Pastor David Brown and Julie Brown of the French Protestant Church have worked tirelessly for the past three and a half years, often at great personal risk, to assist sub-Saharan trafficking victims and clandestine migrants in Morocco. The Browns see 150-500 new migrant cases each month in Casablanca and Rabat, 25 percent of which are women, the majority of whom are believed to be trafficking victims who were forced into prostitution. Upon initial contact, the Browns assess the migrants’ cases and develop a plan of assistance which can include money, emergency shelter, food, clothing, counseling, start-up assistance for micro-enterprises, and medical help. Mrs. Brown, a certified nurse, examines each new arrival and offers free medical assistance to anyone who arrives at the church. The Browns’ church is one of the few places where trafficking victims can turn for help in Morocco, since the government does not offer assistance to such victims.
Major D. Tumenbayar, a 10-year police veteran with the rank of Major, has worked at a local police station in Zamyn Uud, on Mongolia’s southern border with China, for five years. Major Tumenbayar, Superior Officer of the Criminal Division, is considered by a leading anti-trafficking NGO, the Mongolian Gender Equality Center (MGEC), to be a lynchpin in the battle against human trafficking in Zamyn Uud—a major transit point for trafficking victims on their way to China. According to MGEC, he has helped repatriate 26 Mongolian trafficking victims, ranging from 16 to 38 years old. He has developed a reputation as a committed professional by local anti-trafficking activists, in large part because he has gone to exceptional lengths to protect victims who are at risk of reprisals. He has also been instrumental in changing societal attitudes about trafficking at the community level.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a reporter with an independent Ghanaian newspaper, was responsible for breaking two major trafficking rings in Accra during this reporting period. He worked undercover for eight months, exposing the ring’s methods of transportation and the identities of immigration officials who were accepting bribes in return for overlooking fake visas and passports. Mr. Anas made recordings of his interactions, which allowed him to collect evidence that could be used by the police to prosecute the traffickers who were sending girls to Europe for prostitution. As a result of his undercover investigation, and his collaboration with law enforcement, NGOs and other journalists, 17 Nigerian trafficking victims were rescued. Following this success, Anas posed as a janitor in a brothel where he collected evidence of a second ring trafficking children for prostitution. His efforts guided police in planning and executing a raid to rescue minors prostituted in the brothel. His exemplary courage and innovation were instrumental in disrupting two rings that profited from severe forms of human trafficking.
Nirmala Bonat is an Indonesian domestic worker who has relentlessly pursued justice in Malaysian courts for nearly four years since being brutally beaten and burned with an iron, for which her Malaysian employer faces criminal charges. Despite having to stay in Kuala Lumpur sheltered by the Indonesian embassy to continue with court proceedings, and being humiliated in court on many occasions, she has stood her ground, refusing to return home and give up her case. In doing so, she has become an inspiration for abused trafficking victims worldwide seeking to claim their rights. A young 19-year-old woman when she arrived in Malaysia four years ago, her courage is all the more remarkable given her seemingly powerless position in society.
Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, a longtime advocate against trafficking, and former political prisoner, continues to pave the road for NGO and government collaboration on anti-trafficking efforts in the Philippines and around the world. As the President and executive Director of the Visayan Forum Foundation, Ms. Flores-Oebanda works for the welfare of marginalized migrants. Seventeen years after she founded the organization to strengthen the rights of migrant women and children from poor areas, Ms. Flores-Oebanda manages five halfway houses and four domestic centers, and will open three new halfway houses in 2008. Since 2001, Visayan Forum has rescued and provided assistance to more than 32,000 victims and potential victims of trafficking, and has helped file 66 trafficking cases on behalf of 166 victims. Ms. Flores-Oebanda is also the recipient of Anti-Slavery International’s Anti- Slavery Award in 2005 and the Skoll Foundation Award for Social entrepreneurship in 2008.
Sompong Sakaew founded the Labor Rights Promotion Network (LPN) in 2006 to address discrimination against migrant workers in Thailand’s seafood processing center. Sompong and LPN were instrumental in a 2006 police raid of a Thai shrimp processing factory, which found 66 Burmese victims of forced labor in that factory. He also worked to highlight the plight of 60 surviving crew members from six fishing trawlers that returned to port after 39 crew members starved to death at sea. Sompong’s investigative work in these cases helped shape Thailand’s new anti-trafficking law of 2008, which criminalizes labor trafficking and strengthens penalties for violators. In addition to its labor rights advocacy work, LPN now provides schooling for the vulnerable children of migrant workers, as well as stateless children who are denied access to education.
