Haiti; haven for Human Trafficking and illegal adoptions!

 

Poverty, endemic corruption, and lawlessness are the norm in what is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The void of authority has made Haiti a key transit point for drugs going to the United States, and, to a lesser extent, Europe, as well as a haven for myriad other criminal activities including human smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal adoptions.

Things have gotten worse since the earthquake in January 2010, which left entire cities in rubble, the country’s little infrastructure in tatters, and over 230,000 dead.

What was already a difficult place to live has also become a nearly impossible place to police. To cite one example, nearly 6,000 prisoners escaped from a maximum security prison following the quake, only eight per cent of whom have been recaptured

The UN mission adds that it’s worried about security forces’ connections to organized crime and noted that the murder rate “did not stop going up” in 2009 to 2010, according to EFE’s account, without specifying by how much or where homicides were increasing.

Amidst the chaos are thousands of children. The United States Department of State estimates that close to half a million children were displaced by the quake, adding to a culture of people inured to the death and destruction around them.

The State Department qualifies Haiti as a “special case” in matters of human trafficking, the highest alarm bell it can sound. And in its 2010 report on human trafficking, it says most of those trafficked are “restaveks,” a term used for domestic child servants who form part of an extended family.

“Restaveks are treated differently from other non-biological children living in households,” the State Department says. “In addition to involuntary servitude, restaveks are particularly vulnerable to beatings, sexual assaults and other abuses by family members in the homes in which they are residing.”

Haiti has created a special Brigade for the Protection of Minors, but this has done little to curb trafficking since the brigade does not pursue forced labour or forced prostitution cases because there is no existing law against these activities, the State Department adds. It noted an increase in the number of restaveks found in shelters since the quake.

The UN’s report may indicate that other children are also being bought and sold in large numbers on the black market, as desperate, entrepreneurial parents seek to lower their burden. Much of this market, it appears, is in the Dominican Republic, which shares the Hispaniola Island with Haiti.

Haitians are trafficked to work on Dominican sugar plantations, in brothels and other forced servitude, the State Department says.

Human Trafficking-Sex Trafficking Mexico!

Mexicos' Human Trafficking Routes

Human trafficking, and especially sex trafficking, in Mexico has attracted a significant amount of attention in recent years, as the security crackdown there has forced drug trafficking organizations to broaden their criminal portfolios. As a result, the country’s cartels are becoming increasingly involved in human trafficking and sexual exploitation, which is made easier by a lack of strong penalties for these crimes. As congresswoman Rosi Orozco told the Washington Post recently, “If narcotics traffickers are caught they go to high-security prisons, but with the trafficking of women, they have found absolute impunity.”

But sex trafficking is not simply a problem in Mexico. As the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report notes, the majority of human trafficking victims worldwide become products of commercial sexual exploitation, and the phenomenon is widespread throughout the western hemisphere. In fact, a 2010 report by Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls found that Mexico ranked fifth in terms of the estimated number of trafficking victims in Latin America, putting the country below the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Brazil and Argentina.

In Mexico, as in much of Central America, sex trafficking is closely linked not only with organized crime but also with the migrant smuggling trade. Because of the region’s close proximity to the United States, the flow of migrants ensures a ready supply of new recruits. The economic and legal vulnerability of their situations makes them even easier targets.

Sex trafficking is not just a purely economic phenomenon, however. Some victims are drawn into the trade due to more complex reasons, and then are psychologically conditioned into staying. As InSight Crime has documented, such is the case in Honduras, where young women are increasingly falling prey to false “modeling agencies” which serve as fronts for sex trafficking rings. Seeing an opportunity to fulfill aspirations of fame, young women contact the organizations, when they are often told to arrange an in-person “audition,” alone. From there, a cycle of psychological and physical abuse begins, and these women are often kidnapped or tricked into working in brothels in other Central American countries.

The Mexican Attorney General’s office’s Special Prosecutor for Violent Crimes against Women has investigated 1,500 cases of missing women since 2008, many of whom are thought to have been forced into prostitution.

Mexico’s federal government passed a law against human trafficking in 2007 and the issue is of concern to regional governments as well. In July, the south-central state of Hidalgo passed a law to punish anyone who promotes or facilitates prostitution, including newspaper publishers, with up to 18 years in jail.

Elsewhere in Central America, human trafficking is more closely associated with tourism, especially “sex tourism,” whereby individuals (generally wealthy North American or European men) travel to a country with the explicit purpose of purchasing sex, frequently with minors. This trend is particularly visible in Costa Rica, which is a major tourist destination. Although efforts have been made to clamp down on this sex trade, and break. its ties with the conventional tourist industry, they have generally been unsuccessful. In 2004 the country made headlines for mandating that employees in the tourist industry be made to accept a new “code of conduct” which discourages them from assisting foreigners in finding sex. However, the strong economic incentives offered by the business made this relatively unsuccessful.

Thailand Must Show Clear Leadership, on Human Trafficking!

