Friday, August 31, 2012

Report on Child Trafficking in the UK

New child trafficking figures are ‘tip of the iceberg’

24 August 2012

The Government has released its ‘Baseline Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2011’ – which it claims is the first time an attempt has been made to describe the full extent of human trafficking in the UK.

ECPAT UK welcomes the UK Human Trafficking Centre’s (UKHTC) publication, which adds to our collective knowledge on human trafficking, but has serious concerns about the quality of the data used to support the report.

The report found that there were 2,077 potential victims of human trafficking identified in the UK in 2011, and about 24% of these were children.  It acknowledges that the number of victims may be higher than this because many are not identified as victims of trafficking by those who encounter them and because many are unable or unwilling to disclose their experiences.

However, the UKHTC has not included the total number of adults and children initially referred into its National Referral Mechanism system, only those who have received ‘Positive Reasonable  Grounds’ or ‘Positive Conclusive Grounds’ decisions, which we believe omits a large number of people, including children, who are likely to have been trafficked.

The National Referral Mechanism is a process set up by the Government to identify and support victims of trafficking in the UK. It was born out of the Government's obligation to identify victims under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking. Under the NRM, authorised agencies, known as ‘first responders’ refer potential victims to either the UKHTC or the UK Border Agency.

Since the NRM’s inception, it has come under criticism for how it makes decisions on who is a victim of trafficking, particularly in relation to children. For example, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, of which ECPAT UK is a member, stated in its ‘Wrong Kind of Victim' report that: “In setting up the NRM, the British authorities decided to bypass the existing system and not task local authority children’s services with the identification of trafficked children, despite their expertise in child protection and their statutory duty to safeguard children.

“Instead they are required to refer the cases to NRM decision-makers, who are viewed by a number of professionals as having insufficient expertise in relation to children.”

ECPAT UK also knows that many of the first responders, including frontline police officers and social workers, have no or little knowledge of child trafficking or of the NRM process so these figures are just the tip of the iceberg when facing the reality of child trafficking in the UK.

In addition, ECPAT UK is aware of inconsistencies in the way the UK Border Agency decides who is a victim of trafficking. For example, some children are told that while the Home Office accepts they are a victim of trafficking, they have received a ‘Negative Conclusive Grounds’ decision “for the purpose of the Convention”, as the Home Office does not believe the individual is in need of the Convention’s support.

Out of 390 children referred in the NRM’s first two years, only 36% received a ‘Positive Conclusive Grounds’ decision, which entitles them to further support under the Convention.

Christine Beddoe, Director of ECPAT UK, said: “This report, while useful, only gives us part of a much bigger picture. ECPAT UK has serious concerns about how the decisions of the National Referral Mechanism are made, decisions that have a huge impact on the lives of vulnerable children.

“We have a system where the UK Border Agency, whose job it is to reduce immigration, is also tasked with identifying child victims of trafficking. The low number of children who are given positive decisions in the NRM is very worrying and does not reflect the true problem of trafficking in this country.

 “In addition, we know through our training of professionals that there just isn’t the knowledge and tools given to those working with children to identify victims of trafficking and refer children into the NRM.

“Trafficking is very hard to spot in the first place, but without awareness of the indicators and appropriate responses, it can go undetected for years, with catastrophic consequences for young victims. We certainly mustn’t forget those children who have not been identified – of which we know there are many, many more.”

The 489 suspected child victims of trafficking identified in the Baseline Assessment came from 43 different countries – with the top 10 countries being Romania (20%), Vietnam (13%), Nigeria (11%), UK (9%), Slovakia (9%), Morocco (4%), China (3%), Bulgaria (2%), Albania (2%) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (2%).

In the above cases, the type of exploitation suffered by the children was unknown in 22% of cases. Where known, sexual exploitation was most prevalent (30%), followed by criminal exploitation (26%), labour exploitation (13%) and domestic servitude (7%), with some children suffering multiple abuses.

According to the UKHTC, the report was produced using its own intelligence, data from NRM and responses from police, the UK Border Agency, the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority and 25 NGOs. However, it notes that only 21 police forces responded, seven of those providing a nil return, so “an assessment of the complete picture of trafficking could not be made”.

