Categories for Around the World

Bumblebee Tuna Not as Wholesome as Company Claims

September 14, 2022

Major US seafood brand Bumble Bee is suspected of having environmentally harmful illegal fishing and human rights abuse in its supply chain, according to a new investigative report by Greenpeace East Asia. The American brand, owned by Taiwanese tuna traders FCF, has long worked to establish its reputation as “champions for sustainable fishing and dedicated advocates for fishers.” However, the “Fake My Catch – the unreliable traceability in our tuna cans” report uncovers information that shows that by sourcing seafood from vessels that are suspected of labor and human rights abuses, the company is failing to deliver on its promises to American consumers.

Washington, DC (August 30, 2022)Major US seafood brand Bumble Bee is suspected of having environmentally harmful illegal fishing and human rights abuse in its supply chain, according to a new investigative report by Greenpeace East Asia.

The American brand, owned by Taiwanese tuna traders FCF, has long worked to establish its reputation as “champions for sustainable fishing and dedicated advocates for fishers.” However, the “Fake My Catch – the unreliable traceability in our tuna cans” report uncovers information that shows that by sourcing seafood from vessels that are suspected of labor and human rights abuses, the company is failing to deliver on its promises to American consumers.

Mallika Talwar, a Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said: “We are not surprised at the high level of disparity between what Bumble Bee tells US consumers and what was uncovered in this investigation. Bumble Bee claims to be for people and the planet, but what we see in this report is a company skirting its responsibilities in order to make a profit. Instead of disclosing a list of all their supply vessels, they have used smokescreens such as the Trace My Catch program to fake transparency while leaving it up to consumers to dig up information on an incredibly complex and opaque supply chain. Even then, as this report shows, there is no guarantee the information Bumble Bee shares is correct. That is not what real transparency looks like.”

The “Fake My Catch – the unreliable traceability in our tuna cans” report finds that over 10% (13) of the 119 Taiwanese-flagged/owned vessels identified in the sampling that supplied Bumble Bee had violated Taiwanese fishery regulations and were on the Taiwan Fisheries Agency’s (TFA) illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) list. Further, indicators of forced labor were identified in the reports of fishers that worked aboard six of the vessels that supplied Bumble Bee and FCF.[1] Catch from Taiwanese-owned vessel Da Wang, whose crew were indicted for their involvement in forced labor and human trafficking, has been used to supply Bumble Bee – raising concerns that seafood tainted with forced labor has already been sold in the US market. Additionally, one migrant fisher died whilst working on Da Wang after an accident occurred – reportedly causing the other workers to quit due to the excessive physical abuse they endured. A Bumble Bee product sourced from this fishing vessel was found to be available for sale at a Harris Teeter (a wholly owned subsidiary of Kroger Co.) in Arlington, Virginia.

Read the full story on Green Peace

Humanitarian Crisis In Ukraine Is Turning Into Human Trafficking Crisis: UN Envoy

June 24, 2022

New York [US], June 6 (ANI/Xinhua): The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is turning into a human trafficking crisis, warned Pramila Patten, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, on Monday.

From the outset of the conflict, heightened risks of trafficking in persons, including for purposes of sexual exploitation and prostitution, have been alarmingly evident, Patten said.

The lack of consistent vetting of accommodation offers and transportation arrangements is a serious concern, as well as the limited capacity of protection services to address the velocity and volume of displacement, she told a UN Security Council meeting on conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking in the context of the Ukraine conflict.

There are also concerns regarding the multiplicity of volunteers, with limited vetting, and little or no training or experience, she added.

In her visit to a Tesco supermarket-converted receiving center for Ukrainian refugees in Przemysl, Poland, she found “grave security and protection concerns” in a facility run by volunteers, and with only a “bare-bones presence” of UN agencies.

Humanitarian staff at the site gave credible anecdotal accounts of attempted human trafficking, said Patten. With minimal security screening, a man registered as a volunteer at the Tesco center in the afternoon and entered the “French room” where refugees were waiting for transport to France. At that time, he made contact with a 19-year-old woman, whom he later woke up in the sleeping hall at 2 a.m., offering a ride to France, she said.

