Local Solutions to a Global Problem: Supporting Communities in the Fight Against Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a global phenomenon to which no country is immune. Victims of modern slavery are exploited in every region of the world, compelled into service for labor or commercial sex in the real world of industry and on the pages of the internet. The enormity of the problem necessitates the development of a unified, comprehensive response from world leaders to collectively address a crime that defies all borders.
Despite its global reach, human trafficking takes place locally—in a favorite nail salon or restaurant; in a neighborhood home or popular hotel; on a city street or rural farm. Local communities face the realities and consequences of modern slavery, including weakened rule of law, strained public health systems, and decreased economic development, while traffickers profit from the exploitation of others.
International recognition of the devastating effects of human trafficking grows each year. As of the date of this report, governments of more than 170 countries have made public commitments to its eradication, promising punishment for traffickers, care for victims, and action to prevent this crime. The importance of these commitments cannot be overstated.
Yet, the grinding reality of fighting modern slavery takes place not on world stages but through the dedicated actions of individuals to meaningfully implement such commitments—in the slow and often tedious process of building a strong case against a trafficker; the long-term and case-specific provision of comprehensive care for victims; the consistent efforts of civil society partners to strategically raise awareness about human trafficking; and the development of well-planned and evidence-driven preventive policies.
National governments cannot do these things alone. Their commitments to this issue are more effectively realized in partnership with the communities that face it, including local authorities, NGOs and advocates, and individual community members who are often the eyes, ears, and hearts of the places they call home. After all, traffickers exploit the political, social, economic, and cultural contours of local communities, often in ways that would be hard to address fully from a distance. By supporting and empowering these communities, national governments can truly begin to address the individual trafficking cases that collectively make up the larger global issue.
This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report highlights some of the elements of an effective community-based approach, the challenges in implementing such initiatives, and the opportunities national governments have to facilitate coordination, cooperation, and responsibility-sharing with and between local governments and communities.
Human Trafficking Defined
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as amended (TVPA), defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:
- sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
- the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another for the crime to fall within this definition.
Using the Local Context to Build the Bigger Picture
The nature of human trafficking—multifaceted, complex, and clandestine—poses significant challenges for the development of effective anti-trafficking policies. The root causes of the crime are deeper than any one of its facets and relate to larger systemic conditions such as poverty, forced migration, racism, and discrimination, among many others. Understanding human trafficking in its local context is critical to developing a meaningful response.
Traffickers, perhaps instinctively, know this well. Although human trafficking is often associated with organized crime, and in some cases is facilitated by sophisticated criminal syndicates, in many others it is driven by loose networks, families, or individuals operating independently. Using their first-hand knowledge of local systems, behaviors, social structures, and individual interactions, traffickers exploit vulnerabilities, often betraying the trust of their communities.
Traffickers may, for example, prey on the hopes and dreams of parents searching for a way to give their children access to a good education; recognize a vulnerable community’s fear of engaging law enforcement officials with a reputation for corruption; or rely on bias and discrimination to keep victims hidden in plain sight. Because of this, the dynamics that facilitate human trafficking will be unique in almost every instance and each jurisdiction will face its own challenges related to culture, environment, resources, and knowledge.
National governments have an opportunity to build stronger, more tailored anti-trafficking strategies through close coordination with sub-national governments and communities, including civil society organizations, survivors, and others working on the ground. Without shifting their responsibility, national governments can enable local authorities to take action to assess the needs of their communities and develop responses that build on existing capacity, capitalize on the expertise of a wide range of actors, and identify and distribute underutilized resources.
Addressing human trafficking requires a dynamic policy framework based on the mutually reinforcing pillars of prosecution, protection, prevention, and partnership. Combining international and national resources with local knowledge and energy can help all stakeholders create a more comprehensive and focused strategy with a broader reach. National governments should do all they can to pave the way for efforts on the ground, starting with robust anti-trafficking laws that criminalize all forms of human trafficking, tangible support for victim protection, and robust coordination with and resources for the various stakeholders required to combat and prevent this crime.
The following pages seek to encourage individuals and communities to be proactive in addressing human trafficking, while also highlighting several important activities national governments can take to support local efforts. These lists are not exhaustive—there is always more a government can do.
Building Partnerships and Creating Cooperation
In the fight against human trafficking, multi-stakeholder partnerships are critical. They must exist vertically between national, regional, and local governments, and horizontally between law enforcement, service providers, and other key actors within and across communities.
At every level, inherent limitations and lack of resources necessitate creativity, collaboration, and help from key partners to develop protocols and processes that punish offenders while caring for victims. Law enforcement, for example, can arrest and prosecute traffickers, but cannot do so well without working in tandem with care providers who offer comprehensive support services to victims. Governments rely on the public to report suspicious activities, and therefore are well-served by providing education and resources to help the public understand indicators of human trafficking. Victims need the support of a variety of actors, while anti-trafficking stakeholders benefit from the input and advice of survivors. Local leaders are well-situated to understand the needs of their communities and how best to implement and adapt national policies to the local level, but necessarily rely on their national governments for funding, expertise, and training.
Thus, to address and prevent human trafficking and care for victims effectively, the expertise, resources, and time of a wide range of stakeholders are necessary. This includes both government and nongovernment entities, each with distinct mandates and roles, which may create competing priorities and conflicting interests that are challenging to coordinate. Building and strengthening a collaborative approach across multidisciplinary perspectives can help communities foster trust between relevant actors and develop systems to provide comprehensive care to victims and robust law enforcement action against traffickers.
Importantly, effective responses to human trafficking require involvement of survivors as key stakeholders. Survivors should be included in the discussion, development, and implementation of anti-trafficking policies or protocols and not be asked to relate—and thereby re-live—the stories of the exploitation they experienced. According to the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, “[s]urvivors play uniquely important roles in combating human trafficking in the U.S. and around the world. As subject matter experts, they provide essential tools that investigators, prosecutors, and communities need to combat and prevent human trafficking.” Thus, wherever possible, survivors should be included in community groups dedicated to combating human trafficking and should be compensated for their expertise and time.
