Category Archives: Organized Crime

DHS Blue Campaign: ICE Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is responsible for enforcing a wide range of crimes related to border security, including conducting domestic and international investigations on human trafficking, child sex tourism, and forced child labor. Continue reading

29 charged with sex trafficking juveniles

Imagine being stripped of everything you know, transported between states and forced to have sex with strangers. No, this isn’t a nightmare; these are details from a recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation. Four girls – some younger than 14 years old – were forced into a life of prostitution by a Somali-run Human Trafficking Organization. Continue reading

Human Trafficker Gives Rare Video Interview

by Amanda Kloer

If you’ve had an interest in the issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery for any period of time, you probably have wondered, “How can one human being actually enslave another? What’s going through his or her head?” Now, here’s your chance to know. A South African NGO has filmed a former human trafficker who lured girls and women from Thailand to South Africa with the promise of high-paying jobs and then forced them into prostitution. Check out his story in his own words, with more after the jump. Warning: contains graphic descriptions of violence.

This man might not be your stereotypical trafficker, in part because he seems to have had a change of heart about what he was doing, but his descriptions of the trafficking process are incredibly complex. It starts with false promises, includes enforcement of corrupt police and the graphic physical and psychological abuse that goes on. It’s a very brutal reality described in the starkest of terms.

One of the most interesting parts of the interview was that they were able to anticipate law enforcement raids and simply move the girls to another place. Finding human trafficking victims is incredibly difficult for this exact reason. I have to wonder if this ability to detect and then evade inspection by the police is a common phenomenon among traffickers, or if it was this man in particular who was just highly skilled.


Child Trafficking Rings Kidnapping Haitian Kids from Hospitals

by Amanda Kloer

UNICEF has confirmed that at least 15 Haitian children have vanished from areas hospitals in the days since the earthquake, and they suspect those children — and more — are falling victim to child trafficking rings.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, thousands of children are separated from their families, with many not knowing whether their parents and guardians are still alive. And while humanitarian organizations can confirm children who go missing from hospitals and group homes, huge numbers of children remain on the streets, unaccounted for, just waiting to be picked up by traffickers.

A number of child protection organizations have come together to ask would-be parents not to apply to adopt Haitian children. Since the earthquake, the number of adoption applications for Haitian children has soared from 10 per month to 150 in a three day period. One U.S. adoption agency claimed it has already received over 1000 applications for children from Haiti. Child advocacy groups are concerned, however, that a bump in adoptions of Haitian children will only encourage child traffickers to abduct children and pass them off as orphans, hoping to make a tidy profit from their sale. While Western families trying to adopt Haitian children likely mean well, they may encourage child trafficking within the country. If you are considering adopting a Haitian child, please consider donating instead to a child protection organization working in Haiti.

But the children disappearing from hospitals may be on the road to a more sinister fate than life in the U.S. in a loving and stable home. Before the earthquake, Haitian children under 15 made up 45 percent of the population. With such a large number of poor youth, may children found themselves victims of sexual exploitation, forced domestic servitude, and forced labor. And as the chaos subsides and international aid moves out, the number of children victimized by traffickers will only increase. If the Haitian economy is too broken to support demand for maids or commercial sex, the children will likely be shipped to the Dominican Republic or other nearby countries, including the U.S.

Haiti is not a unique situation; human trafficking usually increases after natural disasters. In 2004, in the wake of the massive tsunami which struck Asia, thousands of children were left vulnerable. Human trafficking in that region saw a significant upswing. And the next major natural disaster will be the same. But for now, you can help the children of Haiti by supporting the organizations linked to above and not requesting to adopt a Haitian child right now.

Photo credit: Matt Drigdenberg


Human Trafficking is Al-Qaeda’s New Business Model

Human Trafficking and Terrorism? Sure it fits.

by Amanda Kloer

Terrorism is an expensive business, what with the cost of bomb-making supplies, training videos, and the constant recruitment of new suicide bombers. And Islamist terror-funders have the same recession issues as the rest of us. So to fill some financial gaps, Al-Qaeda has embraced a new business model which generates income from trafficking drugs and human beings. Law enforcement agencies have long agreed that one of the best strategies to fight Al-Qaeda is to cut off their cash and starve them out. And now, that strategy includes fighting human trafficking.

Human and drug trafficking has occasionally been suspected as a funding mechanism for terror, but has thus far been addressed primarily on a case-by-case basis. But more concrete confirmation of Al-Qaeda using trafficking funds came from Harouna Touré, who led an Al-Qaeda-affiliated criminal group in North Africa. Among other income-generating activities, they transported hashish to Tunisia; trafficked people from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India into Spain; and recently kidnapped Belgian citizens for ransom.

The increased use of human trafficking to fund terror is something I’ve seen coming for awhile. The notorious U.S. and Mexico-based MS-13 gang has been reported to have engaged in talks with Al-Qaeda, and they have used trafficking as a funding source for some time. So Al-Qaeda has a mentor in the industry. Also, since the U.S. declared a war on terror almost a decade ago, officials have identified and disabled a number of funding mechanisms for terror. Better technology has made it easier to track money online, and thus harder to move money from legal accounts into the hands of terrorists without raising flags. So it’s natural that terror organizations would turn to organized crime activities as a means of financing their operations — and trafficking in drugs and people are the most profitable organized criminal activities.

I hope this connection becomes clearer to law enforcement over the next year, and they begin to identify combating human trafficking as a serious national security issue deeply connected with the war on terror. Human trafficking allows terrorist organizations to finance their operations, including recruitment and bombings. And the conditions in which human trafficking thrive — poverty, political instability and extremism, and lack of political freedom — also provide fertile ground for terrorism to thrive in. This is especially true of places in the Middle East like Pakistan and Lebanon which have significant trafficking problems and the potential for more serious terrorism as well. Only once we accept that ending human trafficking is important to national security will we be able to cut the flow of cash from modern-day slave labor to terrorist organizations.

Photo credit: The Chorizo Warrior