Read the full story on The Print.

The Link Between Human Trafficking and Armed Conflict

May 5, 2022

By Felisher Ongera (USCSAHT Student Intern)

Tensions have been brewing for months on end without a resolution in sight. For two months, it has become clear that there is little to no peace progress being made in the Russian-Ukraine crisis. Families are being torn apart and economic desperation is on the rise for the Ukrainian people and those around them. This crisis, however, is not the only conflict in sight. From civil wars and political unrest to terrorist insurgencies, there is a large number of countries currently experiencing armed conflict. As people lose their jobs and homes while fleeing these countries to seek refuge, human traffickers are on the prowl, searching for ways to exploit victims.

It is no secret that traffickers prey on victims in search of employment opportunities. Oftentimes, victims are lured in by the promises of a higher-paying job. With a decrease in the availability of social services at this time, many victims can fall prey to traffickers. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates an average of 40.3 million individuals are trapped in forced labor. Armed conflict only worsens this prevalence, increasing refugees’ vulnerability to human trafficking. These people are trapped and exposed to indentured servitude or debt bondage and forced to work with little to no payment all while facing psychological and physical abuse.

Labor trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking that is rampant as a result of armed conflict. Child labor is just as heinous and its risk is heightened during periods of armed conflict. To begin, the ILO defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to [their] physical and mental development.” Parents often are unable to provide for all of their young ones and with economic desperation on the rise, children join the workforce in order to lessen their families’ burden and provide additional support. Traffickers take advantage of this and exploit these children, promising to help and provide. Once taken, they are often overworked, underpaid, isolated, deprived of education, and physically and sexually abused. Not to mention that at times of conflict, there is a rise in the unlawful recruitment and use of children through force, fraud, or coercion—to be used as combatants or constrained to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. In addition to these child soldiers, the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report indicates that young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with commanders and male combatants. Therefore, it is essential we keep ourselves educated on the topic and keep in mind this increase in human trafficking in order to best learn how to assist in combatting both trafficking cases as well as providing humanitarian aid.

To learn more about the connection between armed conflict, labor, and child trafficking, read our Human Trafficking: Labor Trafficking education module and visit these websites:

Human Trafficking in Conflict Zones

Countries Currently At War 2022

2020 Trafficking in Persons Report

How The Sex Trade Preys On Ukraine’s Refugees

April 10, 2022

Five weeks into Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, imagine for a moment what it’s like to live there now.

Bombs, bloodshed, trauma. No school for your children, no healthcare for your parents, no safe roof over your head in many parts of the country.

Would you try to run? Ten million Ukrainians have, according to the United Nations.

Most seek refuge in other areas of Ukraine, believed to be safer. But more than three and a half million people have fled over the border.

They are mainly women and children, as men under the age of 60 are obliged by the Ukrainian government to stay put and fight.

Displaced and disoriented, often with no idea where to go next, refugees are forced to put their trust in strangers.

The chaos of war is now behind them, but the truth is, they’re not entirely safe outside Ukraine either.

“For predators and human traffickers, the war in Ukraine is not a tragedy,” UN Secretary General António Guterres warned on Twitter. “It’s an opportunity – and women and children are the targets.”

Trafficking rings are notoriously active in Ukraine and neighbouring countries in peace time. The fog of war is perfect cover to increase business.

Karolina Wierzbińska, a coordinator at Homo Faber, a human rights organisation based in Lublin, told me children were a huge concern.

Many youngsters were travelling out of Ukraine unaccompanied, she said. Patchy registration processes in Poland and other border regions – especially at the start of the war – meant children disappeared, their current whereabouts unknown.

My colleagues and I headed down to the Polish-Ukrainian border to see for ourselves.

At a train station, well known for refugee arrivals, we found a hive of activity. Dazed-looking women and crying children were all around.

Read the full story by Katya Adler on BBC News.

Pope Says ‘Slaughters and Atrocities’ Committed Daily in Ukraine

March 27, 2022

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, continuing his implicit criticism of Russia, called the conflict in Ukraine an unjustified “senseless massacre” and urged leaders to stop “this repugnant war”.

