Tag Archive: ECPAT

ECPAT Awards Recognize Human Trafficking Heroes

October 18, 2022

Brighton, MI – The ECPAT-USA Awards were held recently in New York City to celebrate individuals who work to combat child trafficking.

Theresa Flores, Program Director for the United States Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, was recognized for her work in preventing sex trafficking and the exploitation of children.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by ECPAT USA for the mission that God put before me 15 years ago,” she said. “This journey has been heart-wrenching, mind-opening, brought me to my knees in tears, and also opened my heart to the huge amount of support and happiness I have received in turn. Receiving the “Freedom Award” is humbling because it wasn’t just me who did this work, but also motivating because we need a lot more people doing this work to end human trafficking.”

In addition to being the Program Director for U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, Flores is the founder of the SOAP Project – Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, a non-profit that mobilizes citizens to help locate missing youth who are being trafficked during major sporting events and assists survivors of trafficking on their healing journey.

She has been a licensed social worker for more than 30 years, was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2009, and has testified before both the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate in support of Human Trafficking Legislation. Additionally, the “Theresa Flores Law,” which eliminates the statute of limitation for children who have been trafficked, was passed in Michigan in 2015.

Flores is a survivor of domestic child sex trafficking and was sold in an underground crime ring in an upper-middle-class suburb outside Detroit from the time she was 15-17 years old. She has researched the mental and physical health problems of more than 200 domestic trafficking survivors and has hosted more than 200 women at survivor retreats.

She has received many awards including the 2017 L’Oréal Women of Worth, the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, the 2013 Christian Service Award & the 2020 Polaris Star Award. In January 2012 at the Ohio State of the State Address, Flores received the Courage Award from the governor for her work in human trafficking.

Flores also has published five books including, “The Sacred Bath,” “The Slave Across the Street” (in the UK and U.S.), and “Slavery in the Land of the Free – A Student’s Guide to Modern-Day Slavery.” You only list three books, so I added the including. The 10-year anniversary edition depicts the trauma of trafficking upon a person and the struggle it takes to heal. The audio version of her memoir—name– was nominated for the 2011 Audie Award, being in the top five of all memoirs and biographies, and has been on the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Seller list for e-books several times. In addition, she also conducted the TED Talk, “Find a Voice with SOAP.”

USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters who were committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors and dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support made up of many different congregations and other mission-aligned partners. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and another 70+ individuals and groups spread throughout the United States. USCSAHT is also the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.

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Download a PDF of this Press Release

Marriott International Launches Enhanced Human Trafficking Awareness Training

August 26, 2021

BETHESDA, Md., July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Marriott International today announced that on July 30th, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the company will launch an updated version of its human trafficking awareness training – the next step in Marriott’s goal to train all of its on-property associates to recognize and respond to potential indicators of human trafficking at hotels by 2025.

The world has changed significantly in the five years since the company launched the initial training. COVID-19 has ushered in more contactless and mobile hotel experiences, which can make it more difficult to spot potential indicators of trafficking. The new training builds upon the original training’s foundation by featuring scenario-based modules, a mobile-friendly design, and increased guidance on how to respond to potential situations of human trafficking – critical enhancements based on hotel-level feedback to help associates turn awareness into action and continue the fight against the multinational crime. Additionally, the new training was developed in collaboration with survivors of human trafficking, ensuring the training is victim-centered and the resources are survivor-informed.

“As an industry that cares deeply about human rights and the horrible crime of human trafficking, we have a real responsibility to address this issue in a meaningful way,” said Anthony Capuano, Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International. “The updated training empowers a global workforce that stands ready to recognize and respond to human trafficking and allows our company to live up to our core values.”

Through a collaboration with ECPAT-USA and with input from Polaris, two leading non-profits that specialize in combatting human trafficking, Marriott launched its original human trafficking awareness training in 2016 and made it mandatory for all on-property staff in both managed and franchised properties globally in January 2017. So far, the training has been delivered to more than 850,000 associates, which has helped identify instances of human trafficking, protect associates and guests, and support victims and survivors.

