General Resources

Comments, questions, or info. can be directed to:

  • Image Hosted by

Translate this site into the language of your choice:

American/English German Japanese Italian Portuguese
Spanish French Korean Chinese
Powered by...

July 18, 2006

The exaggeration of America's domestic battle against human trafficking

In my opinion, a very important editorial from Tampa Bay Online: Bush's Anti-Slavery Initiative Falters In Quest For Freedom
Two years ago today, President Bush came to Tampa to announce a $30 million initiative against human trafficking, casting our city as a hot spot in the selling of human lives.

Yet two years later, not a single local trafficking case has been made.

Could it be that our human trafficking problem, which caught so many of us by surprise, was overstated? The short answer is yes, though the problem is real.

Still, our analysis shows the administration exaggerated the breadth of the trafficking problem, overstated the crackdown against traffickers and spent millions to help a couple hundred victims.

Since the president's trip, the administration has quietly backed off its startling assessment that more than 17,000 people are brought to the United States every year as modern-day slaves. In a report to Congress last month, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez said the number "may be overstated" and a better assessment is underway.
Curiously, his admission has not kept government agencies from repeating the exaggeration.

Similarly, the Justice Department this year boasts that by prosecuting 91 cases in five years, human trafficking prosecutions have increased by "more than 300 percent." It fails to note, however, that prior to 2000, no good federal law existed to prosecute traffickers.

Against this backdrop, the administration has doled out millions of dollars to faith-based and social service providers to serve trafficking victims, never realizing the difficulties they would have in getting victims to come forward. Last year, the government spent $10 million to help 230 people, or roughly $1 million for every 22 victims served, a federal report said.

Perhaps the administration's biggest misstep in the human trafficking initiative has been its failure to get buy-in from front-line police officers. Indeed, some agencies suggest the initiative is a solution in search of a problem. "I would be reluctant to call Hillsborough County a hotbed for human trafficking," Hillsborough Sheriff's Col. Gary Terry said in a recent interview.

The mishandling of this important initiative could lead some to conclude that human trafficking is nothing more than the crime du jour, the government's latest in a litany of heralded directives like drugs, guns, hate crimes and terrorism. In fact, human trafficking is more than a buzzword. It's a real and abhorrent crime taking place all over the nation.

Major cases have been made against traffickers in places like Milwaukee, where a couple faces 65 years in prison for enslaving a Filipino woman; in Los Angeles, where last year a woman was convicted of forcing her Russian niece to work as a prostitute; and in American Samoa, where the owner of a garment factory was given a 40-year prison sentence for treating 200 workers as slaves.

Closer to home, in Lee and Collier counties south of Tampa, dozens of cases have been prosecuted or are under investigation. Young girls have been rescued from sexual slavery and immigrant workers saved from exploitation. In one case, smugglers were charging illegal migrants $2,000 each for a van ride from Ruskin to Homestead.

U.S. Attorney Paul Perez, whose Middle District of Florida spans a swath of the state where economic and social conditions are ripe for trafficking, is refreshingly blunt when he says he is frustrated by the reluctance of some law enforcement agencies to acknowledge the crime.

"The cynical side of me says, where's these people's constituency?" Perez said. "When you attack guns or drugs, you're playing up to a constituency. … Where's the constituency here when the victims and perpetrators can't even vote?"
Good point!
On behalf of those with no public voice, the president should revive his flagging initiative and make this the modern abolitionist movement he envisioned. The government should coordinate a better response, while spending no more than it really needs.

And to restore public confidence, the people who trumpeted inaccurate numbers should be held accountable. It's horrible enough to hear that people are enslaved here. The problem does not need to be exaggerated.

For those who think human trafficking is not real, consider this account from Anna Rodriguez of Bonita Springs, founder of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

A young girl kept as a sex slave in southwest Florida recently was rescued from her trafficker, by whom she'd had a baby. When the infant was examined, the trafficker's initials were found branded on the baby's back.

"No one knows what these people go through," Rodriguez said.

We do now. The question now is what are we going to do about it?