“The violent aggression against Ukraine is unfortunately not slowing down,” he told about 30,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly Sunday address and blessing.

“It is a senseless massacre where every day slaughters and atrocities are being repeated,” Francis said in his latest strong condemnation of the war, which has so far avoided mentioning Russia by name.

“There is no justification for this,” he added.

Moscow says the action it launched on Feb. 24 is a “special military operation” designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarise its neighbour and purge it what it sees as dangerous nationalists. Francis has already rejected that terminology.

“I beg all the players in the international community to truly commit themselves to stopping this repugnant war,” the pope said, drawing loud cheers and applause from the crowd.
Read the full story by Philip Pullella on U.S.News & World Report.

Ukraine: Increasing Concerns Over Human Trafficking

March 24, 2022

No sooner had the first missiles been fired over the skies in Ukraine and thousands of people began to flee, than there was evidence that criminal gangs linked to human trafficking were on the move along border routes.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM ) around 1.5 million children, who are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, have fled Ukraine.

In a statement, the agency said: “Instances of sexual violence have already been reported and among the individuals promising onward transportation or services, there have been indications of potential exploitation.”

Aid agencies like Caritas Ukraine are supporting women and children crossing the border into neighbouring countries like Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, to try to prevent human trafficking.

“Right now, there is a very high risk that people might become a human slave,” said Vladyslav Shelokov, Caritas Ukraine’s Resource Mobilisation Director.

Risks to refugees

Sr Imelda Poole, IBVM, is President of RENATE, a network of women religious combatting human trafficking, and is based in Albania. Speaking to Vatican Radio, she said there have been accounts of transnational criminal gangs working in vans along these routes.

“Women and children are really vulnerable, and also we do know from our sisters and colleagues working in Ukraine itself that sadly even in the basements where refugees are trying to keep safe there seemed to be some risks there too, and there have been some known rapes of women in the basements.”

Read the full article by Lydia O’Kane on Vatican News.

Ugandan Boarding School Rescues Young Teen Girls From Forced Marriage

March 22, 2022

AMUDAT, UGANDA — Sitting at her desk in a classroom at Kalas Girls Primary School in this remote town of northern Uganda, 15-year-old Susan Cherotich narrated through tears how she had fled her parents’ home some six weeks earlier following pressure from her uncles and elders to marry before she completes her education.

The eighth-grade student said her parents were opposed to the idea, but the decision by the majority of her clan members to start a home with a man was more binding, a common practice in her Pokot tribe.

Susan said her uncles and elders wanted to sell her against her will into marriage for dozens of cows to an older man she had never met.

“I heard that the man had several wives, and he was willing to give out many cows,” she said.

“I left at night after realizing they were coming to marry me off.”

She took refuge at a police station before religious sisters took her to Kalas Girls Primary School in Amudat parish, run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix-Ggogonya. “My father pleaded with his brothers and elders to let me finish school, but they objected, saying it was the right time for me to be married off since schools were taking a long time to resume due to the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Susan is among thousands of girls in northern Uganda who have been rescued from marriages they did not want and taken to Kalas Girls Primary School, which is also sponsored by UN WomenUNICEF and the World Food Program. The boarding school provides hope and a haven for girls who have escaped genital mutilation and child marriage. At the school, the girls receive counseling and psychosocial support.

The East African nation is one of the countries with the highest rates of early and forced marriage, according to a 2019 report by UNICEF: The country of more than 45 million people is home to 5 million child brides. Of these, 1.3 million married before age 15, UNICEF reports.

The report also notes that child marriage results in teenage pregnancy, which contributes to high maternal deaths and health complications like obstetric fistula, premature births, and sexually transmitted diseases. It is also the leading cause of girls dropping out of school.

Read the full story by Gerald Matembu and Doreen Ajiambo on Global Sisters Report.

California Couple Pleads Guilty In Forced Labor Case Involving Family From Guatemala

September 13, 2021

The owners of a restaurant and janitorial company in Shasta Lake took a plea deal Monday in a case that charged them with luring a family from Guatemala to serve as forced laborers and earlier kidnapping a 13-year-old girl from her Las Vegas, Nevada, home.

