If you’re interested in helping the people of Haiti, Change.org’s Michael Jones lists some great resourceswhere you can donate, and in some cases volunteer, to help relief efforts. In addition, I’d like to add a couple resources that will directly aid the restavek population of Haiti, including The Restavek Foundation and Free the Slaves, which works in Haiti.

But as you donate money, feel empathetic, and think about ways to help Haiti this week, remember that long after the buildings are rebuilt, Haiti will still be a country built on the slavery of children. And for the restaveks, every day they are not free is another disaster.

Photo credit: Lucas the Experience

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