Monday, June 24, 2013

Understanding the US Trafficking in Persons Report

What is it?

There has been significant controversy over the latest report released by the U.S. State department. Several countries who have been downgraded (most notably Russia and China) reject the report and deem in unfair, stating that the U.S. is trying to advance its own international policy. But what is this report that has created so much controversy?
Here's Secretary of State John Kerry's introduction here:

The Trafficking in Persons report is the U.S. Government's main tool to engage foreign governments on the issue of trafficking; it is meant to facilitate global conversation on trafficking and key human rights and law enforcement issues. The US Government uses the report to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms, to combat trafficking, and to target resources on prevention, protection, and prosecution programs.

What factors does the State Department look at?

The Department of State places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments' efforts to comply with the "minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking" found in Section 108 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Some factors that the US looks at are
  1. Whether the government investigates and prosecutes acts of human trafficking
  2. Whether the government actually convicts and sentences perpetrators of human trafficking
  3. Whether the punishment adequately represents the severity and nature of the crime
  4. Does the government protect victims of human trafficking
  5. Does the government encourage the victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases
  6. Does the government provide adequate legal remedies to victims of human trafficking, such as not deporting them back to countries in which they continue to be victimized
  7. Does the government not unfairly incarcerate or fine victims of trafficking
  8. Does the government adequately train law enforcement officials in regards to human trafficking cases
  9. Had the government adopted measures to inform and educate the public about human trafficking

  1. Has the government adopted measures that identifies and protects potential human trafficking victims
  2. Has the government adopted measures to ensure that its nationals who are abroad on peacekeeping missions do not engage in trafficking.
  3. Does the government cooperate with other governments on measures to prosecute and investigate incidents of human trafficking
  4. Does the Government extradite individuals who are guilty of trafficking
  5. Whether the government monitors immigrant populations who are potential targets for human trafficking
  6. Progress of the government's efforts to prevent human trafficking
  7. If the government of the country has made several and sustainable efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and participation in international sex tourism by nationals of the country

A sampling of Countries

  • United States- Tier 1- source, transit, and destination for victims of trafficking. Often immigrants are targeted for labor trafficking, and children in welfare system for sex trafficking
  • United Kingdom- Tier 1- Source, transit, and destination for victims. Majority of victims are from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Increased trafficking of sex trafficking victims from Latvia.
  • France- Tier 1- mainly destination and transit centers for victims of trafficking
  • Canada- Tier 1- destination, source, and transit center. Children in welfare system are at high risk for trafficking
  • Russia- Tier 3- source, destination and transit center. Over 1 million reported cases of victims who work in forced labor situations. 
  • China- Tier 3- Source, transit, and destination for many trafficking victims. Most trafficking victims come from neighboring countries, although there are many cases of forced labor trafficking from within China.
  • Cambodia- Tier 2- Source, transit, and destination. Ramifications from internal conflict creates unstable environments that put victims at particular risk.

  • Laos- Tier 2- Mainly source, often trafficked to neighboring countries
  • Philippines- Tier 2- mainly source in sex and labor trafficking. Case workers are worried about an increase in labor trafficking. There are many instances of involuntary servitude. Skilled workers, such as nurses and engineers, are getting trafficked for free labor in neighboring countries
  • India- Tier 2, source, destination, and transit area. NGO workers are concerned about the increase that they are seeing
  • Thailand- Tier 2, Source, destination, and transit area. 2-3 million workers are in situations of forced labor. Thailand is also a known destination for international sex tourism, creating an environment that encourages sex trafficking
  • Burma- Tier 2. Due to the recent conflict and revolution, there are numerous refugees who are prime targets for trafficking. Burmese army has also been cited as forcing families into forced labor, and trafficking individuals
  • Japan- Tier 2. Mainly destination. Quite a few instances of labor trafficking, often women are brought into the country and told that they are being married to Japanese men, instead are forced into trafficking. The Yakuza, the Japanese organized crime leaders, are responsible for most of the trafficking
  • Malaysia- Tier 2. Destination and source for labor and sex trafficking. Women are often told that they are being hired for legitimate hotel and other hospitality industry jobs, and are instead forced into sex trafficking.
  • Indonesia- Tier 2, major source of trafficking, for both sex and labor trafficking.


Both China and Russia have disputed their Tier 3 ranking. A foreign ministry spokeswoman said "We believe that the US side should take an objective and impartial view of China's efforts and stop making unilateral or arbitrary judgments of China," while a Russian statement read "As far as the application of unilateral sanctions against Russia concerned... the very idea of raising this issue causes indication."

The reason for this downgrade is that no country can stay stagnant on Tier 2 of the watch list according to a 2008 law; they have to either be upgraded or downgraded.

Jasmine Prokscha

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Today is World Refugee Day: Why Refugees are at a High Risk for being Trafficked

Refugees and Human Trafficking

Today is World Refugee day, established by the United Nations to honor the courage, strength and determination of women, men, and children who are forced to flee their homes due to threat of conflict, violence, and persecution. However, they often face the same or worse dangers once they flee their homeland. One such danger in human trafficking.

