Topics of Special Interest

Human Trafficking By the Numbers
Human Trafficking Defined
What is NOT trafficking in persons?
Child Soldiers
What makes a good trafficking in persons law?
Forced and Child Marriages
How consensual is “voluntary repatriation”?
Core Principles for Shelter Programs
Migration Restrictions as Anti-Trafficking Responses
Sponsorship System Reforms
Breaking the (Supply) Chain
10 Troubling Governmental Practices
Domestic Work Is Work: Toward Increased Freedom for Household Servants
Human Trafficking as a Women's Issue
Human Trafficking Considerations in Disaster Response
Human Trafficking Research: Informing Policies and Programs
Diplomats and Domestic Workers
Blind Sweeps and Smart Raids
Identifying victims of trafficking
Contract Fraud and Contract Switching
Government Contractors and Government Procurement of Labor

Human Trafficking By The Numbers

Adults and children in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world: 12.3 million
Successful trafficking prosecutions in 2009: 4,166
Successful prosecutions related to forced labor: 335
Victims identified: 49,105
Ratio of convicted offenders to victims identified, as a percentage: 8.5
Ratio of victims identified to estimated victims, as a percentage: 0.4
Countries that have yet to convict a trafficker under laws in compliance with the Palermo Protocol: 62
Countries without laws, policies, or regulations to prevent victims’ deportation: 104
Prevalence of trafficking victims in the world: 1.8 per 1,000 inhabitants
Prevalence of trafficking victims in Asia and the Pacific: 3 per 1,000 inhabitants

Human Trafficking Defined

The TVPA defines “severe forms of trafficking” as:

a. sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or,

b. the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.

What is NOT trafficking in persons?

Illegal adoptions: The kidnapping or unlawful buying/selling of an infant or child for the purpose of offering that child for adoption represents a serious criminal offense, but it is not a form of human trafficking, as it does not necessarily involve the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel services from a person. As stated in the travaux preparatoires of the Palermo Protocol, only “where illegal adoption amounts to a practice similar to slavery . . . it will also fall within the scope of the Protocol.”

The trade in human organs: The trade in human organs – such as kidneys – is not in itself a form of human trafficking. The international trade in organs is substantial and demand appears to be growing. Some victims in developing countries are exploited as their kidneys are purchased for low prices. Such practices are prohibited under the Palermo Protocol, for example when traffickers use coercive means, such as force or threats of force to secure the removal of the victim’s organs.

Child pornography: Sex trafficking of children can involve several different forms of exploitation, including the production of child pornography. However, the production of sexual images representing children – which increasingly includes drawings and computer-generated images – is not sex trafficking unless a child is actually induced to perform a commercial sex act for the purpose of producing the pornography. Distribution and possession of child pornography, while often criminally prohibited, are not acts of human trafficking.

Prostitution: Prostitution by willing adults is not human trafficking regardless of whether it is legalized, decriminalized, or criminalized. However, pursuant to the TVPRA of 2008, the definitions of human trafficking under U.S. law are not construed to treat prostitution as a valid form of employment. The TIP Report evaluates the efforts of countries with legalized prostitution to reduce the demand for commecial sex acts as part of its assessment of the countries’ serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.

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Child Soldiers

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) was signed into law on December 23, 2008 (Title IV of Pub. L. 110-457) and became effective on June 21, 2009. The CSPA requires publication in the annual TIP Report of a list of foreign governments identified during the previous year as hosting governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers, as defined in the Act. These determinations cover the reporting period beginning March 1, 2009 and ending February 28, 2010. According to the CSPA, and generally consistent with the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the term “child soldier” means:

(i) any person under 18 year of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces; (ii) any person under 18 years of age who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces; (iii) any person under 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces; or, (iv) any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state. The term “child soldier” includes any person described in clauses (ii), (iii), or (iv) “who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.”

Governments identified on the list are subject to restrictions, in the following fiscal year, on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment. The CSPA prohibits the following forms of assistance to governments identified on the list: international military education and training, foreign military financing, excess defense articles, section 1206 assistance, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment. Beginning October 1, 2010 and effective throughout FY 2011, these types of assistance will be prohibited to the countries listed, absent a presidential national interest waiver, applicable exception, or reinstatement of assistance pursuant to the terms of the CSPA.

The determination to include a government in the CSPA list is informed by a range of sources, including first-hand observation by U.S. government personnel and research and reporting from various United Nations entities, international organizations, local and international NGOs, and international media outlets.

The 2010 CSPA list consists of governments in the following countries:
1. Burma
2. Chad
3. Democratic Republic of the Congo
4. Somalia
5. Sudan
6. Yemen

What makes a good trafficking in persons law?