Image Hosted by , , , , ,

Israel, Arab nations convene to discuss ways to combat modern slavery

A few days old (July 11), but this is very promising.

Israel, Arabs join to fight white slavery
Experts from the Middle East and North Africa met last week at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna to prepare an action plan to stamp out the growing problems of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

The three-day symposium - the first of its kind - brought together representatives from Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, UAE, Yemen and Malta.

"This is the first meeting ever held to discuss a regional action plan for the Middle East/North Africa region," Muhammad Adul-Aziz of the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime said. "We consider this meeting to be an important step forward. The proposed plan of action will provide member states with a framework for their future efforts to fight smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings."

A UN report in April said Israel was a top destination country for trafficking in human beings, and the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report, published in June, placed Israel in the Tier 2 (Watch List) category of countries whose governments do not fully comply with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act but are making significant efforts to do so.

"In the Middle East/North Africa region, exchange of information is complicated by heightened security concerns and tense diplomatic relations," said Israel's representative at the meeting, Yedida Wolfe. She is co-director of the Task Force on Human Trafficking - a project of the nonprofit organization ATZUM (Justice Works) and law firm Kabir-Nevo-Keidar.

"If there is a consensus on one thing, that is the need for bilateral cooperation to combat trafficking. Last week's meeting was a breakthrough in establishing personal cross-border contacts to help fight modern slavery," Wolfe said.
Read the rest.

Image Hosted by ,

July 14, 2006

Fla. detective held for allegedly uploading child porn on the net

Miami-Dade detective nabbed on child porn charges in SW Ranches
A Miami-Dade County detective who lives in Southwest Ranches has been arrested for allegedly posting videos of child pornography on the Internet.

Franklin Smith, 38, was charged with one count of promoting the sexual performance of a child and five counts of possession of child pornography, news partner NBC 6 reported.

Police confiscated a computer, videos and paper files when they raided Smith's home and arrested him on Thursday.

NBC 6 reported that Smith was arrested through the efforts of a state task force on child pornography that located an illegal video on the web, then traced it back to Smith.

Image Hosted by , ,

July 13, 2006

Nicholas Cage donates $2m (US) to AI to help child soldiers

A few weeks old, but noteworthy, nonetheless. I may not be a big fan of Mr. Cage, personally, for some of his other actions and positions, but his efforts for Amnesty International are commendable.

Cage donation for child soldiers
Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage is donating $2m (£1.1m) to Amnesty International to help former child soldiers, the charity has announced.

The donation will help fund rehabilitation shelters, medical services and psychological and reintegration services.

Amnesty says an estimated 300,000 children, some as young as seven, are involved in armed conflicts worldwide.

Cage has been working with Amnesty International USA for two years.

The organisation revealed the pledge in New York, during the United Nations Review Conference on the Program of Action on Small Arms.

Family nightmare

In a video statement filmed by the actor, he said: "Think about the nine months it took for your child to be born; think about all the care you put into teaching him how to cross the street and look both ways, or to read a book, or to simply have good manners.

"Then imagine a warlord dropping a gun into his hand and forcing him to kill someone. He's eight years old. He hasn't kissed a girl yet or fallen in love, but he's killed a man. What does that do to a child's mind?

"Sounds like a nightmare? It's reality for some families."

Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's executive director, praised Cage's "extremely generous contribution".

"Nicolas has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the horrors faced by child soldiers and other human rights tragedies," he added.

Amnesty International collaborated on the 2005 film Lord of War, in which Cage played an international arms dealer.

Image Hosted by ,

West, Central African nations sign multilateral accord against trafficking

West And Central African Nations Join Forces To End Child Trafficking
A multilateral accord against the trafficking of women and children was signed here yesterday, as UNICEF and its partners spearheaded a joint ministerial conference of 26 West and Central African countries, representatives of European governments and the International Labour Organization.

"No country in West and Central Africa can claim not to face the problem of human trafficking," said UNICEF's director for the region, Esther Guluma, at the opening of the two-day conference.