Press Contact
Christine Beddoe, Director, ECPAT UK
Tel:              020 7233 9887       or             07906 341 889    

Information for editors:
-    ECPAT UK (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) is a leading UK children’s rights organisation. ECPAT UK works with the highest levels of government, but also reaches out to practitioners and those working directly with children through research, training and capacity building
-    Read ECPAT UK’s ‘Child Trafficking in the UK: A Snapshot’ report

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Good Read on Child Trafficking

Cheyenne and me: The true story of children lost in a world of abuse and trafficking

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - A Heart Without Compromise; Advocating for Children by Jerome Elam

SAN ANTONIO, August 22, 2012 – For many of us, the life that we lead falls short of our dreams for things that could be, but for many the dream of holding a loved one just one more time trumps all others.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in the United States 800,000 children are reported missing each year, an average of 2000 per day.

Included in this number are 58,000 children taken by non-family members whose intent is sexual exploitation and vandalizing the innocence of a child.

As a survivor of child sex abuse and child pornography, I understand the hell these victims endure and the lifetime of pain forced upon them. I have seen the smiling faces of children lost in the world as their loved ones battle heartbreak in their relentless search for them.

As a fourteen year old, I had my own experience with abduction and the evil that lurks in the shadows of this world.

My home life as a child was filled with alcoholism, physical abuse, death threats, a suicide attempt and the loss of my innocence to child sex abuse. I constantly attempted to flee this environment. I was classified, as a “runaway” so many times the police knew my face by heart. My first attempt came at six years old. I did not make it far that day, but as I grew older, the distance I put between myself and the quicksand of dysfunction I was born into increased.

I had taken to “hitch hiking” as a means of transportation.

It was six months before my fifteenth birthday and my home life had grown progressively worse as my stepfather, who was my abuser, began to lose interest in me after the age of fourteen. He had moved on to molest other children despite my attempts to report him to doctors, teachers and other responsible adults. My efforts were met with punishments from my family that included death threats, three broken ribs and re-victimization, as the female teacher I confided in began to molest me.

According to Ryan C. W. Hall, MD, and Richard C. W. Hall, MD, PA in their publication “A Profile of Pedophilia” Federal statistics for all reported sexual assaults showed that 34 percent of sexually abused children were younger than 12 years and 33 percent were between the ages of 12 and 17 years.

A bimodal age distribution was found for the age of the abused child for all sexual assaults, with peaks occurring at 5 and 14 years of age. In all cases, except for rape, more than half of those abused were younger than 12 years. Females were the most commonly abused, with the percentage of abused females increasing with age.

It was in the early morning hours of a Wednesday morning in late summer that I decided to escape my toxic environment in search of something better. I tried to be quiet as I dabbed Iodine across the cut under my eye and groaned in pain at the ache of my bruised ribs. The memory of the encounter with my intoxicated stepfather the night before was still playing in my mind like a bad sitcom. My stepfather had molested me since the age of five. At age twelve I had told a doctor that I was being molested and after a particularly brutal beating from my family I felt like there was just no escape. I attempted suicide, or rather succeeded after ingesting sleeping pills and alcohol.

I was clinically dead for three minutes until I awakened to the surprise of the emergency room doctors.

With the determination to leave behind the madness of my situation I prepared to depart on that late summer’s morning. My thoughts were that this time I would make it, I would disappear and they would never find me. I had no plan other than to loose myself somewhere that they could not follow, and for this had chosen to go to California. I would find someplace near Mexico so that if I found myself backed into a corner, I could make a run for the border.

I slung my backpack and my sleeping bag over my shoulder and with fifty dollars in my pocket I began to put the world that had held me prisoner far behind me. I walked and hitched rides with people until after a month of sleeping in doorways and begging for food, I arrived on the outskirts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My trip had become sidetracked for several reasons, the main reason being you seldom find someone who is going exactly where you want to go. I had also worked for a few days here and there.

When kind souls offered a hot meal and a place to sleep, I trusted my intuition and accepted those offers that seemed genuine. Outside Milwaukee I found an abandoned cabin that provided shelter from a fast approaching winter. I was running low on cash so I decided to explore the surrounding area the next day to look for odd jobs.

I had spotted lights in the distance as I had entered the cabin the night before so I set off early to explore the possibility of at least one meal for that day. A clearing loomed in the distance and beyond I could hear the sound of cows, marking the location of a dairy farm.

I decided to approach the barn where I could see someone just beyond the doorway and it was then that I met the woman who would haunt my dreams from that day forward.

Her name was Cheyenne. She was Native American, and the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. Her long black hair shone against her olive skin as her dark brown eyes met mine. She was fourteen at the time and she had fled South Dakota at the age of twelve to escape an abusive father and was searching for something better.