Why are Refugees at Such a High Risk for Human Trafficking?

Risk factors

  1. Their physical insecurity
  2. Social, economic, and political marginalization
  3. Victimization by smugglers facilitating refugee movement
  4. Experience with sexual violence
  5. Social isolation or other negative consequences resulting from sexual violence
  6. Pressure to engage in survival sex
  7. Severe disruptions to family structure
  8. Lack of legal protection
Refugees make perfect targets for human trafficking due to these risk factors. The desperateness of their situation allows traffickers to target them and play on their need for survival.

Instances of refugees being trafficked are all over the news. For example, today over two dozen Somalis, including women, were indicted for kidnapping, raping, and selling underage girls. They recruited their targets from the Somali refugee communities in St. Paul, Minn; Minneapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Nashville.

There have even been claims that the Thai military has been trafficking Rohingya refugees, who are escaping persecution in Burma. In another instance, a Rohingya mother testified that her daughter was sold while staying at a refugee camp in China. "We were staying in an IDP camp near Laiza when my 15-year-old daughter was sold. She was studying at the school in the camp, but had taken three days off school to collect coffee on the China side. There she met Ma B., a woman living China, who told her Chinese men liked her and wanted to marry her." There have been over 24 cases in this particular camp of actual or suspected trafficking involving women displaced by the war. Many of the women were sold to Chinese husbands as brides or bonded labor for around $6,500.

Another large issue is legal protection. There are significant limitations to refugee law. Watch this video to learn more:

Children are particularly at risk

Separated refugee children are often living without their parents or other customary caregivers. They may have been separated from their parents in the context of a conflict situation, become separated during flight, or endured other traumatic situations. There is no set way of housing refugee children, so they could either be living in formal or informal fostering arrangements, or live in supervised group homes with other separated children. Due to the precipitous nature of refugee flight, separated children may be living with families that do not treat them as full members, facing risks of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or neglect or abandonment. These children are at greater risk for trafficking.

So What Can We Do?

There are many steps that we can take to protect refugees from the risks of human trafficking.

Outreach programs are important, as well as changing legislature to treat refugees as victims rather than criminals.
Other important programs are programs that service the needs of refugees, such as physical, mental health, and dental examinations, counselling, and legal assistance, such as explanation of client rights and responsibilities, litigation and witness assistance in criminal prosecutions, family and civil matters, and immigration specific legal action such as application for T visas, immigration relief, adjustment of status, and general advocacy.

 For more information, go to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Jasmine Prokscha

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Welcome (back), Summar Ghias!

As a journalist turned social worker, I first heard of the complex business of human trafficking as a reporter. One career change, two years of graduate school and one international endeavor to raise awareness later, I find myself committed to finding comprehensive, collaborative, and systemic solutions for survivors of human trafficking both here and across the world.

In my second year of graduate school at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, I came to IOFA as a program development intern eager to work with local anti-trafficking efforts. The experience gave me the necessary insight to more critically examine various political, economic and contextual climates that impede service delivery. It also better prepared me for what continues to be a challenging road to effective identification, recovery, and rehabilitation.

Now, as IOFA’s new program coordinator, I’m thrilled to pick up where I left off. My work with IOFA will include providing technical assistance to the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force and assisting in the New York ChildRight project, which involves strategically strengthening the child welfare response to human trafficking throughout the state. I look forward to it!

Summar Ghias,
Program Coordinator, IOFA

Monday, June 17, 2013

Travel and Hospitality Industries Often At Front Lines in Reporting Human Trafficking

Due to the nature of human trafficking, travel and hotel employees are often the first line of defense when it comes to stopping human trafficking. Numerous airline stewardesses have reported stories in which they noticed suspicious behavior, but often didn't know where to report it.

For example, American Airlines flight attendant Sandra Fiori launched this initiative after seeing an 18-year-old teenage boy travelling with an infant who still had his umbilical chord attached. She noted that for the 6 hour flight, the boy only had a bottle of formula and two diapers stuck in his back pocket. However, when she reported this to authorities, she received no response. She contacted the Innocents at Risk project, who helped her create this initiative. The program now collaborates with the Innocents at Risk Project, the US Customs and Border Patrol, and many airlines such as Delta, U.S. Airways, and American Airlines, to run training sessions for flight crews on how to spot red flags.

Red Flags

  • Individuals may be accompanied by someone who controls their every movement (such as not permitting them to go to the lavatory or move about the cabin)
  • Has injuries of signs of physical abuse
  • Appears malnourished
  • Seems disorientated
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Seems fearful of authorities, especially law enforcement
  • In regards to children
    • Children appear uncomfortable with their travelling companions
    • The travelling companions appear to shield them from attendants
    • Seems fearful to talk
    • Appears to be confused or disoriented
    • Appears to be drugged
    • Children are dressed shabbily compared to their well-dress companions
    • Several children of different nationalities, all around the same age, accompanying adults who do not appear related to the children
View the kind of brochure that flight attendants get to better identify victims here.