Throughout the last decade, most of the world has developed new legislation to conform with the Palermo Protocol. In so doing, many countries have looked to other countries’ existing laws, model laws offered by the United Nations and other international organizations or donor governments, and advice from anti-trafficking experts in crafting legislation most appropriate for their legal systems and cultures. This diversity in contextual factors prevents the development of detailed language that would apply to all countries. Some basic principles can and should be considered as best practices in designing legislation to fight modern slavery. A good anti-trafficking law should include the following:

  • A broad definition of the concept of “coercion” that covers its many manifestations in modern forms of slavery, including the threat of physical, financial, or reputational harm sufficiently serious to compel a reasonable person to perform or to continue performing labor or services in order to avoid incurring that harm.
  • A well-articulated definition of trafficking that facilitates effective law enforcement and prosecutorial responses and allows for the collection of meaningful data. The definition should incorporate all forms of compelled service in addition to forced prostitution. The definition should not simply criminalize the recruitment or transportation of prostituted persons. The definition should not include related but distinct crimes, such as alien smuggling or prostitution.
  • A mechanism of care provided to all suspected victims of trafficking through which they have the opportunity to access basic services – including shelter, food, medical care, psycho-social counseling, legal aid, and work authorization.
  • Explicit immigration relief for trafficking victims, regardless of their past legal status, and relief from any legal penalties for unlawful activities committed by victims as a direct result of their trafficking.
  • Specific protections for child victims of trafficking ensuring a responsible chain of custody and a priority placed on the best interests of the child in all decisions made in providing services to them.
  • Explicit provisions ensuring identified victims have access to legal redress to obtain financial compensation for the trafficking crimes committed against them. In order to be meaningful, such access must be accompanied by options to obtain immigration relief. Trafficking victims should not be excluded from legal services providers who can assist with these efforts, whether NGOs or government programs.

Forced and Child Marriages

Marriage induced through force, coercion, or deceit is a global phenomenon engendered by cultural and societal norms about the institution of marriage and the roles of spouses. Forced marriage is one entered into without full consent and under duress, where the individual has no right to choose a partner or ability to say no.

Around the world, forced or coerced marriages are used by parents and families as a means to many ends, but most commonly to settle debt, receive dowry payments, further economic interests, relieve poverty, obtain residency permits, display status, provide inheritance, counteract promiscuity, and serve as compensation for a wrongful death. Forced marriages render the forced party (in most cases a woman) vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by her spouse or his family, who exercise significantly greater power and control. This can trap the victim in conditions of enslavement, particularly in domestic or sexual servitude.

Not all forced marriages result in cases of trafficking. Each situation is unique and needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it meets the legal definition of trafficking. The evaluation must look particularly at the terms of the marriage and the possible conditions of exploitation encountered afterward. Trafficking and forced marriage intersect when marriage is used both in conjunction with force, fraud, coercion, or abuse of power and as a means to subject wives to conditions of slavery, often in the form of domestic or sexual servitude.

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How consensual is “voluntary repatriation”?

According to the Palermo Protocol, repatriation of trafficking victims should preferably be voluntary and done with the victim’s safety in mind. Many governments, believing they are acting in the victims’ best interests, make concerted efforts to return victims to their countries of origin as quickly as possible. During the research phase of this report, officials from a prosperous country that has ratified the Protocol claimed all identified victims in that country had, without fail, consented to “voluntarily” repatriation. This refrain is heard regularly from well-intentioned law enforcement and social affairs officials in countries that are destinations for transnational trafficking: “the foreign victims we encounter just want to go home (back to their country of origin).” They point to a 100 percent rate of “repatriation” of foreign victims as proof of the “consent” of these victims.

Yet substantial research shows that the reality is not so simple. Many, if not most, victims wish to fulfill what they were seeking before they fell into a human trafficking trap: to earn income and become more self-reliant and empowered. Many trafficking victims are never told there are alternatives to returning home. When government officials cannot offer meaningful, attractive, and legal alternatives to repatriation – including the ability to reside legally outside of a shelter, the ability to work legally in the local economy, and access to government assistance programs – the “consent” victims give to their repatriation is not meaningful. It is more acquiescence to a regime of deportation.

It should not be surprising that trafficking victims choose to return to their home countries after being detained in a trafficking “shelter” or jailed for violations that occurred as a direct result of being trafficked. Victims often risk retribution in their home countries, but if the choice is to remain in jail or go home, most will take the risk. This is then considered “voluntary repatriation” by many governments. Deporting victims to their countries of origin without meaningful consent puts victims’ lives at risk – many face retrafficking, violence, and sometimes death – and often allows perpetrators of forced labor or prostitution to evade justice. It is a government’s responsibility to immediately provide suspected foreign victims who have been exploited within its borders with protection and treatment, an explanation of their rights, and a choice to avoid deportation if they face danger in their own countries. Overseeing this process takes specialized expertise, time, and funds. But it can lead to strengthened prosecutions of traffickers through improved victim cooperation and a better chance at recovery for victims who have suffered immeasurably in their destination country.

Core Principles For Shelter Programs

Shelters for trafficking victims offer safe refuge and comprehensive services. These shelters need not be run by governments, and often shelters are most effectively operated by NGOs, though they should adhere to some core principles, including the following:

Trafficked persons’ sense of empowerment, trust, and community need to be re-built.
Traffickers deny victims their basic freedoms, leaving them feeling trapped, fearful, and ashamed.

A shelter is often the first place victims are offered assistance and begin to rebuild what was shattered by the trafficker. Effective shelter programs adopting this principle create an environment offering victims:

  • access to family, friends, and the community outside the shelter;
  • power to decide their own recovery plan;
  • comfortable accommodations resembling a residence, not a jail;
  • respectful treatment as individuals with rights and not as criminal offenders;
  • respectful, caring, and qualified staff; and,
  • opportunities to work and the ability to leave the shelter at will.

Trafficked persons’ safety and well-being should be the core of all services.
The goal of a shelter program is to provide a safe haven and move a trafficked person from crisis to recovery. Anything endangering a trafficked person’s safety or well-being is in direct conflict with this main goal. Trafficked persons have physical safety needs that require protocols and physical building enhancements for their protection. However, shelter programs must meet these safety needs in a manner that does not diminish the residents’ well-being. For instance, enhancements representative of a prison or even the trafficking situation will only re-traumatize the trafficked person.

Trafficked persons require some combination of comprehensive services, including psychological, medical, legal, educational, life skills, vocational, and translation/interpretation.
Shelters for trafficked persons should not be a detention facility used to safeguard the person before return to the country of origin. Instead, shelters should be both a safe haven and a place where trafficked persons can access critical and comprehensive services beyond emergency assistance of food and shelter. These services help the trafficked person begin the process of healing body and mind and reintegrating into society. They may also serve a preventive purpose and decrease the likelihood of re-trafficking.

Service delivery must be victim-centered.
Each trafficking experience is unique and affects individuals differently; not every trafficked person will require or want the same services. Shelter staff should work with trafficked persons individually to create a tailored recovery plan including:

  • individualized case management;
  • intake as well as needs and risk assessments;
  • cultural and linguistic considerations;
  • confidentiality;
  • safety and safety planning; and,
  • re-integration services.

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Migration Restrictions As Anti-Trafficking Responses

Many destination countries throughout the world face seemingly insurmountable challenges in confronting illegal immigration. In response to this crisis, governments of developed destination countries are summarily deporting undocumented migrants in large numbers, without careful consideration of whether they are in need of protection or without screening them for indicators of exploitation and human trafficking.

For instance, in 2009, after forging a partnership with the Libyan government, Italy intercepted thousands of sub- Saharan migrants in boats en route to Italy and returned the migrants to Libya and the custody of Libyan authorities. In Spain, thousands of migrants are intercepted as they attempt to land on Spanish soil after making arduous journeys through the Sahara and North Africa; Spanish authorities routinely deport these migrants to Morocco without interviewing them to determine if they are trafficking victims or have valid asylum claims.

This trend is not confined to Europe. The governments of some Asian labor demand countries regularly conduct sweeps to identify, detain, and deport those migrants who are out of legal status, but they do not make adequate efforts to identify trafficking victims among those migrants. Some incidents of summary deportations of foreign migrants were reported in the region throughout 2009 and disturbingly seem to validate these countries’ enhanced pre-occupation with immigration control. Immigration enforcement, developed and implemented without taking into account anti-trafficking standards and victim care responsibilities, is an aggressive response that ignores basic tenets of victim protection. It undercuts victim-centered law enforcement approaches, which place a premium on protecting all regardless of immigration status.

Beyond hindering the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts, harsh anti-migration responses can contribute to new cases of human trafficking. Migrants who were not yet in trafficking situations become more vulnerable to forced labor and forced prostitution when exploiters can effectively use the threat of their detention and deportation – without the opportunity to seek legal redress for human trafficking complaints – to obtain or maintain the migrants’ forced labor or service. They also become vulnerable to trafficking when expelled to third countries with no protections for undocumented foreigners.

If the laudable principles and guidelines on human trafficking victim protections and rights developed in New York, Geneva, and Vienna are to be respected, governments need to bring immigration controls and practices into conformity with anti-trafficking policies.

Sponsorship System Reforms

Many governments of countries with significant foreign migrant labor populations have created legal avenues for temporary labor migration – termed “guest worker” or “sponsorship” systems. These laws, regulations, and policies provide the terms under which foreign workers can migrate and work in the destination country.

The threat of detention and summary deportation without compensation for wages earned or planned can serve as a powerful tool of coercion. Often working through labor recruiters in source countries, sponsors – who are either employers or labor brokers – are able to offer a job to a potential migrant worker. The worker accepts the job – generally in his or her home country with the facilitation of a local labor recruiter – and receives a visa or immigration entry permit linked to the sponsor in the destination country.

These systems contribute to forced labor in the labor-importing country when they (1) provide excessive power to sponsors in granting and sustaining the immigration or legal status of a migrant worker and (2) do not provide real options for migrants to seek legal remedy for abuses or conditions of forced labor. Such remedy would include (but is not limited to) the availability of and access to immigration relief, shelter, medical care, counseling, worker hotlines, and legal aid.

Governments should analyze their sponsorship systems and assess their potential contributions to forced labor. Officials should conduct detailed and accurate assessments of proposed new systems, regulations, laws, or policies. Countries should be flexible; if initial reforms reveal or create new problems, the government should re-design the system to address its flaws.

There are a number of best practices to be considered in reassessing sponsorship systems, such as:

  • providing credible legal remedies to all vulnerable migrant laborers (including domestic workers);
  • criminalizing the withholding of workers’ identity or travel documents (e.g., passport) by the employer or sponsor;
  • allowing workers to switch employers or sponsors, as well as leave the country without employer or sponsor permission, if they experience conditions of forced labor;
  • requiring a standard contract for all workers, written in the languages of both the employer or sponsor and the worker; and,
  • requiring the payment of wages electronically to an account owned by the individual worker.

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Breaking the (Supply) Chain

With the majority of modern slaves in agriculture and mining around the world – and forced labor prevalent in cotton, chocolate, steel, rubber, tin, tungsten, coltan, sugar, and seafood – it is impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor. Even reputable companies can profit from abuse when they do not protect their supply chain – whether at the level of raw materials, parts, or final products – from modern slavery.

Consumer spending and corporate investment in business are leverage points that can turn around a system that has for too long allowed traffickers and economies to operate with impunity. There is an increasing push for consumer transparency, certification, and more rigorous regulation.

Research suggests companies investing in fair labor practices and labeling their products accordingly improve conditions on the ground and drive up the demand for, and price of, their products.

A new paradigm of corporate accountability is emerging demanding companies cast their attentions beyond the places where their products are produced or processed – such as apparel factories and seafood processing shops – to places where the raw materials are collected, harvested, or mined.

Human trafficking is a crime and no level of corporate best practices can replace a government’s responsibility to prosecute and protect victims. Still, verifiable corporate policies prohibiting the use of forced labor through the supply chain all the way down to raw materials are a critical prevention tool.

Key principles in setting supply chain standards:

  • Statements of corporate policy must incorporate truly independent verification.
  • While remediation is important, when labor abuses rise to the level of a human trafficking offense, authorities should be notified.
  • Governments must redefine norms and set standards to create a space for companies to take the lead on combating modern slavery.
  • Lending institutions should consider establishing whether a company has a forced labor supply chain policy as a factor for determining that company’s credit rating.

There is no way to effectively monitor a supply chain without tracing it all the way down to raw materials. Such research will lead to an understanding of supply and demand factors used to encourage greater protections of the workers whose labor contributes to downstream profits.

Modern slavery exists in diverse areas, including manufacturing, harvesting of raw materials, and the market for commercial sexual activity so often aimed at the business traveler. In this environment, companies should staff and source their supply chains in a manner decreasing the demand traffickers so often satisfy through violence. To that end, companies should adopt policies that commit to:

  • taking accountability for all the labor in the supply chain all the way down to raw materials, with a pledge to monitor compliance, remediate noncompliance, and verify those actions by an independent third party;
  • honoring the role and voice of the worker as the best check on abuse;
  • publicly disclosing mechanisms for providing independent, unannounced, and thorough audits;
  • providing effective whistleblower and complaint procedures;
  • providing clear guidelines for security procedures throughout the supply chains to ensure that security forces are not used to intimidate, hold, or abuse workers;
  • regularly updating shareholders and stakeholders on creation, maintenance, and implementation of their related policies;
  • guaranteeing all workers mobility by strictly forbidding any confiscation of official documents;
  • committing to providing restitution for victims and other forms of remediation;
  • complying with trafficking-related local laws and international standards for confronting human trafficking and protecting victims; and,
  • holding employees accountable for any violation or exploitative conduct contributing to trafficking in persons.

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10 Troubling Governmental Practices

1. Complicity of law enforcement officials in trafficking offenses.
2. Legal and administrative penalties imposed on trafficking victims as a direct result of their enslavement, including, but not limited to, penalties for engaging in prostitution or immigration offenses.
3. Guestworker programs giving “sponsors” or employers inordinate power over migrant workers’ legal status and basic freedoms and denying victims any ability to make a complaint.
4. Lack of meaningful legal alternatives to the involuntary repatriation of victims.
5. Trade policies and agreements/regimes that fail to safeguard against forced labor and labor exploitation, particularly when involving states that have a poor record of addressing labor exploitation.
6. Barriers to citizenship. Without birth certificates, national identification cards, or other identity documents, stateless persons and some indigenous groups are vulnerable to being trafficked.
7. Bilateral labor agreements between source and destination governments that allow employers to confiscate/withhold travel documents and allow summary deportation of workers without trafficking victim protections.
8. Lack of education available to women, girls, and other populations, which blocks them from mainstream economic advancement and leaves them vulnerable to trafficking.
9. Internal migration controls. When populations within a country can move within the country’s borders only with special permission, they often turn to the underground economy where traffickers flourish.
10. Clumsily conceived “anti-trafficking” activities, such as wholesale raids of worksites or brothel districts without initial investigation to determine whether trafficking is occurring, or of the suspension of emigration or immigration or other activities (in the name of fighting trafficking) for an entire country or nationality.

Domestic Work Is Work: Toward Increased Freedom For Household Servants

Millions of migrant domestic workers around the world – including some employed by diplomats (see p. 38) – are particularly vulnerable to forced labor. Overwhelmingly female and typically from developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, they assume great risks when migrating abroad. As a recent ILO report noted, the origins of domestic work trace back to a “master-servant” relationship rooted in slavery and other forms of servitude. Despite such linkages, many countries, including the United States, do not offer protection to domestic workers under prevailing labor laws, perceiving their work as something other than regular employment. This lack of legal protections – combined with the social isolation and a lack of personal autonomy inherent in live-in domestic service – provides an enabling environment for slavery.

Domestic workers are vulnerable to all forms of abuse, though forced labor is one of the most severe. Such abuses often include confinement, confiscation of travel documents, withholding of salary, physical and sexual abuse, and threats of harm, including the threat of arrest and summary deportation as an undocumented migrant. For domestic workers from another country, freedom often is proscribed by law; some countries’ “sponsorship” laws grant the employer of a foreign domestic worker the power to decide when she can leave the workplace and when she can leave the country, even if the servant has escaped and reported abuse. The ILO notes that in many countries, domestic work is largely performed by children. When children are used as servants instead of being educated, the situation should be remedied. When the child is abused, the employer should face criminal, not administrative, sanctions.

The cost to these millions of migrant workers – mostly from Asian countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and the Philippines – is serious and appears to be rising. According to analysis conducted in Indonesia by a reputable international organization, the number of Indonesian domestic workers killed abroad rose from 33 in 2001 to more than 100 in 2009. Recent health examinations by an international organization found that almost all of nearly 600 domestic workers returning to Indonesia after their domestic work in the Middle East found almost 100 percent had sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. In addition, NGOs have reported increased sexual violence experienced by domestic workers in the Middle East.

Some domestic workers’ source-country governments attempt to solve the problem of trafficking by crudely banning the emigration of all females under a certain age. This misguided use of migration barriers inevitably pushes migrants – who still feel the “pull” factors of greater economic opportunities – to migrate through illegal channels, which perversely increases their chances of becoming a victim of trafficking. Far more effective would be a global movement to apply to this uniquely vulnerable group international norms for protecting victims of forced labor and for punishing offenders – such as those found in the UN’s Palermo Protocol.

Human Trafficking as a Women's Issue

“[W]omen concentrate in temporary, casual, and flexible labor primarily due to their subordinate social and economic status, [and they] are hired as cheap, compliant labor that can be hired and fired more easily.”
“A Pro-Poor Analysis of the Shrimp Sector in Bangladesh,” United States Agency for International Development, 2006

Women comprise at least 56 percent of the world’s trafficking victims. They are exploited in fields and brothels, in homes and conflicts, and in factories and fisheries. More women are being pushed out of developing countries due to economic, familial, and societal pressures – becoming ever more vulnerable to modern slavery.

This feminization of migration is seen in Indonesia, where millions of girls and women – almost 70 percent of all departing migrants – leave to find work abroad, including as domestic servants in more developed countries in East Asia and the Middle East. They often end up in places void of protections from abuse and enslavement, and some feel compelled to make the journey more than once to try earning the money they were initially promised. New routes of feminized migration have appeared in recent years – from Madagascar to Lebanon, from Ethiopia to the Persian Gulf states, and from Indonesia to Malaysia and the Middle East.

Women continue to be enslaved in commercial sex around the world. They are often arrested for participating in a crime that victimizes them when they should instead be provided with services and benefit from a well-trained police force implementing proven and compassionate victim identification measures.

Women continue to toil in sweatshop factories without food or break, sewing garments, peeling shrimp, and weaving carpets under threat of violence. Bonded by debt and force, they pick cotton, mine conflict minerals, and harvest rice alongside their children. They toil in diplomatic households and suburban residences as domestic workers often without anyone knowing they are there let alone being abused.

Women are not just the victims; in so many countries, they are the solution. In the United States, the victim-centered approach of the TVPA was patterned on the lessons of legal reforms targeting domestic violence and sexual assault.

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Human Trafficking Considerations In Disaster Response

From cyclones and floods in Southern Africa to the earthquake in Haiti, the last year has seen a multitude of natural disasters leading to increased physical and economic insecurity. These disasters disproportionately affected the most vulnerable sectors of society – migrants, job seekers, and poor families – making them easy targets for exploitation and enslavement.

The following are useful considerations for the international community and governments responding to modern slavery in the context of natural disaster response.