The farm belonged to an elderly couple that had lost their son in Vietnam and their hearts longed to heal from that loss. Providing shelter to runaways provided a temporary solace for them. They gave us both a warm place to sleep and kept the questions to a minimum and for a while I thought the past would never find me.

Cheyenne and I grew close and after three months she began to tell me the secret behind the scars that marked her body and the ones that she kept hidden inside.

After leaving South Dakota at the age of twelve, Cheyenne had drifted around much the same as I had until one day she had the misfortune of crossing paths with the face of evil. While she was sleeping in an abandoned car on the outskirts of Denver, Cheyenne was grabbed by three men and thrown into the trunk of a car. She had been knocked unconscious by a blow to the head and when she woke up she was in a warehouse locked in a small room with twenty other women. From that point on Cheyenne tried to escape the sex traffickers who had grabbed her, but routine beatings and forced drug use had left her too weak to break free.

For almost a year Cheyenne had been imprisoned and it was fate that would finally secure her freedom. She was being held in a warehouse somewhere near downtown Chicago when a fight broke out between the men who had held her captive. A nearby gas stove was overturned and a fire had started.

In the chaos of the burning building, Cheyenne escaped. She ran until her feet could no longer carry her and after sleeping in the woods for days had come upon the same dairy farm where we had both found refuge. Cheyenne cried as she told me her story and as I help her in my arms as we fell asleep together.

For the first time in years I cried. I wept not only for Cheyenne and the suffering she endured, but also for the child inside me that had suffered so much.

As the months and the seasons progressed Cheyenne and I grew incredibly close and I could feel myself falling for her. I felt as if I could almost touch my dreams of happiness. I think back to that moment and wish I could once again lose myself in the innocence of that time, because soon after, forces would intervene that would bring an end to our paradise.

We had both tried so hard to hide from the darkness of our past but in the end it finally caught up to Cheyenne and both of our lives were forever changed. The elderly couple that became our benefactors often journeyed into the suburbs of Milwaukee to sell the vegetables they grew at a farmers market, as a means of income. As we returned from these occasional trips, we often stopped at the same restaurant near the interstate to have lunch.

It was late Saturday morning one spring day as we drove back from a successful trip to the Farmers Market. As we made our regular stop for lunch Cheyenne and I were excited as our conversation focused on the prospect of spending the money we had earned to see a movie later that night. We finished our lunch and exited the restaurant with Cheyenne in the lead. Suddenly four men emerged from a nearby van wearing masks and ran toward us heading straight for Cheyenne. The sex traffickers who had held her prisoner for almost a year had finally tracked her down.

I could see the fear in Cheyenne‘s eyes and I immediately inserted myself in between the men and where she stood. Although I fought with all my might two of them grabbed her and began dragging her towards the van nearby. I made one last attempt as one of the men picked up a broken bottle and swung it at me. It struck my arm and I began to bleed profusely but I would not let this deter my momentum. Suddenly everything went dark as I was struck from behind with a lead pipe.

When I woke up I was in a hospital and Cheyenne was gone. I could see the elderly couple standing outside the room talking to police. I quickly found my clothes and discovering that I was on the first floor, dressed and slipped out an open window.

I searched for Cheyenne and eventually found the warehouse in Chicago that was now burned to the ground.

Sometime later the police picked me up as I attempted to track the sex traffickers who took Cheyenne away. I was returned home and eventually graduated from High School, joining the United States Marine Corps.

I have never stopped looking for Cheyenne and I think of her often. I still bear the scar of the stab wound from the broken bottle, as I left before it could be properly stitched up, and it reminds me that the evil in this world must be fought with all our strength. As I stare at the faces of the missing, I see Cheyenne in each one of them. I hope that I can see her again one day and that she will have found the same peace that I have.

In my dreams Cheyenne is still on that dairy farm in Wisconsin. I see her lying beside me on the warm grass as we watch the clouds drift by where, for first time in our lives we had found happiness.

I hope you will join me in the search for missing and exploited children and help to rescue the next Cheyenne before the evil in this world extinguishes the light in their eyes. Although these children may be missing they will never be lost, as long as we keep them in our hearts and remember the hope that tomorrow will find them in our arms once again.

Read more: Cheyenne and me: The true story of children lost in a world of abuse and trafficking | Washington Times Communities
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

California Announces Human Trafficking Bills

STATE: Attorney general announces the passage of legislation to combat human trafficking
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced on Tuesday that two bills that will help victims by making it more difficult for human traffickers to hide their assets have passed the legislature and have been sent to the governor’s desk.

Assembly Bill 2466, by Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), ensures that criminal defendants involved in human trafficking will not dispose of assets that would otherwise be provided as restitution to victims.