Task forces are an effective means of anti-trafficking coordination, as they facilitate partnerships between local law enforcement agencies, service providers, and sub-national and national regulatory authorities.
For example, in 2017 the Governor of Edo State in Nigeria declared human trafficking to be one of his top priorities and created the Edo State Task Force to combat trafficking in persons. It is made up of participants from NGOs, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Nigeria Immigration Services, Benin City Police Commissioner, Edo State Director of State Security Services, IOM Nigeria, and Edo State government executives, including the Attorney General, the Commissioner for Youth, and the Commissioner for Local Governments, among many others. The task force has arrested at least 10 potential traffickers and provided shelter and services to Nigerian victims repatriated from Libya, among other activities.
In Nepal, the National Committee for Controlling Human Trafficking (NCCHT) oversees nationwide efforts, with support from both district- and local- level committees. The NCCHT routinely meets with and trains members of the 75 district-level committees funded by the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare to support awareness campaigns, meeting expenses, emergency victim services, and the local committees. Furthermore, they collaborate to implement and report on efforts in line with the government’s 2012-2022 national action plan. As of January 2018, there were 732 local committees in operation, overseeing local efforts and identifying and screening for trafficking within their communities. For example, in April 2017, the vigilance team of the local committee in Maadi Municipality, Chitwan District intercepted at the Indian border a 17-year-old girl who had been recruited with promises of education. The vigilance team then reunited the girl with her family, and she is now continuing her education in Nepal. The local committee filed a case against the trafficker at the Chitwan District Court, which sentenced the trafficker to 10 years imprisonment.
In the city of Houston in the United States, the Houston Area Council on Human Trafficking has doubled in size since its formation in 2012 and includes 42 member organizations that are direct service providers, prevention and advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies, and private funders. The task force is organized into four sub-groups, each focusing on one of the “3Ps”—prosecution, protection, and prevention—and a fourth P for partnerships. The task force is helping to implement the city’s 91-point strategic plan to combat human trafficking.
In the most basic sense, a task force creates a setting for information-sharing on the roles and resources of anti-trafficking stakeholders in the community. It is also a place to share knowledge about human trafficking from different perspectives so that all participants have a similar baseline understanding of its many forms, as well as of the elements that make certain populations vulnerable to the crime. As the task force matures, it can be a place where participants decide how best to approach the variety of trafficking cases that may arise, whether they involve forced labor or sex trafficking, minors or adults, or foreign nationals or citizens, among other factors.
An inclusive task force can be a unified voice that signals to the community the prioritization of human trafficking and can be a starting point for gathering and consolidating information about local instances of human trafficking and current resources for victims. The purpose of such a group is to create a consistent and coordinated response to human trafficking that is tailored to the community, protects the rights of victims, and holds perpetrators accountable. Moreover, a task force can serve as an effective communication channel between sub- and national-level authorities, providing the foundation for targeted and effective national efforts and an accurate understanding of community needs.
To facilitate coordination, national governments can:
- Encourage and support the establishment of human trafficking task forces in communities to bring together law enforcement, care providers, and others, and enhance access to human trafficking experts.
- Provide access to experts to help build local capacity and allocate resources, whether financial or in-kind, over a sustained period and in response to local needs to support local efforts across the “3Ps.”
- Encourage the sharing of successes and challenges across jurisdictions and ensure budget and policy processes incentivize adaptation rather than the status quo.
- Empower and encourage sub-national authorities to collaborate with NGOs to develop policies and protocols, as well as formal structures like human trafficking task forces.
- Where national committees or standing NGO working groups exist, engage a broad array of stakeholders in national anti-trafficking efforts.
Conducting Assessments to Understand the Problem
Communities interested in starting or improving on efforts to confront human trafficking may benefit first from assessing the problem. For example, communities may find value in gaining a better understanding of potentially vulnerable communities, the range of services victims may need, and the current resources available to address those needs. Likewise, assessing the general level of understanding on trafficking-related issues by those likely to come into contact with victims, and the processes in place for victim care and law enforcement action can help set a baseline from which to drive continuous improvement.
In Haiti, a prominent NGO has developed a holistic model for community-based action to end the traditional practice of restavèk, a system in which poorer, often rural, parents send their children to live and work in the homes of urban families in exchange for room, board, and access to education—a practice that often leads to domestic servitude. The NGO conducted participatory research on the scale of the problem in selected areas and on the underlying socioeconomic factors that allow this type of human trafficking to flourish. Using this information, each community developed a community action plan to prevent restavèk and protect the children who may fall victim to it. The NGO also facilitated the creation of the network of adult survivors that has become a powerful mechanism both to raise awareness about human trafficking and to advocate for the involvement of survivors in decisions at the national, regional, and community levels.
In response to concerns about the condition of homeless children forced to beg, the Ministry of Justice in Georgia issued more than $20,000 to two NGOs with the goal of identifying and supporting the reintegration of “street children.” The NGOs identified 105 children living on the streets, learning they were mostly Georgian, Azeri, and Moldovan nationals. The research identified economic hardship, limited education, and “cultural matters” as factors making children more likely to be forced into begging activities, such as selling trinkets, begging for spare change, or engaging in physical work like the transportation of goods. Based on this research and pursuant to recommendations by the NGOs that conducted it, the Ministry of Justice awarded an additional $10,000 for an awareness-raising campaign. In addition, the Social Services Agency is responding to the NGOs’ recommendations by expanding its facilities in Batumi, which the research identified as a hotbed for “street children” activity during the summer months.
The input of experts who work directly with human trafficking victims is vital to a comprehensive assessment, but members of the broader community may also be able to provide valuable insight. Their understanding of the particular dynamics that may lead to trafficking and their ideas for combating it locally should be included in any discussion.
By gaining a better understanding of the current landscape of victim identification, service provision, and law enforcement action, communities can begin to build formalized processes that can help to ensure victims receive a full range of support services.
To assist with information-gathering, national governments can:
- Conduct assessments to understand trafficking at the national level and both encourage and support monitoring and routine reporting from local level stakeholders.
- Develop national and local diagnostic tools to help with the identification of at-risk populations.
