Commendable Intiatives Around the World
Uzbekistan: Bringing Victims Home
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a key destination for Uzbek women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. Many victims violate visa and immigration requirements and end up incarcerated and too afraid to acknowledge their nationality. Officials from the Uzbek NGO Istiqbolli Avlod (Future Generations) make multiple trips to the UAE every year to work with local authorities and identify Uzbek victims in detention centers. They reach out to victims in their native languages (Uzbek or Russian) and, with the support of the Uzbek government, help them return home quickly and without legal consequences. While this has placed more of a burden on the only two shelters in Uzbekistan, it has also resulted in more victims receiving assistance. The innovative use of source country cultural and language expertise to identify and reach out to victims in the destination country has proven successful. In September 2008, Istiqbolli Avlod reported that there were 41 women, many of whom were trafficking victims, incarcerated in Emerati jails. By February 2009, a majority of those women had been repatriated to Uzbekistan.
Thailand: Coordinating Government and NGO Efforts Against Trafficking
In Northern Thailand, TRAFCORD, the Anti- Trafficking Coordination Center, facilitates collaboration among government and nongovernment agencies working to combat human trafficking, particularly cases involving women and children. TRAFCORD is an NGO that takes a multidisciplinary approach, in which employees work with police, social workers, prosecutors, and other government and NGO officials to rescue, rehabilitate, and repatriate child victims of sexual exploitation. By coordinating government and private agencies prior to, during, and after raids on suspected brothels, TRAFCORD helps ensure that victims receive better treatment and access to services and that criminal cases have a higher chance of being prosecuted. TRAFCORD’s work helped inform portions of Thailand’s new, comprehensive anti-trafficking law in June 2008, and the organization has been a catalyst in the implementation of updated procedures for dealing with human trafficking cases. Government and non-government agencies throughout Thailand have adopted TRAFCORD’s multidisciplinary team approach, and international agencies have praised it as among the most effective ways to fight child prostitution and trafficking crimes.
UK: A Symbol for International Awareness
The UK government’s Blue Blindfold campaign’s message is that human trafficking can happen in any town, community, or workplace. Its materials are free and available for use by any government or organization wanting to raise awareness. The campaign has four key audiences: victims themselves, law enforcement, the general public, and key professionals such as health and social service providers, who could help identify victims at an earlier stage. The UK government realizes that symbols are very powerful and are recognized worldwide immediately without the need for words. The goal of the campaign is to work multilaterally with other countries to establish an international symbol for human trafficking and promote a unified campaign that reaches across borders. The hope is that the blindfold symbol with a trusted phone number will become identifiable in source, transit, and destination countries and will help break the control traffickers have over victims.
Jordan: Victim Assistance Fund
Jordan’s Ministry of Labor has established the Humanitarian and Legal Assistance Fund to provide financial support to victims of trafficking in Qualifying Industrial Zone factories and forced labor. Employers have deposited some $336,000 into the fund, paying $60 per employee to legalize workers with expired residency or work permits during a March to July 2008 amnesty period. The fund provides humanitarian assistance such as food, housing, and repatriation tickets, as well as legal fees for trafficking victims filing criminal or libel cases against their employers. In one example, when 38 Bangladeshi migrant workers were stranded after their factory closed, the fund paid for their food, accomodation, and repatriation. The fund is a creative way to register workers, punish employers for not renewing residency permits, and establish an assistance mechanism for trafficking victims and other workers in distress.
Indonesia: Communities Take a Stand Against Trafficking
Local task forces have had a tremendous effect in combating trafficking of girls in one of Indonesia’s most vulnerable communities. When legislation and government efforts to combat human trafficking in the impoverished North Sulawesi region were handicapped by a lack of understanding among law enforcement, the province began training task forces at the district level. In one district, the community was very concerned about the high number of girls being trafficked, but there was no policy or plan of action to combat the crime. The local task force mobilized, and by 2008 dozens of local agencies and NGOs were working together to help vulnerable families start businesses, inform farmers about trafficking, and assist in law enforcement. Their efforts succeeded in driving traffickers away from their villages and protected hundreds of girls from trafficking for sexual exploitation. Other districts in the region are following the example. The local task force in the provincial capital of Manado has created strong cooperation among government agencies, NGOs, community members, and law enforcement. As a result, traffickers largely avoid Manado as a transit point. Working with families and local NGOs, Manado police travel frequently to Papua to bring back victims who continue to be trafficked to bars in the rich mining areas there.