Senate Bill 1133, by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), expands the list of assets that a human trafficker must forfeit and provides a formula for using those resources to help victims of human trafficking. Both bills passed unanimously with bipartisan support.

“Human trafficking is big business in California. It is a high profit criminal industry that is expanding rapidly across the globe, including here in California,” said Attorney General Harris. “This legislation will make sure those who perpetrate these crimes will not profit from them.”

Senate Bill 1133 ensures that those convicted of human trafficking crimes involving minors will not be able to keep the financial benefits reaped from their unlawful activity.

The bill expands the scope of property subject to forfeiture and provides a formula to redirect those resources to community groups that aid victims of human trafficking.

“Sex trafficking of minors is a horrendous crime that is driven by the prospect of lucrative profits,” said Senator Leno. “This legislation aims to deprive convicted criminals of the financial resources and assets that would allow them to continue luring young people into the sex trade. In turn, proceeds from those forfeitures would rightfully be used to help victims begin to repair their lives.”

Assembly Bill 2466 (Preservation of Assets for Victims of Human Trafficking), will help to ensure that more victims of human trafficking receive restitution. Under California law, victims are entitled to mandatory restitution; however there are no laws to help prevent human trafficking defendants from liquidating and hiding their assets before conviction.

Assembly Bill 2466 would allow a court to order the preservation of the assets and property by persons charged with human trafficking.

“Trafficking is slavery and we cannot have the perpetrators of this despicable crime gaming the system in California,” said Assemblymember Blumenfield. “We need all hands on deck to confront trafficking. By signing this bill, the governor can help reclaim justice for victims.”

Attorney General Harris is committed to the fight against this fast-growing crime that deprives persons of basic human rights. Harris co-sponsored the California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005, which made human trafficking a felony in California.

Attorney General Harris also has served on the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry, the world’s third most profitable criminal enterprise behind drugs and arms trafficking.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying, or selling of a person for purposes of exploitation, prostitution, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, migrant work, agricultural labor, peonage, bondage, or involuntary servitude.

While human trafficking often involves the smuggling of human beings across international borders, numerous Americans are trafficked around the United States ever year.

Human trafficking strips people, especially women and children, of their freedom and violates our nation’s promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights.

For more information on the trafficking of human beings, go to .

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Norway anti human trafficking measures now law

Norway anti human trafficking measures now law
by Michael Sandelson   .

A new law designed to combat child human trafficking in Norway takes effect.  The legislation allows authorities to detain minors in child welfare institutions for their own protection for a maximum of six months against their will, if necessary.  39 children in Norway were identified as victims of human trafficking in 2011, reports NRK.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Indian Government Says Missing Kids Don't Point to Human Trafficking

More than 19,000 children disappeared from Delhi alone since 2009 -- and some 3,000 remain untraced.
Jason OverdorfAugust 27, 2012 02:07

More than 19,000 children have been lost from India's capital alone since 2009, pointing to a widespread problem with human trafficking -- though the government says most of the missing kids run away from home to escape "cruel parents."

As I reported for GlobalPost in 2009, the disappearance of children is hardly a new phenomenon in India. But the police are either incapable or unwilling to do much about it, often parroting the government's recent claim that the bulk of the missing are runaways, and their parents do not report it to the police when they return. At that time, according to police data, about 13,000 children have been reported missing over the past three years.

Apparently, the problem has only gotten worse.

Over 19,000 children went missing in the capital since 2009, of whom 3,305 remain untraced: 1,731 girls and 1,574 boys, the Union home ministry has told Parliament, the UK's Daily Mail newspaper reported.

But even though child labor remains rampant throughout the country, the home ministry has listed human trafficking last out of 11 reasons that children disappear, the newspaper said.

Escaping cruel parents was the number one reason cited for children going missing, but the home ministry also listed pressure to do well in studies and elopement among the factors responsible for the disappearance of children in Delhi, the paper said.

Elopement was also cited as one of the primary reasons when I did my reporting -- though anti-child labor activists scoffed that many of the missing kids were younger than 12 years old. At the same time, videographer Mark Scheffler and I had strong suspicions that the main character in our video story on the subject -- distraught that her daughter had been "stolen" -- probably knew that her husband had sold the girl to traffickers.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Girl Scout Fights Human Trafficking

Jupiter teen earns Girl Scouts’ highest honor by fighting human trafficking

By Randall P. Lieberman, Special to The Palm Beach Post


Julia Joy McBee knows first-hand the thrills of swimming, the virtues of Scouting and the beauty of singing. Her passion, however, lies in crushing the ugliest thing she’s ever known.

The Jupiter resident and Dreyfoos School of the Arts senior has made the fight against human trafficking her cause. It became the topic of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, which she earned in May.

She also helped the effort to pass a bill through the Florida Legislature imposing tougher penalties on those convicted of human trafficking —and was present when Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law June 12.

McBee learned of the issue through a family friend, Aimee Cernicharo Cabral, a human-rights attorney for St. Thomas University in Miami. Cabral told McBee how immigrants were being smuggled in and out of the country, deceived and forced to work as prostitutes, some in chains.

“I was shocked,” McBee said. “As I discussed this with my friends at school, it became clear they didn’t know what was going on right in our backyard less than a mile from our school.”

McBee felt compelled to help the victims. Cabral was McBee’s executive adviser for her Gold Award, Girl Scouting’s version of Eagle Scout. That project required “countless hours researching, networking, presenting and advocating to create awareness of the harsh reality of human trafficking,” some of it to state lawmakers as she worked with Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, build support for the bill among state lawmakers.

McBee also became involved with and serves on the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, a international organization dealing with the issue of human trafficking, and serves on its student board of advisers.

McBee plans to continue to advocate for the victims of human trafficking as she looks ahead to college.

“There is much work to be done to create awareness of modern-day slavery,” she said. “My Girl Scout Gold Award project has changed my life. I want to continue to help the innocent victims of human trafficking. I plan to apply to colleges to focus on social services and international relations, and perhaps become a human-rights attorney.”

To get involved or for further information, e-mail McBee at

What have you learned about human trafficking that is most important to convey to others?

“Florida is a haven for human traffickers due to our international ports, Hispanic populations and large homeless and runaway populations. Many victims do not speak English and are unable to communicate with service providers, police or others who might be able to help them. They also are often too scared to ask for help.”

What can people do about human trafficking in our area?

“I want our community to know that human trafficking is happening right here in Palm Beach County. It happens in plush gated communities, restaurants, agriculture, nail salons, strip bars, massage parlors and other nearby places. We need to be vigilant, question what we see and call the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline — (888) 373-7888 — and police.”

Who helped you with your Girl Scout Gold Award Project?

“In addition to Ms. Aimee, Mrs. LeeAnn Meltzer, my Girl Scout Troop 20488 leader, who’s been there for me since elementary school and Ms. Paula Fontaine, my Gold Award adviser.”

What are some of the extra-curricular activities you are involved with?

“I have been a Girl Scout since I was five. I am a theater major at Dreyfoos, having performed in, worked stage crew for and managed stage performances. I also swim varsity, am a member of Young Singers of the Palm Beaches, teach religious education at St. Peter Catholic Church in Jupiter and recently graduated from the Youth Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2012.”

Who are your heroes?

“All my heroes share my dream which is to eradicate modern-day slavery. They help the scared and intimidated victims of human trafficking; it’s the FBI, police, FPI, social workers, attorneys, volunteers at human trafficking coalitions and safe houses, the Frederick Douglas Foundation, and legislators and the governor, who passed and signed HB 7049.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

8-Year-Old Girl, Raises $30K From Lemonade Stand To Fight Human Trafficking

Vivienne Harr, 8-Year-Old Girl, Raises $30K From Lemonade Stand To Fight Human Trafficking (VIDEO)
  |  Posted: 08/20/2012 12:38 pm Updated: 08/20/2012 4:51 pm

This article comes to us courtesy of SF Weekly.

By Erin Sherbert

While you all have been lazily basking in the sun this summer, this 8-year-old girl has been working her tail off to change the world, one lemon at a time.

In the northern city of Fairfax, Vivienne Harr has spent the last 57 days of her summer vacation turning lemons into lemonade -- literally. She's been selling the sweet refreshing beverage with plans to use all her proceeds to fight human trafficking across the world.

As of Saturday afternoon, the young entrepreneuer had already earned more than $30k at her makeshift business, which she appropriately dubbed Make-A-Stand! Lemonade: The Sweet Taste of Freedom.

She plans to keep selling lemonade until she raises $150,000, using only fair trade lemons, of course. '

"And it's really hard to find fair-trade things. I mean, we're buying fair trade things because, I mean, you can't be freeing slaves and having them to work harder for the cause that you're trying to do to help them be free," Harr told reporters.

Initially, she was charging $2 per cup of lemonade (rasberries optional) but as business boomed, she decided to leave it up to her customers to pay whatever they wanted to in exchange for a delightful glass of lemonade.

"We're betting on the goodness of people, and we found that the average price went up $18 when we made it free," her dad said. "We said, 'Pay what's in your heart.'"

Every dime is going to the Half Moon Bay-based nonprofit called Not For Sale, whose mission is to fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world.

If you can't make your way up to Fairfax to buy a cup of lemonade, feel free to kick in for Vivienne's cause here.

You can also read about Vivienne's experience in her own words. Here's a few excepts:

For more on Vivienne's story, watch the ABC News video below:

Follow SF Weekly on Twitter for more San Francisco news.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Florida Safe Houses for Victims of Human Trafficking

DCF Prepares To Help Child Victims of Human Trafficking
Every year, millions of children become human trafficking victims. But, when they’re taken in by law enforcement, it’s not an uncommon practice to place these victims within the criminal justice system. And, to combat that practice, Florida’s child welfare agency is preparing to implement a new law by next year that will help the trafficking victims.

The plan is to get enough safe houses built across the state for child victims of human trafficking, who are brought in by law enforcement officers. Before the “Florida Safe Harbor Act,” it wasn’t uncommon for law enforcement to arrest the victims and take them to detention centers. The state’s Department of Children and Families is tasked with the plan’s implementation, and the department’s Gilda Ferradaz says it’s in the beginning stages.

“For now, the short-term safe house that we’re in the process of establishing only has six beds,". said Ferradaz. "So, a big part of what we’re doing is trying to identify other placement options, such as group homes, and provide training for staff that will be specifically geared toward dealing with this population.”

The department also created six workgroups to look into legal and funding issues, training for law enforcement, and setting up facilities and treatment programs. The law takes effect January 1st.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Home-grown human trafficking: Nurses on the frontlines help in identifying victims

Home-grown human trafficking: Nurses on the frontlines help in identifying victims

By Heather Stringer
Monday August 13, 2012

 Patricia Crane, RN
Ellen LoCascio, RN, BSN, CEN, knew something was amiss when a female patient said she was 24 years old and the middle-aged man accompanying her was her spouse. The girl looked about 15, and the pair lacked any signs of intimacy typical for married couples. The girl had come to an ED at a hospital in Southwest Florida four years ago because she was suffering from abdominal pain, but strangely, she was cheerful and chatty — as if she were playing a role, according to LoCascio. Then the couple disappeared before LoCascio could return to the room with the discharge papers.

In hindsight, LoCascio suspects the girl may have been a victim of human trafficking. At the time, it seemed hard to imagine this type of abuse was a problem in the U.S. But a second similar incident motivated LoCascio to start asking nurse and law enforcement experts about the issue.

 Rita Hall, RN
According to the United Nations, human trafficking involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion or other means for the purpose of exploiting them. Data from a 2011 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests this modern-day form of slavery is thriving in the U.S. According to the report, federally funded task forces opened cases investigating more than 2,500 suspected incidents of human trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010, and about 82% of these incidents were classified as sex trafficking. Florida and Texas are among the top four states in the nation with the highest number of reports regarding potential cases of human trafficking, according to 2011 data from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, based on the number of calls to its hotline.

Although it may seem difficult to help victims who often are hidden from the public eye, these people may surface when they seek medical treatment. "The most important thing is be aware that human trafficking exists," said Lisa Creamer, RN, BSN, assistant director of Child Abuse Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. "If you don’t recognize that it exists, you won’t recognize it when you see the signs. As nurses, we can ask questions and watch for behaviors that give us clues that someone is being forced to do something they don’t want to do."

Though a victim of human trafficking may come to the ED for a variety of reasons, some of the most common are for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases or infectious diseases, said Patricia Crane, RN, MSN, PhD, WHNP-BC, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Nursing in Galveston. Crane educates healthcare providers nationally and internationally about how to identify and help victims of human trafficking. Infectious diseases are common because many of the victims are trapped in unsanitary, crowded living conditions, she said.

"Some of the signs to watch for are people who cannot answer the questions you ask, have no driver’s license or wallet and cannot be separated from the person with them," Crane said. "It’s also a red flag if you keep asking the patient questions but the person with them answers."

Ellen LoCascio, RN
LoCascio, an ICU and ED nurse in the Lee Memorial Health System in Florida, believes it is critical for nurses to use their assessment skills to discern whether the story matches reality. "The Tanner Staging method can help nurses determine whether a patient’s stated age is consistent with observed physical findings," she said. "Be observant about the dynamics between the patient and caregiver. Watch for a lack of concern for the patient that one would not expect from a family or support person."

When nurses suspect they might be treating a victim of human trafficking, one of the first barriers to overcome is separating the patient from the trafficker in the room, said Rita Hall, RN, MSN, SANE-A, SANE-P, ARNP, a clinical supervisor at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. "I might walk her to the bathroom alone, and that could give me a few seconds to ask her if she feels safe with the person who brought her or if anyone is forcing her to do things she doesn’t want to do," Hall said.

It also is important for nurses to notify the physician and social worker, LoCascio said. "Notify the provider about your suspicions because the doctor may have advanced skills to ascertain more information, and sometimes your suspicion alone might trigger another caregiver to go through a chart and find other clues."

While some victims may want help from medical caregivers, there also are many cases in which the victims do not want to change their situation, said Crane. She remembers a young woman in Texas who suffered from vaginal bleeding and infection because of long hours of sex work every day. She received free surgery for vaginal and anal tissue damage, and the staff at the hospital offered to help her escape her situation, but she would not reveal who the trafficker was. Within three weeks she returned to the trafficker, Crane said.

"For nurses, it is important to understand that it is not about us controlling the situation, but about helping people see that there is a way to get out when they are ready," Crane said. "These people are captives and feel controlled, so it is a slow process of building trust, and it may not happen in one visit. Let them know that they can come back."

Heather Stringer is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email

Friday, August 3, 2012

4 indicted in Ohio human-trafficking case

4 indicted in Ohio human-trafficking case

Published: Fri, August 3, 2012 @ 8:55 a.m.
COLUMBUS (AP) — A newly formed task force to combat human trafficking in Ohio says an investigation has yielded its first four indictments.

The indictments out of Franklin County on Thursday accuse four people from Chillicothe with bringing a woman to Columbus under false pretenses and forcing her to have sex with more than a dozen men in motels over several days.

Two people were charged with trafficking in persons, rape, kidnapping and promoting prostitution. Two other suspects face similar charges but haven’t been arrested yet.

The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in September. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said state law required its work remain confidential until the suspects were indicted.

DeWine said there could be more victims. The investigation is continuing.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

21 women rescued from cop tasked to stop human trafficking

21 women rescued from cop tasked to stop human trafficking
By Julie S. Alipala
Inquirer Mindanao
6:49 pm | Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
 32 21
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The authorities rescued 21 women from a policeman assigned to a government task force against human trafficking and his wife as some of the women, who had allegedly been forced to take drugs, were being readied for travel to Sabah, Malaysia, police said Thursday.

Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, Tawi-Tawi police chief, said the rescue of the women and the arrest of Police Officer 1  Jonald Cuadra Ladjahassan and his wife Verna were made in three separate raids in Bongao, the provincial capital, on Wednesday.

He said most of the women were recruited from Maguindanao for jobs supposedly awaiting them in the east Malaysia state of Sabah.

Jocson said seven victims were rescued from the Sanga-Sanga Airport in Bongao at around 9 a.m. Wednesday. The victims were on their way to Zamboanga City where they were to start their journey to Sabah.

At 1 p.m. on that same day, seven more women were  rescued from the Fortune Inn, also in Bongao, Jocson said, adding that police raided Ladjahassan’s house in Barangay Tubig Boh later in the evening, where seven more women were rescued. It was there that the policeman and his wife were arrested, he added.

“At the height of the arrest, two women were found naked and they were forced to take drugs by this police officer. We learned that Ladjahassan was also into drugs,” Jocson said in a telephone interview.

Jocson said the raids were conducted after one of the couple’s recruits managed to escape and told authorities about their ordeal.

“Majority of the victims were from Maguindanao. They were scheduled to leave for Sabah,” Jocson said.

Charges under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act as well as the Dangerous Drugs Act were now being readied against the Ladjahassan, a repeat offender, and his wife, Jocson said, adding that the two were to be transferred to Zamboanga City for prosecution.

He said the Tawi-Tawi policeman, who was assigned with the Bongao Municipal Inter-Agency Committee Against Human Trafficking (Miacat), was also arrested in May for the same offense, along with his other wife, Maria Vema Gaticales, also a member of the committee.

“The couple managed to post bail then,” Jocson said.

After posting bail, Gaticales urged the Regional Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking (Riacat) to investigate Jocson for his motives in accusing her of being involved in human trafficking.