- Support anti-trafficking efforts for populations that may fall outside of traditional national jurisdictions, such as tribal communities, migrants and refugees, and itinerant populations.
- Provide a national platform for information-sharing and data collection.
- Fund studies to better understand successful anti-trafficking community models.
Conducting Training and Raising Awareness on Victim Identification
While comprehensive structures must be in place to effectively combat human trafficking, the best laws and policies will be ineffective if those most likely to come in contact with victims do not know how to identify them or are not empowered to assist them.
Human trafficking is often described as a crime that is “hidden in plain sight” because victims may interact with others in the community but are unlikely to self-identify for many reasons, including fear of harm to themselves or their family members. For example, victims may come into contact with the criminal justice system, seek medical care, attend school or faith services, work in local businesses, or utilize public transportation. Any interaction with professionals or other individuals in these instances provides an opportunity for identification and assistance. Without training and awareness, however, those positioned to recognize the situation and help may not know the indicators of trafficking or the appropriate way to respond.
Once a community has identified vulnerable populations and the places they may be most likely to come into contact with professionals, this information can be used to target trainings.
Many victims of human trafficking are likely to come into contact with professionals such as law enforcement officers, health care providers, school administrators and teachers, prosecutors and judges, labor inspectors, transportation providers, and many others.
Studies have shown that the most effective community responses are those in which capacity for victim identification is increased at an institutional and systemic level. In doing so, a community safety net is widened and the burden of identification and care is shared across a spectrum of key actors.
For example, in the United States, as of January 2018, anyone seeking a new or renewed license through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is required to have a human trafficking education credit. This will include professionals in health care, education, social work, and others.
In Jordan, the Ministry of Social Development (MOSD) facilitated training for juvenile officers and shelter staff on trafficking issues, including how to identify victims of trafficking, services to provide to potential victims of trafficking, and the referral process. In addition to the MOSD, Jordan’s Anti-Trafficking Police Unit supported work on training materials for police and social development staff, to include materials on the protection of victims of trafficking during interviewing and investigation. Additionally, the Attorney General expressed support for enhancing the training of the trafficking-focused police and prosecutors in order to improve their use of victim-centered investigation techniques to identify, process, and refer potential victims of trafficking.
The Guyanese Ministerial Task Force on human trafficking held sensitization campaigns monthly throughout the summer of 2017, along with training workshops to frontline officers from the Guyana Police Force and social workers, medical personnel, and more recently, members of the media, on how to treat trafficking cases. The task force collaborated with the Guyana Press Association to train 23 members of the media on the unique differences between human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The training took place in June, and emphasized the importance of reporting cases with sensitivities, especially when those cases involved children.
In many cases, human trafficking is hidden by the appearance of regularity. In particular, adult victims often interact with others and may even engage in routine transactions in the course of their victimization, yet their compelled service may be imperceptible to the general observer. This is true for both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Traffickers rely on these conditions, which enable them to control victims even when they interact with others.
Community leaders can take action to increase general awareness by providing tools to the public to help them recognize the indicators of human trafficking, alert authorities to potential trafficking schemes, and empower vulnerable populations to protect themselves.
For example, in 2017, the broadcast company TEGNA rolled out an episodic series investigating sex trafficking of children in the United States and asked each of its 51 local stations to tailor the message to each community, pre-packaging videos, technical support, and research material to make it easier for stations to localize the story.
Community-based organizations such as faith communities, women’s groups, immigrant advocacy groups, youth development groups, labor organizations, or culturally and ethnically based organizations are also well-positioned to raise awareness among their members and to act as a bridge between service providers and those populations that may face challenges in receiving services due to language barriers, age, health issues, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other factors.
For example in Timor-Leste, a small country, most communities are tight-knit. To capitalize on this, an NGO in that country envisioned a community watch program focused on human trafficking. The NGO trains local citizens around the country to monitor their communities, particularly in areas where there is a lack of police or immigration officer presence. The monitors are recruited and vetted through local village councils. The training they receive helps them to identify potential trafficking victims. In 2016, they identified 37 cases that involved trafficking indicators and referred them to police. In 2017, they identified six cases. All of the data collected is shared directly with the Prime Minister’s office to assist with national statistics.
In Bolivia in the municipality of Tarija, the mayor’s office is implementing robust public awareness efforts, including sending 40 specialists to launch prevention efforts in 115 schools in the municipality. In total, they have reached 10,000 students, 1,200 teachers, and 5,000 parents. In addition, the mayor’s office held a training course on identifying trafficking indicators for 28 church leaders in the Tarija municipality. In 2016, the mayor’s office launched a prevention and public awareness program called “It’s about You and Me.” As part of the program, the mayor’s office established partnerships with NGOs to develop an alert system in schools for missing children who may be human trafficking victims and public art programs to raise awareness of human trafficking.
In the United Kingdom, the Clewer Initiative is a three-year project designed to enable Church of England dioceses and wider Church networks to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in their communities and help provide victim support and care. The approach is long-term, tailored to the needs of each diocese, and designed to help build partnerships between the Church and other anti-trafficking stakeholders.
In northern Ghana, one NGO is working with all levels of society, from parents and community groups to the government and private sector, so that child protection, education, and health systems work for all children, but especially those most at risk. The organization deploys a child protection team comprising volunteers who spend time in a bus park in Bolgatanga to identify at-risk children who congregate there to make money carrying luggage or unloading cargo. The volunteer team monitors these children and communicates information back to the police and the Department of Social Welfare.
In addition, individuals in a community may also be able and willing to engage on human trafficking by donating time, talent, and resources. In some places, for example, tattoo artists have donated in-kind assistance by removing or covering “brands” tattooed on victims of sex trafficking by their trafficker; graphic designers have helped authorities create public service announcements about the risks of human trafficking; and businesses have provided job training and placement to victims to help them move on from their experience and forward in their lives.
To increase training and raise community awareness, national governments can:
- Share information with and educate local officials and community stakeholders about common indicators of human trafficking and typical methods of recruitment.
- Publicize avenues for reporting human trafficking and seeking assistance.
