June 24th, 2011
03:48 PM ET

Slavery report will name, shame nations

How seriously governments around the world are working to combat human trafficking comes into sharp focus Monday when the U.S. State Department issues its 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

Published annually since 2001, the TIP Report counts known cases of human trafficking in more than 175 countries, whether for commercial sex, bonded labor, child labor, involuntary domestic servitude or child soldiers.

It also takes note of new legislation enacted, how many prosecutions were initiated and how many traffickers were convicted.

The State Department describes the TIP Report as a "diplomatic tool" that can be used to engage with other countries on the issue of human trafficking.

It is assembled with the help of embassies, non-governmental organizations, aid groups and individuals who have submitted data or their own personal accounts.

As a result, the report has become the world's most comprehensive survey of modern day slavery. It also explores which strategies are succeeding or failing in the fight against human trafficking.

"The TIP Report, for us, is an invaluable source of information," says Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's special representative and coordinator for combating trafficking in human beings.

She added: "In Europe we had a huge phenomenon of trafficking for sexual exploitation but now what is growing is trafficking for labor exploitation and child trafficking."

The global trade in human beings is changing, growing more sophisticated as a criminal enterprise that can boast more profits and fewer risks than the illegal drug trade.

The TIP Report accounts for that changing situation by placing countries into different tiers, which can point to progress made against human trafficking or the lack of effort. For friends and foes of Washington, it's a time of reckoning.

At the top, Tier 1 countries in 2010 like Germany, Sweden, Australia and South Korea are credited with full compliance with the requirements of the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act" re-authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2008. The U.S. is a Tier 1 country, but only began including itself in the survey in 2010.

Tier 1 does not mean a country doesn't have a human trafficking problem but rather that it has admitted the problem and is working to address it.

Tier 2 nations don't fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards. Countries in this category are often seen as making significant progress. In 2010, countries ranging from Greece and Argentina to Indonesia and Switzerland found themselves on the second level.

There are many countries that may find themselves on the Tier 2 Watch List. These are countries that have fallen short of the legislation's minimum standards but have made "significant efforts."

What complicates the status of these countries is they may have high numbers of victims of severe forms of human trafficking and there's little or no evidence they are pursuing prosecutions of traffickers or reaching out to provide more help to victims.

The Tier 2 Watch may also point to countries that failed to live up to past commitments to improve their records. Thailand, Syria, Singapore and Iraq made the watch list in the 2010 TIP report.

At the bottom of the list are the Tier 3 states that neither meet the TVPA's minimum standards nor appear to be making efforts to do so. North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iran and even Saudi Arabia were among a dozen states shamed by the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.

It's not just humiliating. It can be costly, too. The U.S. Congress passed the legislation providing for limited sanctions that could deny non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign aid.

Tier 3 governments could also find their diplomats, military and others ineligible for educational or cultural exchange programs.

What many will find is that the 2011 TIP Report goes far beyond just numbers and lists.

It will include current examples and stories of how human trafficking is undermining the dignity of millions of people around world.

Even more interesting for most of us may be the anticipated list of "TIP Report Heroes" who are honored for their commitment to end modern day slavery.

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Topics: Government • In The News
May 24th, 2011
05:47 PM ET

Official: Most cases start with tip from public

Working across international borders to clamp down on sex abuse is no easy task, especially when it involves young children. But as a U.S. official told CNN's Richard Quest, it's a task that's made easier with the help of the public.

In the past eight years, the United States has prosecuted 90 pedophiles who went overseas to abuse children. John Morton, the director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says discovering these criminals is hard work because it involves tracking people who are doing everything they can to keep a secret and also means working with a local police force in a foreign nation.

He said that most of the tips in these cases come from the public.

"We don't generate the vast majority of the leads in these cases," he told CNN. "We get them from non-governmental organizations, from people who are paying attention on an airplane and notice that a child is traveling with someone that they really shouldn't be traveling with, who see something amiss and report it to authorities or to a group that specializes ... in this kind of work. And then we get involved."

The children are too scared or too young to report the crime, so it is vital that if someone suspects something suspicious, they need to report it.