As the company did with its original training, Marriott plans to donate this training and work with ECPAT-USA and the American Hotel and Lodging Association Foundation to make it widely available in early 2022 to help educate the entire hospitality industry.

Read the full press release on Marriott International News Center.

What The Travel Industry Is Doing To Prevent Human Trafficking — And How You Can Help

June 15, 2021

Human trafficking may not be something you think about happening next door in your luxury hotel or on a popular commercial airline.

Although human trafficking — defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain commercial sex acts or labor — can take place anywhere, ECPAT International (a global network of organizations that works to end the trafficking of children) says the travel industry is on the front lines.

The International Labour Association estimated there were 24.9 million people in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage in 2016 around the globe. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) released data that revealed that hotels and motels were the fourth-most common locations for sex trafficking in 2019.

Forty travel organizations have currently agreed to a code of conduct designed to protect children from sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism industries. Members have to agree to implement six steps, including training employees, providing information to travelers and annually reporting their efforts.

The federal government passed legislation in 2016 that mandated United States-based airlines train flight attendants to spot suspected instances of human trafficking, and legislation was brought to Congress in 2018 that would require hotels and airlines to teach employees how to recognize signs of trafficking to be eligible to win government contracts.

Fortunately, some travel companies aren’t waiting for the government to step up. Here are a few ways seven top brands are working to stop human trafficking — and how you can get involved, too.

Read the full story by Jordi Lippe-McGraw on The Points Guy.

Airbnb Expands Pledge To Fight Human Trafficking Amid Hospitality Industry Struggles

March 26, 2020

Airbnb is expanding its commitment to fight human trafficking with anti-trafficking nonprofit Polaris as the hospitality industry faces a series of lawsuits claiming it’s not doing enough to curb the crime.

The work is pressing: Nearly 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, according to Polaris. Human trafficking can include everything from sexual exploitation to forced labor.

Of 383 U.S. sex trafficking cases that listed where a commercial sex act took place, 81.5% were at a hotel, according to a 2018 study from the Fairfax, Virginia-based Human Trafficking Institute.  

Airbnb has reportedly seen a variety of sex trafficking crimes at rentals: A runaway teenage girl coerced into sex acts; a 29-year-old man arrested following an underage girl found at a rental in Utah; and an alleged increase in cases in Toronto.

A chief problem in tackling human trafficking is that it is a data-poor field. “What we know about is likely the very tip of the iceberg in all forms of trafficking,” Caren Benjamin, chief communications officer at Polaris, told USA TODAY. Polaris has operated the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline for over a decade and worked on nearly 11,000 cases of human trafficking in 2018.

Airbnb’s new plan is an expansion of work that started in 2018, when the company worked with Polaris to create a training curriculum for Airbnb’s safety agents and crisis managers across the world. These employees handle safety concerns regarding reservations — whether trafficking allegations or weapon concerns, they are trained to deal with sensitive situations. This 2018 effort included training on everything from spotting signs of exploitation to how to best work with law enforcement.

To read the full story by David Oliver on USA Today: Click Here

Three National Hotel Chains In Houston Sued For Promoting Sex Trafficking

January 23, 2020

Three sex trafficking victims have sued three major hotel chains in parallel lawsuits, claiming that the companies exercised gross negligence about on-site prostitution at Houston branches despite corporate policies that promote social responsibility.

The lawsuits, filed by advocates in December, contend that Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc., Choice Hotels International, Inc., and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Inc. have not done enough to prevent sex trafficking at their franchises.

The three women were identified by police as trafficking victims at Houston hotels owned by these chains, lawyers said. Two were teenagers at the time; one was an adult.

“Traffickers have long capitalized on the hotel industry’s refusal to adopt companywide anti-trafficking policies, refusal to train staff on what to look for and how to respond, and failure to establish a safe and secure reporting mechanism, and they have exploited the seclusion and privacy of hotel rooms,” the lawsuits said.