- Develop victim-centered training for public servants likely to come into contact with victims of human trafficking.
The United States Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime issued a “Guide to Conducting a Needs Assessment.”
One of the first tasks of conducting a needs assessment is to identify what you want to learn about your community. What questions do you need answered to help you develop the best program for victims in your area?
Here are some questions to consider:
- What victim services are being provided within your community? How accessible are these services (e.g., hours, location, language capacity)?
- How familiar are the key partners and community members with the issue you are trying to address?
- Have providers in your area been trained on the issue? What are some additional training needs?
- What outreach efforts are made to educate the public about the issue and the services you provide?
- Who in your area is best suited to identify potential victims?
- Which organizations are currently working with the victims you are trying to help?
- What types of victims have these organizations seen? Are the victims from other countries? What languages do they speak?
- What services do the victims need? Are you able to meet these needs? What additional support do providers need?
- Do you have collaborations in place for working with victims? Are you able to pool your resources?
- Are there any obstacles to accomplishing your mission? What are they? How can they be resolved?
These are just examples of some of the questions you may want answered about your community. The key partners of your initiative will play an important role in framing the issues to be addressed in the needs assessment. Clearly, understanding and articulating what it is you want to learn will help keep the needs assessment focused and purposeful.
Developing Processes and Protocols for an Effective Response
To ensure effective support for individuals after they have been identified as victims, protocols should be developed for the delivery of comprehensive short- and long-term care. Ideally, this would mean that regardless of the initial point of identification, whether it be by law enforcement, health care providers, educators, or others, victims would have access to a complete referral network for their immediate needs—safety, food and clothing, shelter, and medical care—as well as their longer-term needs such as housing, legal representation, advocacy, assistance with reintegration, and job placement services.
Few, if any, agencies or organizations have the resources to cover the spectrum of services needed. Service provision can be strengthened by creating processes and protocols that maximize the comparative advantages of varying service providers. Creating a locally appropriate, comprehensive, and system-wide response to human trafficking cannot be done effectively without bringing together individuals from a spectrum of professions to coordinate efforts and to address capacity gaps in victim identification, care, and prevention.
For example, the Danish Centre Against Human Trafficking (CMM), which is a participant in Denmark’s inter-ministerial working group to combat trafficking in persons, has established a nationwide reference system consisting of six regional reference groups that ensure consistency in the national procedure for the identification of and support for potential victims of human trafficking. CMM is also responsible for strengthening cooperation and for knowledge dissemination between NGOs and other civil society organizations operating in the field. Finally, CMM coordinates the gathering of data on victims of human trafficking in Denmark.
In Hungary, the National Police Headquarters received more than $30,000 in EU funding to set up regional equivalents of the National Coordination Mechanism permanently in the four counties most affected by human trafficking. During the project, approximately 260 professionals will be given the opportunity to expand their working relationships through 19 workshops. The project aims to foster cooperation between state institutions, NGOs, and regional stakeholders in small communities.
The National Referral Mechanism in Georgia is widely considered the best in the region in terms of how the mechanism is structured and the implementation of the framework. Potential victims are identified mainly by task forces and mobile units and, in turn, potential victims are referred to either the national police or the Permanent Group, a five-member board comprising NGOs and international organizations. Both authorities have the ability to grant official victim status and full state services and support. This approach creates a much needed alternative to law enforcement controlled identification procedures for victims who do not want to work with state authorities. It also alleviates many law enforcement controlled identification issues like forced cooperation in investigations, penalization, and re-traumatization.
Building from the community assessments, an anti-trafficking working group or task force can then take steps to create a protocol to ensure comprehensive care. A community protocol can be used in a number of ways. It can be a directory of contacts for both government (national law enforcement, immigration services, child protective services) and community (shelters, legal service providers, doctors). In addition, a protocol can outline a step-by-step process to help ensure comprehensive and consistent care for victims. It can also serve to provide information on national, sub-national, and local anti-trafficking laws; and it can outline the importance of a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach, the nuances of trafficking, the factors of control, facts and myths, and indicators, among many other important elements. Finally, it can outline national benefits available to victims of human trafficking, such as immigration relief, and describe how advocates can ensure access to these benefits.
To assist in the development of protocols and processes, national governments can:
- Set up and fund an anti-trafficking hotline and a national referral mechanism and ensure all relevant officials, professionals, and community groups are aware of these resources.
- Create a central point for the development of law enforcement and judicial expertise and operational coordination.
- Consider the long-term needs for victim reintegration into their home communities and closely collaborate with local stakeholders to develop a sustainable care plan.
- Ensure access to information on promising practices in victim protection, including using a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach.
Across the world, in communities both large and small, individual stories of suffering and injustice make up the ugly mosaic of human trafficking. While many cases share similarities, each is as unique as those forced to endure it, meaning that responses to human trafficking must be both comprehensive and nuanced.
Communities should be emboldened to recognize their own strengths in the fight against human trafficking and take steps to make it a priority. National governments, for their part, should welcome those communities as partners and allies. In some cases, national governments may clear the way for community action; in others, the initiative may rest on the shoulders of a single individual who steps forward to start a conversation at a town hall, provincial assembly, or tribal council meeting.
No matter the impetus, communities are not defenseless in the fight against human trafficking. They are a powerful part of the solution.
The victim stories included in this Report are meant to be illustrative. They characterize the many—though not all—forms of human trafficking and the wide variety of places in which they occur, although each could take place almost anywhere in the world. Many are based on real experiences and the victims’ names have been changed as a result. In most cases, the photographs that accompany the stories are not images of confirmed trafficking victims. Still, they illustrate the myriad forms of human trafficking and the variety of situations in which trafficking victims are found.
Dominican Republic | United States
When Raul was in high school in the Dominican Republic, he jumped at the opportunity to go to the United States to continue his education. A family friend offered to be his sponsor and hire Raul in his restaurant while Raul attended school. Shortly after Raul arrived in the United States and began attending the local high school, his sponsor pulled him out of classes and forced him to work in his restaurant full-time for less than $1 an hour. The sponsor withheld Raul’s passport, threatened him, and sexually abused him. Raul was forced to live in filthy conditions in the restaurant. After an anonymous call to the national hotline, law enforcement officials raided the restaurant and arrested Raul’s sponsor.
Nigeria | Italy
Faith was approached by a woman who promised her a job at a Nigerian restaurant in Italy. Faith thought this was her chance to begin a new life, especially as she saw some fellow Nigerians return from Europe better off than when they left. When Faith arrived in Italy, however, she was informed she had to pay back more than $50,000 in debt before she could leave. Her traffickers forced her into prostitution, telling Faith they would kill her if she did not comply. Faith felt like she was always in danger and was even stabbed several times. She managed to escape and now works to help other women trapped in sex trafficking in Italy.
When Taylor was 16 years old, she met some older men at the local mall. One of the men started taking Taylor on dates and buying her clothes and meals. Not long after they started dating, he coerced Taylor into sex trafficking, convincing her that if she complied, she would never need to rely on anyone ever again. At 17 years old, Taylor was forced to make at least $1,000 per day. Eventually, Taylor’s traffickers forced her to take on a different role where she was in charge of recruiting more teenagers to be exploited in commercial sex. Most of the money went to her traffickers. To keep her under their control, Taylor’s traffickers threatened her family who lived nearby.
Emmanuel and Isaac’s mother struggled to care for them and keep them safe. When she could no longer afford to feed her boys, she sold them to a man who put them to work on a fishing boat. This man was abusive, often hitting Emmanuel and Isaac with the boat paddle. Emmanuel and Isaac would often split one meal a day between them. The brothers were able to escape when their trafficker heard authorities were arresting people who had kids working on the boats. Emmanuel and Isaac now live with a neighbor who sends them to school.
Burma | Bangladesh | India
Kyi and his family fled Burma to escape suppression of the Rohingya by the Burmese military. While in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, an agent offered jobs to him and his family. The jobs were located in Agra, in northern India, and seemed to provide a good opportunity to be safe and rebuild their lives. When they arrived in Agra, they found themselves trapped for a year working as rag pickers and collecting plastic bottles from garbage piles. They worked long hours for no wages. An anonymous tip to law enforcement led to authorities removing Kyi and his family from the situation.
When Jae-Un’s father, brothers, and grandmother died when she was 11 years old, North Korean authorities sent her and her sister to an orphanage. The orphanage did not provide the children with extra clothes or shoes, and they were not able to bathe. Jae-Un slept in a small room that she had to share with more than 45 other children; they could barely move while sleeping. During the day, all of the children had assigned jobs doing manual labor, and each day were forced to work very long hours. Several years later, a missionary helped Jae-Un and her sister escape to China.
Bangladesh | Scotland
Ashik was struggling to support his family in Bangladesh when he saw an ad for chefs in London. The recruiter said he needed to pay up front for visas, so Ashik borrowed more than $20,000 from moneylenders. When he arrived in London, he was put on a bus to Scotland where he was forced to work in a remote hotel. The recruiter confiscated Ashik’s passport and threatened to report him as an illegal worker if he complained. Ashik was the only employee responsible for dozens of hotel rooms and tour groups. He slept either on the floor of empty rooms or in an old caravan behind the hotel. Ashik was eventually able to leave but he was never paid for his work. He is still afraid to return home because of the money he owes recruiters.
Philippines | Brazil
Maria had left the Philippines several times to take domestic service jobs in other countries, and was excited to explore a new country. Working with a recruiter in Brazil, she accepted a job as a domestic worker in a Brazilian household. After she began her new job, Maria realized that the job was not as promised and she felt exploited by her employers. She consistently had to work 15-hour days, was forced to stay in the house, and had little access to food. Maria found a way to escape the home, but is still in debt to the recruitment agency that placed her in Brazil.
Joan, a young woman with mental disabilities, was lured from school by two elderly women from her hometown who offered her a job. She was then held against her will in their house, where they sedated and deprived her of food. The women forced Joan to have sex with many individuals who paid with money, gifts,and food. Joan was eventually found and helped by the police. The two elderly women were arrested and charged with sex trafficking.
Topics of Special Interest
Confronting Human Trafficking at the Provincial Level: A focus on Ontario, Canada
In Canada, the province of Ontario demonstrated sub-national initiative and leadership in combating human trafficking when it announced on June 30, 2016, the Strategy to End Human Trafficking. The Strategy, which is led by the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) in partnership with the Ministry of the Status of Women, includes up to $72 million (CAD) in investments over the following four years and the creation of a Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office. This office is the first of its kind in Ontario and is dedicated to ensuring collaboration across more than 10 federal agencies.
Focusing on the four key pillars of Prevention and Community Support, Enhanced Justice Sector Initiatives, Indigenous-Led Approaches, and Provincial Coordination and Leadership, Ontario has engaged with hundreds of partners, including survivors, to ensure a collaborative and coordinated approach to strengthen the systems that help to prevent and address human trafficking, ensure that the appropriate resources are available to victims, and raise awareness in the community.
As a major part of this strategy, Ontario will provide approximately $18.6 million (CAD) to 44 partners for projects selected through a competitive selection process for the Anti-Human Trafficking Community Supports Fund and the Indigenous-Led Initiatives Fund. These funds will be used for locally driven solutions to address human trafficking, with a focus on prevention and survivor support.
Since the Strategy to End Human Trafficking was launched, Ontario has undertaken an impressive number of actions under each pillar. A few of them are listed below.
Prevention and Community Support
- Hired six specialized youth-in-transition workers to support youth leaving the care of custodial and non-custodial child protection agencies and Indigenous child well-being societies who may be at risk or survivors of human trafficking.
- Delivered human trafficking awareness training for approximately 450 occupational health and safety inspectors and employment standards officers.
- Passed the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, which focuses on prevention and protection of young people. This includes raising the age of protection to 18 so that eligible vulnerable 16- and 17-year-olds can continue to access education, safe housing, and other support services that can help prevent human trafficking.
- Expanded the Victim/Witness Assistance Program to hire specialized human trafficking victim services workers to assist survivors through the criminal court process.