"We are not talking about some ordinary crime. We are talking about the assault and abuse of small children, as young as three or four years of age, usually in circumstances of grinding poverty, very difficult cultural conditions," he said. "And if they don't speak up, chances are the crime is going to go uncovered and that child's life is ruined. They need to say something. They need to allow us to get in there and investigate and put these people away.

"We all have to stand up and vindicate those children, because they can't stand up for themselves," he added.

Advocates claim answer to child trafficking in Congo is U.S. special envoy
May 13th, 2011
04:11 PM ET

Advocates claim answer to child trafficking in Congo is U.S. special envoy

By Amanda Kloer, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Amanda Kloer is an editor with Change.org, where she organizes and promotes campaigns to end human trafficking. She has created numerous reports, documentaries and training materials on human trafficking in the United States and around the world.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where civil war and frequent violence have raged for fourteen years, there have been reports of forgotten children known to some as “falling whistles.” These children have been kidnapped from their homes, schools and friends by rebel groups and turned into child soldiers, bush wives, porters, and human shields – the youngest and smallest of them often too small to hold a man-sized gun.

So instead, the tiniest have been sent into battle armed only with whistles. Their job? To make enough noise to scare the heavily-armed rival troops away. And then, with their small bodies, absorb the first round of bullets.

The story of these young soldiers is only one of the many untold tragedies of the ongoing conflict in Congo. According to the Enough! Project, 45,000 people in Congo die each and every month, mostly from hunger and disease resulting from the ongoing conflict. Over 1 million people have been displaced. But some of the most egregious collateral damage from the conflict has been suffered by women and children.

A 2007 UNICEF report on child trafficking found approximately 200,000 victims in Central and West Africa, and the UN estimates there are approximately 3,500 child soldiers in the Congo today.  Children are trafficked from Benin, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Togo, and Cameroon. Many are lured with the promise of jobs or apprenticeships, but are then forced to work on farms or in private homes, conscripted into the militia, or exploited in prostitution.

The gravity of child trafficking in Congo is only eclipsed by the challenges of how to help Congo's children, when they face death on the battlefield and violence at home. The many organizations working to advocate for peace in Congo often disagree how best to meet those challenges. But one strategy most Congo advocates agree on is this: the key to ending child trafficking in Congo is bringing peace and stability to the country.

FULL POST

May 11th, 2011
03:26 PM ET

Life after war

Kevin was a killer. Forced into being an 8-year-old soldier, he fought and murdered during Liberia's long civil war.

The conflict ended in 2003 and many of the estimated 16,000 children who took part in the fighting still are dealing with the emotional scars of what they saw and experienced. Kevin, who went through a program run by his former warlord (now a self-proclaimed evangelist), has to live with the rejection of his family and fend for survival on his own.

He lives in an apartment by himself. Some of the former soldiers went through a U.N.-sponsored disarmament program that included counseling.  Some ex-combatants say they couldn’t participate in the program because their guns were stolen.

That’s what happened to Kevin, but still years later he found a new path. Today he is a motorcycle taxi driver. He has some friends. He's not alone. He saves his money so he can go to night school. He hopes one day he can become a businessman.

Topics: Government • Life In Slavery
March 30th, 2011
01:07 PM ET

The battle against sex trafficking: Sweden vs. Denmark

Copenhagen's red light district pulsates with neon lights. Women stand on nearly every corner - many from Africa - aggressively making their pitch to men walking by. Inside one particularly loud bar, young Thai women sit on the laps of male customers.

And Stockholm? Well, you might walk right by its equivalent and never notice. Malmskillnadsgatan is a commercial area, the address of several banks. In its heyday, dozens of girls used to ply their trade here. Now, you can find only three or four women who work the street.

That stark difference may explain why Sweden is being hailed as a model of how to combat sex trafficking, while Denmark has been called the "Brothel of Scandinavia."

So, what happened? FULL POST

March 10th, 2011
11:49 AM ET

India official: It's not slavery

After her reports on modern-day slavery in India, CNN's Sara Sidner sat down with India's Labor Secretary Prabhat C. Chaturvedi. She showed him her first report, about generations paying off debt through slavery, to let him respond.

According to Sidner, the official was not surprised. He admitted that the problem of bonded labor existed in India but bristled at the word "slavery."

Below is an excerpt (and watch a longer response in the video above): FULL POST

Topics: Government • In The News
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