Nery A. Martinez Vasquez and his wife, Maura N. Martinez, both 53, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit forced labor and could face a prison term of up to 20 years and fines of $250,000. The couple also agreed to pay $300,000 in restitution, and Senior U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb set sentencing for Nov. 8.

The couple originally was charged in a June 2019 indictment in federal court in Sacramento with conspiracy to commit forced labor and other counts. Prosecutors alleged they enticed a relative in Guatemala to bring her two minor daughters to the United States in 2016 with promises of providing them a better life and educational opportunities.

Instead, the couple forced the three — who are not identified by name — to work through February 2018 and threatened them with arrest if they went outside unaccompanied or tried to attend school, court documents say.

“The defendants unlawfully employed Person One and her older daughter, Person Two, at their restaurant and cleaning service and required them to work upwards of 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for meager pay, far below minimum wage,” court documents say. “The defendants further required Person Three, Person One’s younger daughter, to work several hours a day, seven days a week, at the restaurant for no pay.”

Read the full story by Sam Stanton on The Sacramento Bee.

On Ghana’s Lake Volta, Child Slavery Is In Plain Sight

September 5, 2021

(CNN)The steel gray clouds hung like an ominous slate blanket over the far reaches of Lake Volta, Ghana. From the shores I stood gazing out at a wooden fishing boat on what I presumed to be a family out fishing for the afternoon: two older boys and their three younger brothers, messing around with fishing poles and nets, catching fish for their evening meal.

My comment to that effect drew a sharp retort from my translator. This was not a family outing; these were enslaved teenagers and their young charges on a predawn to after-dark workday on the lake. It brought me up short. As a photographer who has traveled to more than 150 countries, often to document forced labor and human trafficking in dangerous conditions, I thought I had a pretty thorough awareness of the social and humanitarian horrors of modern slavery.

Unlike some of my other expeditions, however, there was nothing secretive about this. I did not have to sneak into a Nepalese brick kiln factory to document workers stacking and loading dozens of bricks on their heads in sweltering 100-plus degree heat. Or climb 200 feet down a rickety abandoned mine shaft to photograph enslaved gold miners. No, here on Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world, child slavery was in plain sight. There was no attempt to hide anything: right before me were children as young as five forced to work up to 18 hours a day, with no pay, often little or no food, in dangerous, dirty conditions. The sheer brazenness stunned me.

According to the nonprofit organization Free the Slaves, more than one-third of the 1,620 households surveyed in and around Lake Volta housed a victim of child trafficking or someone held in slave-like conditions. Yet this is not an ancient, entrenched tradition in this place: Lake Volta was only created in 1965 when the forestland it now covers was flooded during the construction of a hydroelectric dam to provide Ghana’s electricity supply.

Read the full story by LIsa Kristine on CNN.

UAE Plays Role As Hundreds Arrested In Interpol Anti-Trafficking Operation

August 20, 2021

The UAE has played a role in a major Interpol operation to tackle human trafficking around the world, leading to hundreds of arrests.

An operations room in Abu Dhabi and UAE personnel took part in the campaign against migrant smuggling and trafficking gangs that led to 286 arrests globally.

Interpol said authorities rescued about 430 human trafficking victims and identified 4,000 irregular migrants originating from 74 countries. Many of them required medical, psychological and housing assistance and were taken into the care of protective services.

“Operation Liberterra is a five-day snapshot of the global trafficking and smuggling situation, and how multinational, highly organised criminal networks only focus on one thing: profit,” said Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock.

“With 22 criminal groups dismantled, it also shows what co-ordinated, global law enforcement action can achieve.”

  • Algerian authorities dismantled a smuggling group focusing on maritime routes to European coasts.
  • Colombia dismantled two different criminal organisations, making 22 arrests. While one group was dedicated to smuggling migrants to the US, the other group focused on bringing Cuban and Haitian migrants from Ecuador into Colombia. In addition, two subjects of Interpol Red Notices wanted internationally by Spain for human trafficking were arrested.

Read the full story by Rory Reynolds onThe National News.