Annie McAdams, a plaintiffs’ lawyer involved in the team effort, has built a reputation around tackling such cases, suing Facebook, Backpage, Salesforce and truck stops for their roles in promoting sex trafficking.

The recent cases accuse the companies of negligence and violations of federal and state laws that prohibit trafficking.

“What’s notable about these cases is it’s the first effort targeted at the parent hotels. The parent companies in state court have thrown up their hands and said we’re not responsible for anything that happens at these hotel locations,” said McAdams, whose firm is partnering with others on the cases. “But they make money on branding, licensing, advertising and franchise fees.”

To read the full story by Gabrielle Banks on The Houston Chronicle: Click Here

The DMC Network Partners With ECPAT-USA And Joins The Tourism Child-Protection Code Of Conduct

December 12, 2019

Founded in 1991, ECPAT-USA has been leading the charge to prevent child trafficking for more than 25 years, with a mission to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children around the world through awareness, advocacy, policy and legislation. ECPAT-USA partners with travel industry leaders to help companies implement programs and policies that comprehensively address human trafficking and child exploitation. The Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code) is a set of business principles that travel and tour companies can implement to help protect the exploitation and trafficking of children. The Code provides awareness, tool and support to ensure the business community can endorse and support ECPAT-USA’s message.

Speaking on the addition to the DMC Network’s company culture, Managing Director Dan Tavrytzky said “We are so pleased to have officially partnered with ECPAT-USA to join The Code. We are in the business of travel and hospitality and we know that our team are in the privileged position of being able to assist ECPAT-USA and the great work that they are doing in preventing child trafficking and exploitation. We have a moral obligation to ensure that we continue to look for ways to give back in this industry, and supporting this organization is one of those.”

To read the full story by Tatiana Rokou on Travel Daily News: Click Here

Anti-Trafficking Action Feels Like Joining A Wave

November 11, 2019

I have been enthralled to read the articles about sisters throughout the world who are on the frontlines of fighting against human trafficking, and rescuing the victims. One of the articles particularly struck me. I think it was a sister from Nigeria who said something along the lines of, “Do not think of your efforts to be as a drop in the ocean but that we are an ocean of many drops.” This led me to think of my own journey of trying to stop the evil effects of human trafficking and how often I felt I was only a drop in the ocean, especially since I am getting on in years!

From the Talitha Kum website — its section on Nigeria — I read that one of our own sisters, Blandina Ryan of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, helped bring about awareness of this erosion of the human dignity of Nigerian women, through the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious. In 1999, while working in Nigeria, I first heard about Sister Blandina working in collaboration with other women religious in Italy; they met trafficked Nigerian women and restored them to their families. I knew she risked her life and was very proud of her.

Upon my return to the United States in 2002, I found some ways to help. In a circular letter from the Christian Brothers Investment Services, Julie Tanner suggested leaving a copy of the letter at hotel and motel desks for the managers, asking them to train their staff to look out for human trafficking. After several years of this I was delighted to hear from ECPAT (formerly End Child Prostitution And Trafficking) that most of the hotels had complied with this code; now it was time to thank them for doing so.

My next project was to ask if I could use the same sort of letter to write airlines, to ask them to sign the code to protect children from human trafficking; I received help from ECPAT’s Michelle Guelbart. Delta Airlines had already signed the code, so I wrote to the CEO of American Airlines to do the same — and also asked him to train his flight attendants to watch for human trafficking on its flights.

I heard nothing, but a year later, my sister traveled with American Airlines and sat next to a woman who told her she was the flight attendant in charge of training the American Airlines flight attendants. I thanked God for his providence because if my sister had not told me this story I would have given up hope. I have since learned that many sisters have been working on alerting airlines to the tragedy in human trafficking through the efforts of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, or USCSAHT.

Recently I heard about another sister with U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, who used to “corner” the flight attendants on every flight she took, to talk to them about how to detect human trafficking. There was a recent story about how airline staff in the Philippines detected a woman trying to smuggle a six day old baby out of the country in a sleeve sling. The baby was rescued.

