Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trafficking in Persons Report

I got to the grind early this morning due to the rollout of the 2009 Trafficking In Persons Report. I went to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to pick up the reports and bring them back to the Foreign Press Center (FPC) to distribute to foreign media who were already waiting for the anticipated report. I spent the morning preparing for the Press Briefing that we hosted later that afternoon. The breifer was Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Director of the Trafficking in Persons Office who discussed the report as well as the "Three P's" that they rate countries on: Punishment, Protection, Prevention. He cited the ILO estimate that about 12.3 million people being held in bondage worldwide, of whom they estimated about 1.5 million are for sexual slavery, sexual servitude. He stated that about 25% of countries have not prosecuted any traffickers. He also emphasized that the term "trafficking" didn't just include sex trafficking, which several countries still fail to focus on. This includes debt bonded migrant workers, involuntary domestic servitude and child soldiers. Ambassador CdeBaca stressed that while protecting citizens is the states job, working with civil society and others is critical because often NGOs reach victems in zones the government does not have access to. The report outlined 8 "2009 TIP Report Heroes," people who stood out in the battle against trafficking from across the world and were recognized by Secretary Clinton today.

"Inacio Sebastiao Mussanhane, a Mozambican lawyer, was studying in South Africa
when he heard overheard men talking about high end call girls available in Pretoria. In 2008, he met 3 of the sex slaves of a powerful organized network that lures young girls from Mozambique for sexual exploitation. Posing as a client, Mussanhane went to the brothel and gained the confidence of the girls. Despite attempts by the criminal gang to bribe him, threaten his life, and kidnap him, Mr. Mussanhane began to work closely with the South African police, a local trafficking shelter, the Mozambican embassy, and the South African Ministry of Justice. Police freed the
girls and arrested the network’s organizer. The case went to court in October
2008 and is ongoing. Throughout the case, Mr. Mussanhane has been educating the
Mozambican and South African governments, police, and courts on the nature of
human trafficking. He continues to risk his life to protect the Mozambican
girls, ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators, bring international attention
to the issue, and disrupt a profitable multinational criminal organization."

He also talked about the effects of the current economic crisis on workers, especially foreign guest workers, which become particularly vulnerable "because of the way in which recruitment is often – is too often done, we see a problem in the guest worker programs both abroad and here in the United States, and a number of the tier rankings are affected by countries having large guest worker programs that do not have any safeguards built into them."

Two of the Heroes joined Ambassador in CdeBaca for the briefing, Vera Lesko from Albania and Mariliana Morales BerrĂ­os, from Costa Rica. They told their stories of how important their work is and the challanges they have in their home countries. Both spoke of either corruption or neglect in their governments regarding trafficking. Columbia moved up to Tier 1 and Albania is now a Tier 2 country after being a Tier 3 for many years. The Ambassador talked about the consequences for countries who are on the 3rd tier or continue to be on the 2nd tier. Apparenlty, those on tier 2 for 2 years in a row are bumped to tier 3, and those on tier 3 are sanctioned by the U.S.
"There are a few very positive countries that I’d like to single out. I can’t talk about Nigeria enough, actually. It's a country that within five years has gone from Tier 2 Watch List on the cusp of Tier 3, and because of political will, because of some talented detectives, because of a willingness to work with NGOs and actually do cases, has seen an upward trend in their prosecutions, has seen an improvement on how they treat victims, and as a result is a welcome addition to the list of Tier 1 countries."

I suggest everyone at least read the Victims' Stories of the report. Sad stuff.
Coincidentally, I watched the documentary Born Into Brothels last night. Sad and interesting film about a women who gives camaras to children born to prostitutes in red light district of Calcutta. The film can be watched here. I suggest it if this topic interests you and especially if you don't realize how bad a problem it is.

No comments: