Categories for International Law

Real Needs, Not Fictitious Crises Account for the Situation at US-Mexico Border

March 21, 2021

The number of unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers crossing the US-Mexico border in search of protection has increased in recent weeks. The former president, his acolytes, and both extremist and mainstream media have characterized this situation as a “border crisis,” a self-inflicted wound by the Biden administration, and even a failure of US asylum policy. It is none of these things. Rather, it is a response to compounding pressures, most prominently the previous administration’s evisceration of US asylum and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, and the failure to address the conditions that are displacing residents of the Northern Triangle states of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), as well as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and other countries. In Central America, these conditions include:

  • Two hurricanes – Eta and Iota – that have left 8 million persons (1.8 million of them children) in need of humanitarian assistance, and have destroyed countless livelihoods and tens of thousands of homes in Guatemala and Honduras.
  • Negative economic growth in all three Northern Triangle countries.
  • The economic and public health devastation wrought by COVID-19.
  • The ravages of climate changes.
  • Gang control in many communities, breakdowns in the rule of law, and rampant violence. The homicide rates in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala remain among the highest in the world.

This is not the first time large numbers of unaccompanied children have sought to enter the United States. In the late summer of 2016, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) and the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN) embarked on a fact-finding trip to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Southern Mexico to visit migrant shelters and detention facilities, which mostly held deportees from Mexico. More than 160,000 unaccompanied children and a similar number of migrants traveling in family units had arrived at the US-Mexico border in the 18-month period prior to our trip. In meetings with public officials, community groups, and migrants, we heard repeatedly of the threats to children and adolescents living in communities controlled by gangs. Boys faced conscription, girls sexual enslavement, and family breadwinners extortion. The gangs met even perceived resistance with violence.  Children without parents at home were particularly vulnerable. Many children negotiated a daily gauntlet in their trip to and from school, passing through neighborhoods controlled by competing gangs that demanded their fidelity. Gangs had also taken over many public recreational spaces, leaving little safe space for these children. Not surprisingly, some families sought to protect their children by moving, and others by placing their children with family members in other communities. Many adolescents fled their countries of birth, often in an attempt to join their parents in the United States.

Read the full article by Donald Kerwin on Center for Migration Studies

How Do We Break The Supply Chain?

December 13, 2019

Imagine, says Northeastern assistant professor Shawn Bhimani, the plight of a migrant worker who cannot find work.

“Come work for me,” a prospective employer says to the worker. “I’ll pay you $14 an hour.”

So begins an ugly cycle of exploitation. The worker is transported to a farm, where her actual salary is reduced to, say, $8 per hour. Then she learns that most or all of her salary is being seized by the employer to pay for her airfare as well as her rent. And she worries about complaining to law enforcement because her employer has confiscated her passport.

This is one of the many scenarios that three Northeastern professors will be researching as part of an investigation of human trafficking in U.S. agriculture. They intend to map and evaluate the human supply chains to determine the key areas of vulnerability, with the goal of engineering ways to disrupt those trafficking systems, over the course of a three-year study. They hope to create models of disruption that can be applied to other sectors of human trafficking, which is estimated to victimize more than 24 million people worldwide.

“There is a fallacy that trafficking is happening in some foreign place,” says Bhimani, a visiting assistant professor in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “It’s happening in our local areas, across our country, across the world. And we are all connected to it.”

Studies of human trafficking tend to focus on its products and services—including food, clothes, and sex. But the Northeastern researchers are taking a different approach by focusing on the human supply chain and those who are victimized by it.

“We’re kind of flipping it and looking at the other side,” says Kayse Maass, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering. “We’re saying, how did the human beings get from the point of wherever they’re originating to the point of exploitation? And how do we break the supply chain?”

Their research, funded by a $574,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate human trafficking in American agriculture.