  • Counter-trafficking interventions must start in the emergency phase of disaster response. While human trafficking generally does not increase in the immediate days and weeks following a disaster, proper planning starting in the immediate term helps reduce the number of gaps traffickers can later exploit when the emergency phase has passed.
  • Definitions matter. The key question under the Palermo Protocol is not whether someone has been moved, it is whether they are in compelled service, whether such service is termed enslavement, involuntary servitude, debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced labor, or practices similar to slavery. Focusing on movement instead of exploitation results in misdeployment of countertrafficking resources to border areas instead of interior enforcement, results in confusion over practices such as adoption, and undercuts local organizations’ pre-disaster anti-slavery efforts.
  • Institutional support is the key to sustainability. Efforts should be made to support the government institutions that play a role in effective anti-trafficking response, including those responsible for social welfare, education, child protection, and the judiciary. International efforts should focus on supporting the government in playing the predominant role, avoid fostering dependence on the international community, and be well coordinated to leverage resources and avoid duplication of efforts.
  • Engagement of local stakeholders and consideration of cultural factors are essential. Sustainable trafficking interventions depend on the robust engagement of civil society with government. They also should take into account cultural factors, such as practices surrounding child custody. In many areas, this requires a concerted effort to build the capacity of civil society, including NGOs, schools, civic associations, and community leaders, to identify the needs of the community, plan effective interventions, and obtain the necessary support for their implementation.
  • Trafficking interventions should pay particular attention to the most vulnerable sectors of the population. Efforts should be made to rapidly identify, register, and provide interim care for separated and unaccompanied children while family tracing is done. Exploitation reduction efforts should be undertaken for displaced and migrating workers, whether moving within their own country or seeking employment opportunities in nearby countries. Special care should be taken to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly in spontaneous settlements and displaced persons camps.
  • Governments should assess the existing vulnerabilities and ensure policies, legislative tools, and social norms are adequate to respond. Education campaigns to warn populations about the potential for trafficking and inform them about how to receive help are important. Codes of conduct should be promulgated within rebuilding efforts and economic recovery plans, including job creation for rubble and debris removal, recovery and burial of the deceased, construction, and microenterprise. Inadequate legislation or government policies to address trafficking should be strengthened.

Human Trafficking Research: Informing Policies And Programs

Research is an integral vehicle for enhancing the U.S. government’s understanding of human trafficking and guiding its countertrafficking policies and programs. During the last decade, there has been a spike in journal articles, reports, and books on human trafficking. Most of these documents were descriptive, and were neither driven by empirical research nor peer reviewed. There is growing government support for evidence-based research that suggests effective strategies for combating the crime and highlights successes among current countertrafficking initiatives.

Several recent studies have made inroads by closing knowledge gaps. The following reports present key findings useful for law enforcement and service providers.

  • Finding Victims of Human Trafficking (University of Chicago); and Understanding and Improving Law Enforcement Responses to Human Trafficking (Northeastern University)
    These reports compiled information from 60 counties, 42 federally funded task forces, and 3,000 local law enforcement agencies across the United States. They found where there was education and training, there was a better understanding of trafficking, a greater likelihood of proactive strategies, and increased identification of trafficking victims. Jurisdictions with interagency task forces identified more trafficking cases, made more arrests, and brought more charges. Key contributing factors included police leadership, special units, training, and systematic interagency cooperation.
  • Global Database on Human Trafficking (IOM)
    The database contains information from 13,650 victims that IOM has assisted in more than 100 source and destination countries over a 10-year period. It shows there is more recognition of trafficking in males, greater identification of an older victim population, and increased forced labor cases, including women in domestic work. It also shows traffickers are changing their methods of control; they are using more female recruiters, more subtle forms of exploitation, and greater psychological abuse.
  • Male Trafficking in Serbia (The Victimology Society of Serbia)
    While the forced prostitution of women and girls remains the leading form of trafficking in Serbia, this report found that the police and border officials had identified an increasing number of male victims in the construction industry. The men had been threatened, had their passports taken, had their movements restricted, and were not paid. It also noted a paucity of assistance for male victims.
  • Strategic Information Response Network (SIREN) (United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in Bangkok, Thailand)
    SIREN interviews samples of deportees at border checkpoints and migrants in hotspots to track trends in human trafficking. Analysis of data from the past year revealed that the likelihood of a Cambodian labor migrant being trafficked increases 1.5 times with every additional broker involved in the process. Also, Cambodian men are twice as likely as women to be trafficked across borders because men tend to use brokers more readily than women do. Labor exploitation is substantially higher in the fishing industry compared with other labor industries such as construction or agriculture, with numerous documented cases of severe abuse, nonpayment, and murder. The analysis has informed law enforcement agencies on the prevalence of trafficking in multiple countries, by documenting specifics on broker-trafficker networks, including locations, tricks used to deceive victims, and amounts of money exchanging hands.
  • Trafficking of Men – A Case Less Considered: The Case of Belarus and Ukraine (IOM and the NEXUS Institute)
    The study examined the pre- and post-trafficking experiences of 685 Belarusian and Ukrainian men. Key findings indicate most had children and some technical training, and most were seeking better circumstances. They were trafficked for construction and labored seven days a week under exploitative conditions with no freedom of movement. The study called for increased assistance for these victims, including medical, psychological, and housing support – all necessary for reintegration.