- Established a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to develop a trauma-informed training program and online community of practice to help mental health and addiction professionals better understand and respond to the needs of human trafficking survivors.
- Expanded the Victim Quick Response Program to improve access to services such as recovery in a trauma-informed facility, tattoo removal, and replacement of government documents, to meet the immediate needs of survivors.
- Launched a new Indigenous-Led Initiatives Fund for projects designed for and by Indigenous people, with more than $4.5 million provided to 17 partners. These projects will provide Indigenous survivors with access to services, help prevent at-risk people from being exploited, meaningfully engage survivors with lived experience, and encourage innovation and community partnerships.
- Partnered with the Ontario Native Women’s Association to establish the Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Liaisons program, the first of its kind in Canada. The liaisons work in key cities and regions with local organizations to ensure effective and culturally appropriate services are offered to Indigenous people who have experienced human trafficking.
- Worked collaboratively on implementation of the strategy with the newly-formed Provincial Committee on Human Trafficking, a specialized human trafficking advisory table composed of key Indigenous partners, which reports to the Executive Committee to End Violence Against Indigenous Women.
Provincial Coordination and Leadership
- Established the Human Trafficking Lived Experience Roundtable (the first of its kind in Canada) to ensure ongoing input from survivors bolsters the province’s efforts to end human trafficking.
- Liaised with ministries across government and engaged hundreds of partners to ensure a collaborative, coordinated approach to strengthening the systems that can prevent human trafficking and ensure that appropriate help is available for survivors.
- Designed a performance measurement framework for the strategy to ensure that clear and measurable outcomes are produced by the many initiatives across government to confront human trafficking and support survivors.
Justice Sector Initiatives
- Passed the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, which increases protection for survivors of human trafficking and makes it easier for survivors to pursue compensation.
- Created a Provincial Human Trafficking Prosecution Team comprised of a coordinator and five specialized assistant prosecutors. The team is dedicated to effectively prosecuting human trafficking cases and ensuring a coordinated provincial approach.
- Created three new positions at Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, dedicated to improving human trafficking intelligence coordination and analysis across jurisdictions, as well as introducing highly specialized training.
- The Ontario Provincial Police is developing an Anti-Human Trafficking Investigations Coordination Team that will enhance investigative capacity and police coordination, and support a team-based, victim-centered approach throughout Ontario.
For more information on the Ontario Strategy to End Human Trafficking, please visit https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/humanTrafficking/firstYearProgress.aspx .
After Human Trafficking: Successful Models that Promote Resilience and Provide Lasting Protections for Survivors
In the weeks and months after a human trafficking situation has ended, survivors experience significantly different levels of support from country to country. The resources and services available to survivors during this time depend on what actions governments take. Responses range from governments that provide access to comprehensive services to those that simply provide transportation costs for a survivor to return home or that even deport survivors who lack legal status. To minimize vulnerabilities to re-trafficking and empower survivors, governments should work to increase access to longer-term economic and educational opportunities in addition to initial, immediate support services.
Limited resources and inadequate understanding of the array of services survivors may need often result in insufficient assistance for survivors in the critical weeks and months after a trafficking situation. Comprehensive services—which include medical and mental health care, legal assistance, safety planning, and housing—can support a survivor’s recovery and ability to transition successfully to a new life.
After this initial period, economic and educational opportunities can further prevent re-victimization, provide resources to rebuild, and assist in the transition from victim to survivor. Additionally, when individually tailored and self-selected services include family and community support, a survivor is more likely to transition from vulnerability—where they may face stigma and risk of further exploitation—to a position of self-sufficiency and dignity.
Key factors likely to contribute to long-term successful recovery and re-entry into a community include:
- Assessment of personal, family, and community vulnerability and resilience;
- Safe, available, and affordable housing with freedom of movement;
- Vocational training, access to the labor market, and opportunities for decent work, with life skills training to improve outcomes in the work place, family, and community;
- Support for family members, including job placement, and emotional and financial support as appropriate;
- Long-term access to mental health and psycho-social support services; and
- Community-based awareness raising and training to reduce stigma toward victims and encourage community-based support and monitoring of the well-being of victims and their families.
After a human trafficking situation, it is important to provide survivors with adequate time to develop trust in government agencies and service providers to foster their empowerment and informed decision-making about their recovery and re-entry into a community. As part of the legal framework in some countries, law enforcement officials provide a “reflection period” to allow foreign national victims of trafficking to make more informed decisions about their rights, including to choose whether to support law enforcement action, and provide assistance with returning to their country of origin.
The following are examples of programs in Mexico, Serbia, and Indonesia that demonstrate effective strategies to consider an individual’s vulnerability and strengths, recovery from his or her experiences of exploitation and resulting trauma, the context in which the victim lived, and the circumstances to which that person will return.
In Mexico, a shelter for vulnerable children and adolescents initiated an independent living component for older youth subjected to human trafficking or otherwise exploited. After conducting a needs assessment, project staff worked with the young men and women to identify their vocational and social strengths to provide tailored, follow-up support, including shared apartments, life skills training, counseling, and job placement into full-time jobs in the community. The project resulted in survivors’ increased emotional and social resilience, economic self-sufficiency, and reduced vulnerabilities to human trafficking.
An anti-trafficking NGO in Serbia maintains a reintegration center where victims of human trafficking receive basic medical, psychological, social, and legal assistance, as well as education, support in obtaining employment, and family counseling. The organization also supports victims with reintegration by training and hiring them at its bagel shop, the proceeds of which support other victim support programs. The bagel shop, which raises awareness of human trafficking in the community, is one of only a handful of economically sustainable social enterprises in Serbia.
In West Java, Indonesia, an international organization works with survivors of human trafficking to help them create sustainable livelihoods through microenterprises. The project helps shelter residents conduct a market analysis of the local community to identify types of businesses the local economy could support. As a result, dozens of survivors can coordinate resources through local cooperatives to build microenterprises in catfish farming, mushroom cultivation, food processing, and tailoring services.