Not knowing about this yet, my next move was to write to the CEO of American Airlines to congratulate him for training the flight attendants; before asking him to sign the code I checked the ECPAT website and found that American Airlines had signed the code a few months before. Overjoyed, I thanked God again.

I was encouraged to continue when I remembered something about the woman at the well from a book by Blessed Dom Columba Marmion. He said that all she had was a glimmer of goodwill, and Jesus used that glimmer to reveal himself to her and send her forth as his missionary.

 

To read the full story by Margaret Anne Meyer on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

Once Sold Into Prostitution, These Girls Became Lawyers To Bring Justice To Others Like Them

October 7, 2019

Survivors of the crime of Commercial Exploitation of Children (CEC) are today aiming to become top-notch lawyers. They have different stories. Some were child brides sold into prostitution by their husbands, some were sent away by their families as domestic helps into unknown houses.

But they all seem to have one thing in common, the one thing that pushes them to aim for the best.

They want justice.

They want to study law to become public prosecutors to stop crimes against our girls. They are backed by the School for Justice. This is no ordinary school. They’ve collaborated with the top law colleges in the country. I spoke over the phone with their incredible and candid Francis Gracias, the CEO of Free a Girl Movement India.

How distressful is the picture of the Commercial Exploitation of Children in India?

Francis Gracias: There’s this study by ECPAT which was conducted in 2014 that tells us how 1.2 million children are the yearly survivors of this crime in South Asia. And the strangest thing is that the number is increasing year after year! But there’s only a fractional number that gets reported. In 2014, there were 3345 cases reported out of which only 384 went to court. Of the 384, there is a minuscule 10%-14% conviction rate. Would you believe that?

There’s no fear of this crime. When this negligible punishment is doled out, impunity develops around the crime. Had there been more cases and convictions, there would’ve been more distress in the criminals. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist currently.

When it comes to convictions, enforcement of the law is the problem. Laws like the POCSO, ITPA are in place, but their implementation is not good. Sometimes it is due to the lack of will of the police, sometimes it is the genuine lack of resources.

Can you explain it with an example?

Francis Gracias: There are these specialized units that are supposed to be deployed in each district called Anti-Human-Trafficking Units. On paper, they are supposed to be cracking down on Human Trafficking – but they are not funded or well-equipped. To further reduce their specialty, they are given regular cases, too. In many districts, they aren’t deployed at all!

Thankfully, they do exist in major urban centers, but there, they have to deal with political pressure.

Infrastructure dedicated to CEC is in very bad shape. There is an immense lack of resources, a backlog of pending cases, overburdened authorities and a lack of specialized courts.

Did you have to face risks and threats as you challenge this massive trafficking and prostitution mafia?

Francis Gracias: In my early days, before I founded the School of Justice, I did. Especially when I was involved in the ground investigation, when I visited the Red Light areas I ruffled a lot of feathers. I had to act as a whistleblower against their owners and I got into some trouble.

But I, sort of, was aware of the consequences of what I was doing. I knew that usually when I was intimidated, it was an empty threat. They couldn’t attack men, they could only try and scare me. And that wasn’t going to work.

Thankfully, since we’ve founded the School of Justice, I’ve never faced any threats. But, I am sure as we enroll more girls and make a lot of noise; we’re going to get into all sorts of troubles.

The stories of the survivors are just heartbreaking. Tell us about the trauma the girls are going through and how they are dealing with it?

 

To read the full story by Keshav Khanna on IndianWomenBlog.org: Click Here

Hotel Industry Unites Around Nationawide Day Of Action To Fight Human Trafficking

September 30, 2019

WASHINGTON – As part of the hotel industry’s ongoing commitment to combat human trafficking, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) launched a public service announcement (PSA) raising awareness about the No Room for Trafficking Campaign, which unites the industry around a single, comprehensive approach to fight human trafficking.

The launch of the PSA also marks the No Room for Trafficking Day of Action, where hoteliers across the country are uniting and taking action by hosting training sessions for employees, raising awareness on their properties and pledging their commitment to the No Room for Trafficking Action Plan. The PSA is available to view online at AHLA’s website and will be included as part of the #NoRoom social media campaign.