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Diplomats and Domestic Workers

Worldwide, domestic workers employed by diplomats suffer abuses ranging from wage exploitation to trafficking offenses. Diplomats are government officials who serve their governments abroad and are generally able to apply for visas enabling domestic workers – often from third countries – to accompany them on their foreign assignments.

Because domestic servants working for diplomats work behind closed doors – cleaning, cooking, and caring for children – they can become invisible to the neighborhoods and communities they live in. Domestic workers brought into a country by diplomats face potentially greater isolation than other workers because of language and cultural barriers, ignorance of the law, and sheer distance from family and friends. They work for government officials who may appear to them to hold exceptional power and/or influence. The resulting invisibility and isolation of such workers raises concerns about the potential for diplomatic employers to ignore the terms of their employment contracts and to restrict their domestic workers’ freedom of movement and subject them to various abuses. Because diplomats generally enjoy immunity from civil and criminal jurisdiction while on assignment, legal recourse and remedies available to domestic workers in their employ – and the criminal response otherwise available to the host government – are often significantly limited.

The U.S. government has undertaken a number of steps to reduce the vulnerability of domestic workers employed by diplomats to all aspects of labor exploitation, including trafficking offenses. Some questions any government might ask itself in order to prevent abuse and offer protection are as follows:

  • Do you instruct your government’s diplomats assigned to duty overseas about the treatment to be accorded their domestic workers and the repercussions for any abuse or exploitation of such workers?
  • Do you hold your own diplomats accountable for their treatment of domestic workers?
  • Do you provide domestic workers of diplomats with information about their rights and how to obtain help if they need it in a language and format that they understand?
  • Are domestic workers able to legally transfer to another employer?
  • Do you allow domestic workers to remain legally in your country to pursue legal remedies against a former employer?
  • Do you require the employment agreement between diplomats and domestic workers include mandatory provisions that include, for example, the requirements they be paid the minimum wage and not be deprived of possession of their passport?
  • Is the employment agreement reviewed by anyone within the government prior to the issuance of a visa to the domestic servant?
  • Do you require the domestic servants of diplomats to be paid in a manner that permits reliable accountability for deposits and withdrawals?
  • Have you taken any steps to advise domestic workers employed by diplomats of their rights once they are working in your country?

Blind Sweeps and Smart Raids

Law enforcement raids are most effective when they involve good information gathering and planning, and that is certainly the case in fighting modern slavery. While it is unrealistic to expect every intervention will have complete information, learning enough to know with a high degree of certainty that trafficking victims are present in labor and commercial sex sites is important before mounting an operation. Victim information is usually obtained through the accounts of escaped or rescued victims, by law enforcement agents working undercover or through strategically recruited informants.

“Smart” raids can free trafficking victims while minimizing harm to others. They are based on real evidence, have a well-defined goal grounded in law, and are planned to ensure the safety of everyone involved. They should include arrangements to segregate supervisors, to conduct victim-centered interviews, to cross-reference victims’ accounts, and to quickly transition to post-rescue care and shelter for identified victims. On the other hand, some raids are “blind”: they are executed against a target without adequate prior attempts to verify the existence of trafficking victims in those locations. They are based on assumptions, or are simply round-ups meant to clean out a red light district. They often do not have a legal theory or any evidentiary basis driving them, and do not include victim identification processes. Blind raids can lead to poor results while harming those not involved in human trafficking.

Officers often become disheartened after such unsuccessful raids, especially if they naively assumed exploited people would be found enthusiastically awaiting liberation. Bad experiences with blind raids can lead to less effort to actually find and raid sites where labor or sex trafficking is continuing, or can lead to cynicism in government and civil society regarding even the existence of human trafficking as a crime phenomenon.

Identifying victims of trafficking

The violence – physical and psychological – and intimidation marking involuntary servitude means victims are often reluctant to identify themselves as victims. This is true around the world and occurs for various reasons. Victims are usually taught to fear law enforcement authorities and NGOs. If victims are underage, they are often coerced by traffickers and brothel keepers to claim they are adults consensually involved in prostitution. Adult trafficking victims may be threatened to keep them from revealing any indicators of trafficking such as involuntary confinement, debt bondage, or threats of violence against them and their families. Labor managers and brothel keepers often threaten victims or their relatives with future harm if they tell the truth to authorities. Suspected victims must be removed from the site of exploitation – a threatening environment – and taken to a safe place. Bosses and guards should be identified and segregated, lest they threaten the victims or chill them by their mere presence.