Overall, support for more individually tailored economic and educational assistance is greatly needed to successfully support a survivor’s recovery and provide the necessary tools to be self-sufficient. Although there is greater availability of services found in some countries immediately following removal from a trafficking situation, tailored, longer-term, and community-based assistance would decrease the risk of being re-trafficked and contribute to greater likelihood of long-term success. Close coordination between survivors and, wherever possible, destination and home country service providers, is also more likely to improve chances of success.
Learning from successful models that actively promote economic self-sufficiency, emotional and social resilience, and support from local communities can provide survivors with a greater chance of building a life of their choice. Governments should evaluate those models to strengthen their efforts to provide lasting protections for survivors.
Child Institutionalization and Human Trafficking
The international community agrees that a family caregiving setting, or an alternative solution that is appropriate and culturally sensitive, is the most conducive environment for the growth, well-being, and safety of children. Removal of a child from the family should only be considered as a temporary, last resort. Studies have found that both private and government-run residential institutions for children, or places such as orphanages and psychiatric wards that do not offer a family-based setting, cannot replicate the emotional companionship and attention found in family environments that are prerequisites to healthy cognitive development. Yet, about eight million children worldwide live in these facilities, even though an estimated 80 to 90 percent of them have at least one living parent. The physical and psychological effects of staying in residential institutions, combined with societal isolation and often subpar regulatory oversight by governments, place these children in situations of heightened vulnerability to human trafficking.
Children in institutional care, including government-run facilities, can be easy targets for traffickers. Even at their best, residential institutions are unable to meet a child’s need for emotional support that is typically received from family members or consistent caretakers with whom the child can develop an attachment. Children are especially vulnerable when traffickers recognize and take advantage of this need for emotional bonding stemming from the absence of stable parental figures. In addition, the rigid schedules and social isolation of residential institutions offer traffickers a tactical advantage, as they can coerce children to leave and find ways to exploit them.
Children are more at risk for human trafficking in ill-managed facilities that allow traffickers to operate in or around the facility with impunity. Residential institutions that are complicit or directly involved in human trafficking take advantage of unfettered access to the children, knowing they have nowhere to turn for support. Several orphanages, including in Oceania, Central America, and Eastern Europe, have been found in recent years to be doubling as brothels. In one instance, children of an orphanage as well as international NGOs reported detailed cases of staff forcing some of the girls, especially those from rural or indigenous communities, out at night to engage in commercial sex. Civil society groups have also identified forced labor in residential institutions, with one instance involving staff of an orphanage for children with disabilities forcing children to assist in construction projects and other dangerous tasks, such as sterilizing soiled mattresses, under the guise of “work therapy.” In several countries, these children are made to perform domestic work in houses in the surrounding village or labor on a farm.
Institutional complicity can even extend to the practice of recruiting children for the facility. “Child finders” travel to local villages or communities—often those affected by war, natural disaster, poverty, or societal discrimination—and promise parents education, food security, safety, and healthcare for their children. Instead of fulfilling those promises, many orphanages use the children to raise funds by forcing them to perform shows for or interact and play with potential donors to encourage more donations. Orphanages have also kept children in poor health to elicit more sympathy and money from donors.
Foreign travelers wishing to include a charitable element in their vacation often partake in “voluntourism” at orphanages, which child advocacy organizations and governments have documented as harmful. Volunteering in these facilities for short periods of time without appropriate training can cause further emotional stress and even a sense of abandonment for already vulnerable children with attachment issues affected by temporary and irregular experiences of safe relationships. In addition, it is rare that background checks are performed on these volunteers, which can also increase the risk of children being exposed to individuals with criminal intent. Voluntourism not only has unintended consequences for the children, but also the profits made through volunteer-paid program fees or donations to orphanages from tourists incentivize nefarious orphanage owners to increase revenue by expanding child recruitment operations in order to open more facilities. These orphanages facilitate child trafficking rings by using false promises to recruit children and exploit them to profit from donations. This practice has been well-documented in several countries, including Nepal, Cambodia, and Haiti.
Even when a child leaves or ages out of a residential institution, the vulnerability to human trafficking continues, in part due to the physical and psychological damage many of these children have suffered. The societal isolation of residential institutions often prevents children from building stable, long-term familial, or social relationships. By depriving children of opportunities to develop a social support network, receive adequate schooling, experience common life or social situations, and practice using cognitive reasoning and problem-solving skills, residential institutions leave those departing from institutional care more vulnerable to traffickers’ schemes. Some traffickers, in recognizing the heightened vulnerability of these children, wait for and target those who leave or age out of institutions.
In response, governments can take steps to protect children from these vulnerabilities, starting with providing assistance to families who find it difficult to provide their children with food, education, and healthcare and may be at risk of losing custody of their children as a result. Also, governments can develop, coordinate, and encourage family-based care options over institutional care whenever appropriate. Oversight bodies should demand stricter monitoring of children’s homes, ensuring they meet international guidelines and pursue criminal accountability for those who facilitate or organize trafficking in or near government facilities. Governments can also evaluate their laws to increase protections for children with disabilities and strengthen parental rights and abilities to promote children staying with families when it is in the best interest of the child. Donor countries can ensure foreign assistance prioritizes support for programs or initiatives that preserve family-based care and do not support residential institutions that are not in compliance with international standards. Donor countries can also look at ways to increase oversight of organizations and charities funneling money to residential institutions abroad. Moreover, awareness-raising efforts can counter social media campaigns promoting voluntourism in orphanages, as well as educate well-intentioned groups, such as tourism companies and religious organizations that unintentionally perpetuate the demand for children in residential institutions.
A paradigm shift away from institutional care to a family caregiving setting has its own challenges, beginning with recognizing that family members may be complicit in human trafficking and finding the resources and expertise to develop a solution that is most conducive to the health and safety of children. The international community has acknowledged that certain community care options, such as small group homes and kinship and community care where appropriate, can serve as alternatives while working toward a permanent placement in a family setting. Aftercare plans that include ongoing support from community resources can help children continue to thrive after being discharged. These arrangements can minimize the negative impact on children’s development, as well as their vulnerability to human trafficking if they are kept short-term and adhere to international standards, including the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care for Children (UN General Assembly A/RES/64/14223 (2010)). The depth of research documenting these risks stands as a compelling reason for governments to consider how to transition away from institutional care, while also providing resources for children transitioning from institutional care to successful adulthood.