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.
Image via Wikipedia

I would hope that this becomes a new project for the newly elected Prime Minister of Thailand. PM Yingluk Shinawatra, to care about your people is to gain respect, love and a sense of accomplishment. Remember the love of your people is based upon what you can do to help them. The rich and the elite will fade away, but the common people will always remain.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, urged the Government of Thailand to “do more to combat human trafficking effectively and protect the rights of migrant workers who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labour.”

Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country,” said the UN expert at the end of her 12-day mission to Thailand from 8 to 19 August 2011.

“The trend of trafficking for forced labor is growing in scale in the agricultural, construction and fishing industries,” said Ms. Ezeilo. She also found that “internal trafficking in children is rampant,” particularly highlighting the vulnerability of migrant, stateless and refugee children, including those belonging to hill tribes, to trafficking and exploitation.

While commending the enactment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008 in line with relevant international standards, the Special Rapporteur warned that the implementation and enforcement of the law remains “weak and fragmented”,often hampered by the deep-rooted corruption, especially among low-cadre law enforcement officers at provincial and local levels.

Observing the vulnerabilities of migrant workers and their families to all forms of human trafficking, the UN expert pointed out that “root causes of trafficking, particularly demands for cheap and exploitative labor provided by migrant workers, are not being effectively addressed.”

The Special Rapporteur also expressed concerns about the frequent misidentification of trafficked persons as irregular migrants subject to arrest, detention and deportation, as well as long stays at shelters by victims of trafficking, turning the shelters into “detention centers and a vehicle for violations of human rights, especially the right to freedom of movement and to earn an income and live a decent life.”

Ms. Ezeilo urged the Thai Government to promote zero tolerance to corruption and to scale up capacity building trainings for all actors, especially the law enforcement officers, immigration officials and labor inspectors. As a prevention measure, she called on the Government to review its labor and immigration laws and to increase safe migration options in order to eliminate the vulnerabilities of migrants to trafficking.

Nigeria Using Juju to Enslave!

Juju or Ju-Ju is a word of either West African or French origin used previously by Europeans to describe the traditional West African religion. The term Juju refers to the use of such objects and other things to perform a form of “witchcraft.”

JuJu Charm!

“An object of any kind superstitiously venerated by West African native tribes, and used as a charm, amulet, or means of protection; a fetish. Also the supernatural or magical power attributed to such objects, or the system of observances connected therewith; also a ban or interdiction effected by means of such an object (corresponding to the Polynesian taboo).”

The term juju, and the practices associated with it, travelled to the Americas from West Africa with the influx of slaves and still survives in some areas, particularly among the various groups of Maroons, who have tended to preserve their African traditions

Isoke Aikpitanyi, a former victim of trafficking and now the main reference point for Nigerian women in Italy, knows how this business is managed in Caserta’s area. As she walks in Castel Volturno’s historic centre, she explains: “Today in Italy there are almost 10,000 madams, each one in control of an average of two or three girls.”

Madams are the key, she explains. They are the main actors in this exploitation. They force girls into prostitution and ask for money to repay the debt. They work with “brothers”, men who are in charge of physically trafficking the “babies”, as girls forced into prostitution are called.

But Nigerian human trafficking is often associated with drug smuggling and a distorted use of religious tradition.

The women and girls are often forced to undergo a Juju oath-swearing ritual that commits them to repaying the money they owe to their smugglers on pain of death or insanity. “The Juju, the voodoo rite, it’s not a bad practice. It was used to bring justice, but they ruined everything,” says Isoke with anger. “They don’t care how they make their money as far as they make it. They use Juju to enslave.”

Even in this hell, there are people who try not to lose hope. Sister Antonia, a Nigerian nun of the Sacred Heart of Jesus order, manages a shelter, the Casa Santa Maria dell’Accoglienza, launched in 2000 in the Fernandes centre by the Capua-based Caritas. Here, more than 70 women have found a place to stay and 10 children have been born. “We were called by the bishop of Capua, Mons. Bruno Schettino, to promote these girls’ integration. They are all former prostitutes. If they want to change their lives, they know they’ll always find a place here,” Sister Antonia says.

The women can stay for between six months and a year, a period when they dedicate their time to education and “to gain[ing] their dignity back,” explains Sister Antonia. The nuns give the girls the opportunity to write down their stories and explain what happened and who forced them into prostitution.  “We try to make them understand that Juju won’t have any effect on them,” she says.

But we met girls who still work on the streets and believe in the agreements they made. Some of them have to repay debts of up to $58,000 and are still terrified of the powerful consequences of Juju on their families and themselves.

The Nigerian Connection II, Juliana Ruhfus follows the trail from Italy back to Benin City in Nigeria, from where women, desperately seeking an escape from grinding poverty, are trafficked to Europe.

To pay for their travel, many of them incur massive debts to organised crime gangs in the false belief that a lucrative regular job awaits them at the other end. Often they are forced to undergo a Juju oath-swearing ritual that commits them to repaying the money on pain of death or insanity.

When they arrive in Europe, they discover the only way they can do this is by agreeing to work in the sex trade. A Juju priest who is involved in the trade justifies the use of ritual practices on the grounds that he is offering a service to the community.

But as Juliana discovers, it is not just traditional African religions in West Africa that contribute to this trade on bonded labour. Evangelical Christian pastors have been involved too.