Jean Claude Mbvoumin founded and presently runs the Association Culture Foot Solidaire (CFS or Soccer Culture Solidarity Association), which raises awareness about the fraudulent international recruitment of young soccer players from Africa. As a former soccer player recruited from Cameroon to play in France, Mr. Mbvoumin educates European leaders about the realities facing many child players recruited to Europe with false promises of success and riches. Often these African boys are paid a fraction of what was promised, have no legal immigration status, and are abandoned to the streets after they fail to meet recruiters’ expectations. In 2007, CFS created a task force that brought together NGOs and government officials to discuss solutions for combating this situation, which leaves young African children potentially vulnerable to various forms of trafficking. Under Mr. Mbvoumin’s leadership, CFS has also worked with the Federation of International Soccer Associations (FIFA) to change recruiting laws to better protect minors. Mr. Mbvoumin’s innovative efforts have increased international awareness of this growing problem.
Emma Skjonsby Manousaridis is the director of the faith-based NGO New Life (Nea Zoi), affiliated with International Teams. She and her dedicated staff and volunteers regularly visit bars, brothels, and hotels to assist trafficking victims in Athens. Armed with nothing more than thermoses of hot tea, information about how to get help, and a kind word, Emma and her team have been known to disarm madams and brothel guards to gain access to young women, mostly from Eastern Europe and Nigeria. Over the past nine years, Emma and her team have exhibited tremendous perseverance and have worked collaboratively with key NGO partners, the U.S. embassy, the government of Greece, and law enforcement to empower victims and influence the community. She and her staff, despite frequent threats of violence, remain unflinching in their efforts.
Boubacar Ould Messaoud is one of the founders of the NGO SOS Esclaves (SOS Slaves), the only NGO in Mauritania specifically focused on eradicating modern-day slavery. In years past, he has been harassed and imprisoned by the authorities for his anti-slavery activism, thereby stifling debate on the issue. In August 2007, Mr. Messauod’s NGO led the way in pushing for a new anti-slavery law, which criminalized slavery for the first time. While slavery was officially abolished in 1981, hundreds of thousands are still trapped in bonded labor. Mr. Messaoud’s leadership was instrumental in the law’s passage which marks the first time in Mauritania’s history that slaveholders can be criminally sanctioned. He has remained a faithful advocate for proper implementation mechanisms to ensure the law’s effectiveness.
Marietta Dias, an Indian retiree and naturalized Bahraini citizen with no formal training in social work or counseling, works tirelessly through her NGO the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) to care for migrant laborers from any country. MWPS maintains a small shelter for trafficking victims, and works hard to influence the press to publish victims’ stories and raise awareness of their plight. They assist laborers in court, facilitate mediation between workers and their sponsors, and educate workers about their rights in Bahrain. They also work with employers to improve working conditions for migrant laborers. Marietta Dias heads MWPS’s action committee and functions as the face of their efforts, coordinating her work with embassies, government agencies, and welfare groups to seek justice or repatriation for workers. Between August 1, 2007 and February 1, 2008, the MWPS action committee assisted many of the almost 60,000 workers who took advantage of the government’s amnesty by legitimizing their presence or returning home. She has also worked to increase international awareness of Bahrain’s migrant labor force.
Guy Jacobson and Adi Ezroni Film-makers guy Jacobson and Adi Ezroni risked their lives and overcame death threats to produce one of the best researched narrative films on child sex tourism. Ezroni, an acclaimed Israeli actress, and Jacobson, an attorney and investment banker, set aside their business careers and devoted themselves to highlighting child sex tourism after Jacobson found himself solicited by children under the age of 7 in Cambodia. The film “Holly” set in Asia and its powerful compendium documentaries are being used as a tool for raising public awareness at screenings across the United States and around the world, and are routinely accompanied by expert discussions and used as a vehicle to raise funds for anti-trafficking NGOs. The film has not only received critical acclaim at worldwide film festivals, but also received great praise by trafficking experts when it was screened at the UN GIFT Forum in February 2008. The dynamic twosome has also founded The RedLight Children Campaign, designed to motivate individuals across the globe to urge their governments to do more to combat human trafficking.
Bhim Lama, Ganesh Shrestha, and Kumar Giri of the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation Rescue Team have liberated more than 280 Nepali girls from lives of misery in Indian circuses since 2004. Amidst threats of beatings and intimidation, they have made 40 rescue missions into Indian circuses. In Nepal, they have apprehended 6 agents who trafficked the girls, leading to the prosecution of some of these agents and their serving terms of up to 20 years in jail.