Jocson said the rescued victims were being sent to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group  in Zamboanga City for documentation and filing of affidavits for the cases against Ladjahassan and his second wife before being turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Jocson said the authorities “believe there are others in uniform involved in this illegal activity.”

Last May, police rescued more than 100 suspected victims of human trafficking  who were crammed in a budget hotel in Zamboanga City, and arrested their recruiter. About half of the rescued victims, who were all from Basila,  were minors.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Feds to crack down on fraud, human trafficking among international students Read it on Global News: Global News | Feds to crack down on fraud, human trafficking among international students

Tobi Cohen, Postmedia News : Wednesday, August 01, 2012 8:39 AM

The Harper government is moving to deter some refugees;largely from Europe and those who arrive en masse;from seeking protection in Canada by reviving measures that died in Parliament during its minority rule.
Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld , CP
 Feds cut off deportation appeal avenues for immigrants convicted of crimes(2)
 Tories say new bill will target bogus refugee claims
OTTAWA — The federal government wants to toughen the rules surrounding student visas in the hopes of cracking down on fraud and human smuggling — even though it's not clear just how big a problem this is.

Quietly published in the Canada Gazette late last month is a proposal to weed out international students who arrive on a student visa as a means of gaining access to Canada's labour market and don't actually enrol in school. There are also concerns that some are ending up at sub-par institutions that ultimately hurt Canada's credibility on the international stage.

Citing anecdotal evidence relayed by some ethnic communities, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he also worries human smuggling groups are helping young people obtain student visas only to pull them into the sex trade once they arrive.

"This is a loophole being allegedly used by some criminal operations to bring potentially vulnerable young women to Canada to face exploitation," Kenney said in an interview.

"We don't have much in the way of hard data on this. It's a concern that's been raised and I think it's a legitimate one and we think this underscores the need for us to better police the program."

Noting both Australia and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom have introduced similar changes in the wake of widespread fraud within their student visa programs, Kenney said Canada is the only like-minded country that still has no checks to ensure those who arrive on student visas are actually enrolled at legitimate institutions.

"That's why we're proposing to have provinces submit to us a list of credible post-secondary institutions which should benefit from the student visa program so that we can distinguish those institutions from schools that may not actually be offering quality programs," he said.

"Our broader concern is to ensure the integrity of the student visas that we issue."

Eligibility criteria will be determined based on consultations with the provinces, territories and stakeholder institutions and those not on the list will no longer be allowed to accept international students. Student visas will be issued on the condition that individuals enrol in and pursue studies at an approved institution and compliance will be monitored.

According to the proposal, student visas will no longer be available to people enrolled in courses that are less than six months long. Student work permits also will be restricted to valid student visa holders who are taking part in off-campus or co-op programs specifically designed for international students.

Like other temporary foreign workers, foreign students will not be able to work as exotic dancers or escorts thanks to other measures the government recently adopted.

While stakeholders generally support the initiative, they have raised some concerns.

Some provinces, for instance, worry they'll be stuck sucking up most of the costs associated with monitoring and reporting compliance to the federal government.

"The administration of a meaningful designation process will have policy and operational implications for provinces and territories. Provinces and territories will need to design designation policies and processes which will have resource implications to develop and monitor," said Gyula Kovacs, an official with Ontario's ministry of training, colleges and universities.

"The federal government has not determined whether it will be providing funding to support the initiative."

Eric Johansen, an official with the Saskatchewan government, suggested one way of minimizing the costs to the province would be to have institutions report directly to the federal government without having to first go through the province as an intermediary.

While Saskatchewan sees the value in changes that will create a "stronger international student program," he argued allegations of visa fraud is "primarily a Citizenship and Immigration Canada concern."

Serge Buy of the National Association of Career Colleges said he supports the move to tighten up the rules. That said, he's hopeful provinces and territories will give equal consideration to private career colleges when they establish their lists of eligible institutions.

He's also hoping that the new rules will also mean international students who attend legitimate career colleges that are on the list will be able to obtain postgraduate work permits, which is not the case for most now.

Buy raised further concerns about barring people enrolled in programs that are less than six months from obtaining student visas. Many career college courses are condensed and students that may need to retake some classes will be adversely affected if they're forced to leave the country and return on a new tourist visa.

Last year Canada issued more than 98,000 student visas, a 34 per cent increase over 2007. A study released last week also found international students contributed nearly $7 billion annually to the Canadian economy, created more than 81,000 jobs and generated more than $445 million in revenue for the government.

Kenney said he does not expect the numbers will go down as a result of the changes.

Read it on Global News: Global News | Feds to crack down on fraud, human trafficking among international students