To read the full story by Ian Thomsen on News@Northeastern: Click Here

Leaving The EU Could Be Disastrous For The Fight Against Human Trafficking

December 6, 2019

“I’m sorry Mum. My journey abroad hasn’t succeeded. Mum, I love you so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe.” These were reportedly the last words of 26 year-old Pham Thi Tra in a text message to her parents, sent as she approached death with 38 others in the refrigerated truck found in Essex last week. 

The horror of the slow death suffered by these lost souls is unimaginable. Trapped in freezing darkness her phone may have been the only light Pham Thi Tra had. Somehow she used the last moments of her life to apologise to her parents for her failure to reach the UK.

The hidden nature of human trafficking makes the task of defining its scale. Kennington-based charity Stop the Traffik cites an International Labour Organization (ILO) report that there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. At 26, Pham Thi Tra was the average age for an identified human trafficking victim according to the Migration Data Portal, half of those identified being between 18 and 34 years old.

In the UK the National Crime Agency (NCA) leads the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking – the two are intrinsically linked. Between October and December 2018 the NCA reporting system showed that potential victims of trafficking originated from 84 different countries, with nationals from Albania, the UK and Vietnam being the most commonly reported.

Over the past few years, we have been exposed to all-too-frequent, disturbing stories and images of refugees who have perished during their journey to perceived sanctuary in Europe and the UK. Heartbreaking footage of parents cradling drowned children and, more recently, the incident where 39 refugees died in the back of a refrigerated container lorry, have shocked the nation. Most recently, 12 migrants of Syrian and Sudanese origin were find alive in a refrigerated truck in Belgium.

To read the full story by Rabina Khan on The Independent: Click Here

September 29: World Day for Migrants and Refugees

September 21, 2019

On September 29, 2019 the global Catholic Church will celebrate the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. This is a day to set aside time to focus on the reality of migrants and refugees in our communities and around the world, and take action to live the tenants of our faith which call us to welcome and offer hospitality to those in need.

Today, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Every 15 minutes a family is forced to flee their homeland. Many migrants and refugees are forcibly displaced from their homes by violence, climate change, oppressive governments, and poverty. They are the faces of Christ suffering in our midst today.

US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking recognizes that migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable populations to both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Part of the work to prevent and end human trafficking involves providing adequate support systems for migrants and refugees looking for safety, shelter, and employment in order to care for themselves and their families. The better we can care for our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters, the less likely they will be taken advantage of by traffickers.

On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, we want to remind you of some resources we created to help you reflect on the connections between migration, refugees, and human trafficking which are free and available for download on our website.

USCSAHT Resources:

There are also a few ways you can take action to support refugees and migrants looking to resettle in the United States. Below are some opportunities for action for individuals and faith communities.

Invitation to Action:

  1. Support the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act

    US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking put together a
    toolkit for World Refugee Day back in June with information about the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act which would help raise the number of refugees accepted into the United States and repeal the ban on admissions from some Muslim majority countries. These acts have still not passed in either the House or the Senate, and we need you to continue to put pressure on your elected representatives, asking them to support the GRACE Act and the NO BAN Act. You can download that toolkit and learn more HERE. There are also prayer resources and personal stories available on that page.
  2. Welcome and Support Migrants and Refugees in your CommunityJustice for Immigrants has prepared a number of resources to help you and/or your community take action on World Day for Migrants and Refugees including a guide on accompaniment and solidarity with migrants and refugees, hosting a welcome meal, prayers of the faithful, special rosary, and church resources. You can download all those HERE.
  3. Download the official Vatican Tool Kit for World Day of Migrants and RefugeesThe Vatican Office for Migrants and Refugees has compiled a helpful kit of resources to aid in marking this important day. You can download that kit HERE.

Thank you for joining us in remembering migrants and refugees on September 29th and taking action to ensure that this vulnerable population is safe from human trafficking. As Pope Francis reminds us in his message for this year’s celebration, “It’s not just about migrants.” It’s about all of us, doing what we can, to face our own fears and courageously follow the path of love.