Since the launch of this program, airlines have seen a marked improvement. Flight attendants now know what they are looking for, and have a hotline in which to make their reports.

Here are some of their stories:

In 2010, flight attendants noted that twice a week, young girls were flying from Moscow to Chicago, all with one-way tickets. They all said that they were getting "modelling" or "going to work in TV" in New York City. Flight attendants reported this to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), who set up a sting on the flight and were able to uncover a criminal organization and recover the girls.

Another example: a flight attendant spoke with one young girl flying first class from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale. The girl said she had never flown before, and that the seat was a gift from an older man she had met online. The flight attendant reported it to authorities, who returned the girl home.

Flight attendants are not the only employees who are being trained. The Department of Transportation reported that as of 2012 they have 55,000 employees trained to identify human trafficking.

The same applies to the hotel industry. Mary Carlson Nelson, chairman of Carlson, which owns brands such as Raddison, Country Inn and Suites, and TGI Friday, says that they have 80,000 hotel employees in 81 countries who are trained to notice signs of human trafficking and how to report it. Front desk employees look for clues such as signs of abuse or fear among potential victims; young people made up to look older; and clients who pay with cash, are reluctant to provide identification or have no luggage. Other signs are tattoos or branding, girls travelling with older men who do not appear to be their fathers, and travelers who have two different passports of origin. Employees are encouraged to ask the girl where she is going.

To learn more about these programs, visit

Jasmine Prokscha

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

World Day Against Child Labor

Today is the 11th annual World Day Against Child Labor. Established by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2002, the goal was to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the actions and efforts needed to end it.

What is Child Labor?

Child labor is a form of work that is hazardous to the health and/or physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development of children and can interfere with the child’s education. The ILO states that approximately 246 million exploited children, ages 5-17, are involved in forced labor, which includes domestic servitude, exploitation in agriculture, service, and manufacturing industries, sexual exploitation, use of children in armed forces or drug trade, and child begging.

Fifteen Facts About Child Labor Trafficking.

  1. Child trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Child and human trafficking is the second largest illegal enterprise in the world, next to drug trafficking.  It is estimated that in the next five years, human trafficking will outstrip drug trafficking.
  2. UNICEF estimates that in 2011, 150 million children aged 5-14 in developing countries were involved in child labor. Of these children, the ILO estimates that 60% work in agriculture.
  3. Around 115 million children are engaged in hazardous work, such as in the sex or drug trades
  4. Most child laborers are employed by their parents rather than in manufacturing or formal economy.
  5. Child labor accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, and 1% in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and other first world nations.
  6. In the United States, 9% of farm workers are children.
  7. Currently the child labor problem in the U.S. is worse than in 1930; with approximately 5 million children in the work force. 
  8. Africa has over 65 million children employed in child labor; the highest percentage compared to their population. Asia has 114 million children employed in child labor, and Latin America and the Carribean region has 14 million child laborers.
  9. According to the Maplecroft Child Labor Index 2012 survey, 76 countries pose extreme child labor complicity for companies operating worldwide.
  10. The ten highest risk countries in 2012, ranked in decreasing order, were Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Burundi, Pakistan, and Ethiopia.
  11. Of the major growing economies, the Philippines is 25th riskiest, India 27th, China 36th, Vietnam 37th, Indonesia 46th, and Brazil 54th.
  12. According to a 2009 Washington Times survey, the Taliban buys children as young as seven to be used as suicide bombers. The average price for these children is $7,000-14,000 dollars.
  13. The most human trafficking incidents in the United States occur in New York, California, and Florida.
  14. Family members will often sell their children or other family members into slavery; often the younger the victim, the higher to price.
  15. The global market of child trafficking was evaluated by UNICEF at over 12 billion dollars a year.

SC Digest

What is the Minimum Age for Work?

According to the United Nations (among member States ratifying Convention 138)
Hazardous work- Any work that is likely to jeopardize children’s physical, mental, or moral health should done by anyone under the age of 18
Basic minimum age- the minimum age for work should not be below the age for finishing compulsory schooling, which in most countries is generally 15.
Light work- Children between the age of 13 and 15 may do light work, as long as it does not threaten their health and safety, or hinder their education or vocational orientation and training.

stop child labor rally

What is being done about Child Trafficking?

Despite some positive enforcement developments, there are relatively few cases concerning child labor that make it to court. Only 1.5% of reports received by the CEACR (Committee of Experts on the Application on Conventions and Ratification) concerning child labor contain information on Court decisions.

                The ILO’s goal for this year is
  1. Legislative and policy reforms to encourage and foster the elimination of child labor in domestic work, the provision of decent work conditions, and increased protection to young workers in the domestic work sphere who have reached the legal working age.
  2. Ratify ILO Convention No. 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers and its implementation; ratification of ILO’s Child Labor Convention
  3. Increased Action to build the worldwide movement against child labor and to build the capacity of domestic worker organizations to address child labor

Organizations that provide help

If you think you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.373.7888. The NHTRC can help you identify and coordinate with local organizations that protect and serve trafficking victims.


Jasmine Prokscha
Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project (AATOP) Program Development Intern