The state needs to have temporary custody of these suspected victims as victims or witnesses of serious crimes. In a place where they can be interviewed in a non-confrontational setting, victims of human trafficking are more likely to reveal at least a portion of their true situations. The true ages of victims can be learned through self-reporting or consensual medical examinations. Police and social counselors need time to interview and counsel suspected victims. This counseling period, ranging from a few days to two weeks, should become a standard practice in countries with significant trafficking problems. Once a person’s status as a victim of trafficking has been determined, the opportunity for long-term care can be offered to facilitate rehabilitation, though victims should not be pressured to accept such assistance.

Children Used for Commercial Sex
U.S. government policy on children (under the age of 18) used for commercial sex is unambiguous: they must be removed from exploitation as soon as they are found. The use of children in the commercial sex trade is prohibited under both U.S. and international law. There can be no exceptions, no cultural or socio-economic rationalizations to prevent the rescue of children from sexual servitude.

NGO involvement
NGOs often help law enforcement officers carry out raids and rescues. They can offer psychosocial counseling skills to help identify trafficking victims, usually after they are removed from trafficking situations. NGOs and media representatives can also play a valuable role in holding law enforcement authorities to legal standards of crime prevention and victim care by bearing witness and demanding accountability. NGOs, however, should not play a lead role in a raid or rescue, as they lack authority to perform law enforcement actions and could easily be caught in a cross-fire. NGOs and the media should avoid any practices harmful to the rights of children or others. While it may be attractive as a public relations tool, including broadcast media in countertrafficking raids is an invasion of victims’ privacy and puts them at risk.

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Contract Fraud and Contract Switching

Contract switching increases a migrant worker’s vulnerability to human trafficking. Upon arrival in destination countries, many migrants find the jobs and working conditions differ substantially from those they agreed to in their original employment contracts, whether written or oral. Some employers make employees sign new contracts at their destination, while others alter contracts without the knowledge or consent of workers. Such fraud in original employment offers can be used by labor recruiters, labor agents, sponsors, and employers as a tool to induce workers into forced labor.

Here is how it often works: many workers who are employed abroad agree verbally to terms of employment set forth by a recruiter and, in reliance on the promised wages, take out massive debts to pay recruiting fees. Workers are later asked to sign written contracts after already having paid significant fees, in some cases just before they are about to board a plane to their destination. At this point, they are not permitted to read the contract or cannot read it because it is in a foreign language.

Workers are also often denied a copy of their signed contract. They are not only unable to prove the terms promised to them verbally, but they are unaware of the terms to which they have agreed in writing. In some cases, recruitment agencies have workers sign two separate contracts in different languages with different terms.

In 2008, a Vietnamese worker was asked to sign multiple versions of two contracts – one in English and one in Vietnamese – just before boarding a plane to the United States; this is in contravention with U.S. and Vietnamese law. He believed the contracts were identical. However, the terms and conditions of the contracts differed, and at least one version of both the English and Vietnamese contracts included articles that are illegal in the United States and Vietnam.

One English contract promised multiple guaranteed contract extensions, a term of employment that cannot be promised under the H-2B visa. Another version of the English contract did not include this provision.

The Vietnamese contract included provisions considered to be illegal in the United States and Vietnam, including restrictions on “illegal political or religious or labor union affiliation,” “organizing or participating in a worker strike,” “getting pregnant,” “getting married to Americans,” and “bringing relatives to the United States.”

Changing the terms and conditions of employment, particularly after workers have invested money in the recruitment process or taken on debt to do so, can also increase a worker’s vulnerability to forced labor. Analysis of the ILO’s May 2009 report on global forced labor found two types of this contract fraud among some Pakistani temporary contract workers recruited for work in the Persian Gulf states: the issuance, after arrival, of a contract with new terms and conditions; and the issuance of a new written contract with terms and conditions not clear to the worker (sometimes because the new contract was written in a foreign language) and presented for signature only at the time of the employer’s first salary payment. In some cases, the new contract provided wages estimated to be some 10 percent lower than the contract signed in Pakistan prior to the worker’s departure.

Government Contractors and Government Procurement of Labor

Governments are massive consumers of services and goods. Therefore, government contracts should address modern slavery to ensure that government funds do not inadvertently contribute to trafficking offenses.

Too often it is reported that workers – particularly in combat zones – have been misinformed about their contracts, are poorly housed, have their passports confiscated, and are required to pay back large recruitment fees. Bidding for government business is often based in part on cost, but governments must let contractors and subcontractors know up front any cost advantage will be, at best, illusory if obtained by force, fraud, or coercion.

Governments should have the ability to terminate any contract under which a contractor or an employee engages in human trafficking. Contracts should clearly require contractors to inform governments immediately of any allegations of human trafficking by subcontractors or employees during the period of performance of the contract and to take appropriate actions against their employees for any such offenses. Contracts can require companies to undertake countertrafficking training and demand reduction activities.

Governments should also work together to criminally prosecute human trafficking violations by contractors, subcontractors, or their employees. Coordination between governments is needed since prosecution of such cases requires a significant amount of evidence and cooperation. Only when governments clearly promote zero-tolerance policies will contractors and subcontractors respond by ensuring the goods and services they provide are free of exploitation.

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