They escaped ISIS. Then They Got Sucked Into Baghdad’s Sex Trafficking Underworld

August 19, 2019

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) Nadia’s handshake is strong, but her voice trembles as she says hello. Leaning against a window, she describes in painful detail the twisted journey that saw her evade the grip of terrorists only to fall victim to Baghdad’s sex trafficking underworld.

Stories like Nadia’s have become all too familiar in the wake of ISIS’ defeat in Iraq. The decline of the militant group has given rise to another evil: human trafficking networks that thrive on the spoils of war, the displaced and the desperate.

And she was the perfect mark.

Nadia was living in Sinjar, northern Iraq, in 2014 when ISIS rounded up thousands of women and girls like her from the Yazidi ethnic minority and forced them into sexual slavery. But she says she managed to escape, fleeing with her family through scattered hills to an IDP camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. CNN is not using Nadia’s real name out of concerns for her safety.

Still, she was haunted by the fate of others who were not as lucky. She said she started sending money to a man she believed was a trusted friend, who she had met while on the run from ISIS and who said he was coordinating humanitarian aid for other Yazidis. Encouraged by their conversations and propelled by her desire to help, she began organizing demonstrations at the camp, demanding the release of Yazidi women.

Then the calls started. “I would get the threats by phone,” Nadia said, explaining that she wasn’t sure who was harassing her. “I wasn’t afraid for myself, but for my little sister. They said, ‘If you don’t come, we know where your sister goes to school.'”

When she received a letter from an NGO supporting her application for asylum in the United States, she reached out to her friend, asking for help to get to the embassy in Baghdad. “He said, ‘My sister, I can take you. I know a guy in the Iraqi parliament, I can take you to him.'”
On the road to the capital, she sensed something was wrong. “He kept stopping to talk on the phone and send messages,” she told CNN. “I said, ‘Take me back, I want to go back.’ He said, ‘No, it’s ok, it is about a group of Yazidi girls I freed from Fallujah, they are waiting for us in Baghdad.'”

To read the full story by Arwa Damon, Ghazi Balkiz, Brice Laine and Aqeel Najm on CNN: Click Here

Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon

August 8, 2019

Children’s trafficking and exploitation is a widespread phenomenon that is causing enormous suffering throughout the world. It can take several forms such as forced labor, sexual exploitation and child begging, among other practices

Child trafficking and exploitation are again in the news after the Wall Street trader Jeffrey Epstein was charged on July 8 with sex trafficking crimes involving dozens of minors. Among the latest accusation is one by Jennifer Araoz, 32, who said that Epstein raped her when she was 15, and she had been working at his home giving him massages. After the incident, Araoz became profoundly depressed, had anxiety and panic attacks, and had to drop out of school shortly afterward. Her case is just one of the many cases being investigated against the New York financial adviser.

Children’s trafficking and exploitation is a widespread phenomenon that is causing enormous suffering throughout the world. It can take several forms such as forced labor, sexual exploitation and child begging, among other practices. It is estimated that 4 million women and girls worldwide are bought and sold each year either into marriage, prostitution or slavery. Over one million children enter the sex trade every year. Although most are girls, boys are also victims.

The extent of the problem

A report presented to the European Parliament showed that in Egypt criminal gangs kidnap African migrants and subject them to the worst kind of abuses, and reclaim steep ransoms from their families. It is estimated that between 25,000 to 30,000 people were trafficked in the Sinai Peninsula between 2009 and 2013.

In the United States, as many as 50,000 women and children from Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe are brought to the country and forced to work as servants or prostitutes. The US government has prosecuted cases involving hundreds of victims. In other countries where this problem is frequent, the prosecution rate is lower.

Child sex tourism is an aspect of this worldwide phenomenon, and it is concentrated in Asia and Central and South America. According to UNICEF, 10,000 girls annually enter Thailand from neighboring countries and end up as sex workers. Thailand’s Health System Research Institute reports that children make up 40% of those working in prostitution in Thailand. And between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepali girls are transported across the border to India each year and end up in commercial sex work in Mumbai or New Delhi.