"Only a holistic approach can successfully stop this exploitation of children that is a violation of their human rights, dignity and freedom of movement," she added. "One of the most efficient ways is the connection of a regional partnership. This conference is a milestone in building this collaboration."


Children exploited and abused

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children are trafficked across porous borders throughout West and Central Africa. In Nigeria, for example, where the borders with Benin and Cameroon are 773 km and 1,690 km long, respectively, it is difficult to control trafficking.

Now widely considered a form of modern-day slavery, this practice has its roots in an old tradition based on the quest for a better life. Children would be placed with relatives in cities to receive an education, in return for helping out in the home.

Often, parents don't know - or don't want to know - what happens to their children who end up being exploited, physically and mentally abused as domestic workers or forced into prostitution.

An end to trafficking

"You are not a human being if you do that to your own children. People have to take responsibility for these crimes. It has to be punished," said UNICEF Child Protection Officer Alassane Biga.

[...] Financial assistance for the poorest families and other initiatives - like mobile cinemas that screen educational films for people living in remote villages - help to inform vulnerable families about the reality of child trafficking. There's hope that the joint ministerial conference now wrapping up in Abuja can go one step further toward putting an end to this illicit and dehumanizing practice.

Image Hosted by , , , , , ,

July 5, 2006

Latvia "toning down" erotic advertising

Just turn it down a notch... Latvian capital to tone down erotic ads
RIGA (AFP) - The city council in the Latvian capital, Riga approved regulations aimed at toning down erotic advertisements.

"These restrictions were needed: its almost impossible to cross the Old Town in the evening without seeing screaming erotic ads in sparkling neon lights or being handed erotic leaflets," Riga Mayor Aivars Aksenoks told a press conference.
Under the new rules, it is prohibited to use special lighting effects on signs and the facades of locations offering erotic services.

Such establishments may only have signboards outside that state the name of the club and its registered trademark.

They must also cover their windows so that passersby cannot see what is going on inside, the rules stipulate.

Companies handing out erotic leaflets are subject to a fine of up to 200 lats (285 euros, 340 dollars), but the punishment for individuals is far lower: a fine of 14 euros.

Latvian officials saw the need to clamp down on erotic advertisers soon after the Baltic state joined the EU in May 2004.

The number of tourists rose sharply after Latvia joined the EU, with many from older European Union members seeing Riga -- which is well served by low-cost flights -- as city of cheap alcohol and erotic services, the mayor said.

"I hope these new restrictions will help to change Rigas image," he said.
An "image" can be such a superficial thing -- especially when you are just trying to sweep the dirt into the gutters... as long as we can't see it and it's tucked away underground, it's O.K.

Tell me, painting windows to conceal "what's going on inside" serves what purpose now?

Let's just pretend it's a massage parlor.

Image Hosted by

The Iranian trafficking hub

Iran Focus: U.S. cites Iran as human trafficking hub
London, Jun. 06 – The United States put Iran among the main countries engaged in human trafficking.

A report released by the U.S. State Department described Iran as a "source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude".

The report cited cased of women and girls being trafficked to Pakistan, Turkey, the Gulf, and Europe for sexual exploitation.

"Boys from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are trafficked through Iran en route to the Gulf states where they are ultimately forced to work as camel jockeys, beggars, or labourers", the report said.

"Women and children are trafficked internally for the purposes of forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and involuntary servitude", it said, adding, "The Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so".

The annual report downgraded Iran to a Tier 3 trafficking country after "persistent, credible reports of Iranian authorities punishing victims of trafficking with beatings, imprisonment, and execution".

Iran now joins 11 other nations regarded as the worst offenders on the blacklist.

"The Government of Iran did not improve its protection of trafficking victims this year", it said, adding, "Child victims of commercial sexual exploitation reportedly have been executed for their purported crime of prostitution or adultery. For instance, one 16-year-old sex trafficking victim was hanged publicly by religious authorities who accused her of engaging in "acts incompatible with chastity." The governor of the town later congratulated the religious leader for his 'firm approach'".

Image Hosted by , , , , ,