“In the fight against human trafficking, the hotel industry is united in our commitment to being part of the solution,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA President & CEO. “By taking action to provide human trafficking awareness training for our employees and the sharing of hotel industry best practices, we hope to serve as an example for other industries, while finding new opportunities to partner across the tourism sector and those joining us in this important fight.”

Hoteliers play an important role in combating trafficking through raising awareness, improved coordination with law enforcement and ongoing workforce education and awareness.  Already each year, tens of thousands of hotel employees are trained on how to identify and act to stop instances of human trafficking.  With this campaign and day of action, AHLA builds on the industry’s record by convening the entire sector with the goal of training every hotel worker.

AHLA kicked off the day of action in Washington, D.C. by partnering with ECPAT-USA to host a human trafficking prevention training session for local hotel employees at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

 

To read the full story by Vicky Karantzavelou on Travel Daily News: Click Here

Hotel Industry Unites On New Campaign To Fight Human Trafficking

July 22, 2019

WASHINGTON – The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) launched a new national campaign to unite the industry around a single, comprehensive approach to fight human trafficking. The No Room for Trafficking campaign builds on the hotel industry’s long-standing legacy and commitment to combat human trafficking. Already each year, thousands of hotel employees are trained. With this campaign, AHLA builds on the industry’s record by convening the entire industry with the goal of training every hotel worker.

“No Room for Trafficking sends a loud and clear message: we will not tolerate human trafficking in the hotel industry,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “Thanks to our dedicated associates, our industry already has a strong record of combatting trafficking and supporting survivors. There is still much more to do, and our commitment to training and education will continue to make a difference.”

The hotel industry has long recognized the critical role it plays in ending the scourge of human trafficking, and through innovative techniques and employee training has played an instrumental role in identifying, reporting and stopping instances of human trafficking.

AHLA kicked-off the campaign at a strategic roundtable today bringing together industry leaders, government partners, law enforcement and national trafficking prevention partners to underscore the industry’s efforts around human trafficking.

Since trafficking networks often rely on legitimate businesses – many in the tourism supply chain – to sustain their illicit and illegal operations, hoteliers are uniquely positioned to identify and disrupt this terrible practice. Hoteliers can play an important role in combatting trafficking through raising awareness, improved coordination with law enforcement, and ongoing workforce training.

The No Room for Trafficking campaign outlines four core pillars to bring the hotel industry together and build upon current efforts:

  • Elevate issue awareness through increased education, resources and training for all hotel employees;
  • Assess protocols, procedures, and technologies to confirm training effectiveness and employee vigilance;
  • Educate by developing strategic intervention and disruption strategies to identify and report suspected trafficking situations; and
  • Support by furthering partnerships with leading national human trafficking and law enforcement organizations to establish industry standards and support survivors.

As part of the campaign, AHLA is providing new resources and materials for members, including the following:

  • Action Plan for hoteliers to implement that includes training staff on what to look for and how to respond; displaying human trafficking indicator signage; establishing a companywide policy; ongoing coordination with law enforcement; and sharing success stories and best practices.  
  • Companywide anti-trafficking policy template for members who may not already have a policy in place that incorporates key elements and recommendations from AHLA partners End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) and Polaris.
  • Strategic partnerships with leading national prevention partners including ECPAT-USA, Polaris, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), SafeHouse Project, the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and many others.
  • Member Resource Guide that provides information on ways to implement the AHLA action plan, including where to access employee training and partner resources, downloadable signage, strategies to connect with law enforcement, ways to report instances of trafficking and how hotels can support survivors.

In addition, AHLA in partnership with the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), will host a series of regional events throughout the year leading up to Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, to raise public awareness and facilitate collaboration with policymakers, law enforcement and hoteliers on best practices for policies, procedures and training  to enhance our human trafficking prevention efforts.

 

To read the full story by Vicky Karantzavelou on Travel Daily News: Click Here