Commercial sexual exploitation

Although the greatest number of children forced to work as prostitutes is in Asia, Eastern European children from countries such as Russia, Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic, are increasingly unwilling victims.  

As a social and pathological phenomenon, prostitution involving children does not show signs of abating. In many cases, not only individual traffickers but also organized groups kidnap children and sell them into prostitution, with border officials and police frequently serving as accomplices.

Because of their often undocumented status, language deficiencies and lack of legal protection, kidnapped children are particularly vulnerable in the hands of smugglers or corrupt and heartless government officials. “Trafficking is a very real threat to millions of children around the world, especially to those who have been driven from their homes and communities without adequate protection,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a growing problem worldwide. The reasons include increased trade across borders, poverty, unemployment, low status of girls, lack of education (including sex education) of children and their parents, inadequate legislation, poor law enforcement and the eroticization of children by the media, a phenomenon increasingly seen in industrialized countries.

Consequences of sexual exploitation of children

Social and cultural reasons force children into entering the sex trade in different regions of the world. In many cases, children from industrialized countries enter the sex trade because they are fleeing abusive homes. In countries of Eastern and Southern Africa, children who became orphans as a result of AIDS frequently lack the protection of caregivers and become, therefore, more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.

To read the full story by Dr. César Chelala on Common Dreams: Click Here

Nurses Vital to Tackling Human Trafficking, ICN Congress Told

July 29, 2019

The caution came from Cindy McCain, a leading voice of the topic from the US, on the final day of the International Council of Nurses’ congress in Singapore this week. 

Addressing more than 5,000 nurse delegates from around the world, Ms McCain, co-chair of the Arizona Governor’s council on human trafficking, highlighted the importance of nurses receiving training on how to spot the red flags for human trafficking, a form of modern slavery in which people are traded for the purpose of exploitation such as forced labor or prostitution.

Issuing a “call to action,” Ms McCain, who is also board chair of the McCain Institute for International Leadership think tank, and widow of former US senator, John McCain, said: “You are on the frontlines; you are leaders and opinionators; unless you are educated on signs of human trafficking, we won’t win this.”

She added: “It is critical we put human trafficking assessment tools in the hands of as many health practitioners as possible.”

Her talk took place on the same day that the ICN launched a new pamphlet called ‘Human trafficking, the basics of what nurses need to know’, which describes the types of human trafficking, general signs to look out for, and which actions to take if human trafficking is suspected.

Speaking alongside Ms McCain was Kevin Hyland, member of the Council of Europe independent group of experts for trafficking and former independent anti-slavery commissioner for the UK.

During the session Mr Highland asked Ms McCain why nurses were absent from some of the decision-making processes and discussions on the subject of human trafficking.

To read the full story by Gemma Mitchell on Nursing Times: Click Here 

UK Joins Forces With Nigeria To Fight Human Trafficking

May 6, 2019

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)The UK government and Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency launched a new media campaign to prevent women and girls from being exploited and sold into modern-day slavery.

The Department for International Development (DFID) said the ‘NotForSale’ campaign aims to encourage Nigerians to find jobs at home instead of risking their lives to travel to foreign countries in search of work.

DFID said it was committed to ending human trafficking for all nations, and it was working with the UK National Crime Agency and the Nigerian government to tackle the “root causes of dangerous migration,” while preventing vulnerable women and girls from being targeted by traffickers.

Julie Okah-Donli, director general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) told CNN many vulnerable Nigerian girls, some as young as 10, were being lured by human traffickers to work as domestic help and servants in Britain.

“The UK is a destination for forced labor. These traffickers take Nigerian girls from villages and disguise them as their children, but when they get to the UK, they don’t let them step of the house for years and force them to clean and cook. There are cases where these victims were sexually exploited,” Okah-Donli told CNN.

She said posters for the campaign, which feature inspirational stories of successful Nigerian women, would be placed in schools, mosques, malls, and billboards in Nigeria’s Edo and Delta states, where human smuggling rings operate with impunity.

To read the full article by Bukola Adebayo on CNN: Click Here