Implementing a Trauma-Informed Approach
Survivors of human trafficking have often endured a degree of trauma significant enough to have lasting psychological and physical effects. To appropriately support survivors, a trauma-informed approach should be incorporated across all anti-trafficking efforts, including during the criminal justice process and while providing victim services. It is also critical to use a trauma-informed lens when carrying out prevention strategies and when engaging with survivors in the context of public awareness activities and media reporting.
Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. Most people have experienced some degree of trauma over the course of their lives, but every person responds to a traumatic event differently. A range of stress responses may be exhibited after experiencing a traumatic event; many individuals recover without lasting consequences while others experience long-term effects, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal ideation.
Survivors of trafficking often experience complex trauma, which is the exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, with wide-ranging and long-term effects. Trafficking survivors also frequently have experienced polyvictimization, where they endure multiples types of victimization or community violence—including emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from various actors. Research indicates complex trauma changes how one thinks, what one thinks about, and the brain’s ability to store and make memories, experience healthy attachments, and develop trust.
Trauma disrupts the rational thought process and impairs the ability to handle stress, perceive when a threat is in the past, and manage emotions. Victims often experience re-traumatization when they are “triggered” or have flashbacks or intrusive thoughts that replicate the experience of their initial trauma. A survivor who may appear to be uncooperative, combative, or difficult could be experiencing such overwhelming symptoms related to trauma. A sense of stability and security must be attained before the individual can be expected to engage constructively with any systems or services. It is also important to recognize that maladaptive behaviors, including risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse, can be part of an individual’s survival mechanisms.
All those engaged in anti-trafficking work must understand the vast impacts of trauma and incorporate a trauma-informed approach to their work to more effectively support victims of trafficking. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors, service providers, and other allied professionals will likely observe a wide range of reactions related to trauma during the course of their work with survivors. Understanding the reason behind a survivor’s actions will contribute immensely to building rapport and trust, whether preparing a victim-witness for trial or providing appropriate services.
Without a trauma-informed approach, criminal justice professionals and service providers may miss important cues and unintentionally re-traumatize the individual. Personal safety and self-preservation are the primary focus of the trafficking victim; concerned with basic matters of survival, victims may seem unresponsive or reluctant to engage. Many survivors may not self-identify as victims, and may even make initial statements that seem to protect the offenders, or even run away from or avoid law enforcement and service providers who are trying to assist them. Such realities require a greater investment of time, patience, and rapport-building than in traditional cases.
Being trauma-informed is a strengths-based approach that is responsive to the impact of trauma on a person’s life. It requires recognizing symptoms of trauma and designing all interactions with victims of human trafficking in such a way that minimizes the potential for re-traumatization. In particular, this approach emphasizes creating physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being to address the unique experiences and needs of survivors. It involves creating a safe physical space in which to interact with survivors as well as assessing all levels of service and policy to create as many opportunities as possible for survivors to rebuild a sense of control. Most importantly, it promotes survivor empowerment and self-sufficiency. Victims of human trafficking should be empowered with choice whenever possible, including the ability to determine whether to participate in the criminal justice process. They should also have access to services that promote autonomy and are comprehensive, victim-centered, and culturally appropriate.
Additionally, trafficking survivors share that one of the most important steps to being trauma-informed is to be survivor-informed. A survivor-informed practice includes meaningful input from a diverse community of survivors at all stages of a program or project, including development, implementation, and evaluation. Whenever possible, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, service providers, and other allied professionals should solicit feedback from survivors on organizational policies and programming. Survivors should also be involved in evaluation activities, focus groups, and other efforts to assess the effectiveness of service delivery. Moreover, when sought out to provide input or consultation, survivors should be paid for their expertise and time.
Following is a checklist developed by the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute for implementing a trauma-informed approach across prosecution, protection, and prevention efforts.
Checklist for a trauma-informed approach to interactions with survivors of human trafficking*
- Be aware if the individual appears shut down or disconnected; this may be a sign that the person is overwhelmed.
- Have materials available that may support regulation of affect and impulses during meetings, conversation, or testimony.
- Check in to make sure the survivor is hearing and understanding your statements or questions and provide frequent breaks.
- Be aware that changes in memory do not necessarily indicate falsehood or storytelling, but may be indicative of a trauma response.
- Try to hold interviews or other key conversations at a time when the survivor feels most stable and safe.
- Help break down tasks concretely; assume that even small tasks may feel overwhelming. Support the survivor in accessing help with task completion.
- Focus on the facts of experiences, rather than getting caught up in the individual’s emotional response or perception of events in making determinations about criminality.
- Be aware of the often confusing nature of the individual’s relationships with the perpetrators; be conscious of not making assumptions.
- Don’t take strong reactions personally; be very aware of managing your own emotional responses.
- Provide opportunities for control and empowerment whenever possible.
- Be aware of the importance of physical as well as emotional supports.
* Adapted from Justice Resource Institute, Utilizing Trauma-Informed Approaches to Trafficking-related Work. http://www.traumacenter.org/clients/projectreach/H-O%20Trauma-Informed%20Case%20Study_final.pdf .
How Governments Address Domestic Servitude in Diplomatic Households
Governments face a special challenge in addressing domestic servitude in diplomatic households, a form of human trafficking involving domestic workers employed by diplomats and international organization officials posted abroad. Although it is rare that diplomats subject domestic workers to involuntary servitude or other forms of exploitation, on those occasions when it does occur, the problem is a grave and challenging one for host governments to address.
Foreign mission personnel and their family members can enjoy various forms of immunity from jurisdiction in the country in which they are posted. In particular, foreign government representatives who are accredited to a host country as “diplomatic agents” or have equivalent status (such as Permanent Representative to the United Nations), along with their spouses and children, enjoy immunity from criminal and most civil jurisdiction, and thus cannot be sued or prosecuted unless their government grants a waiver of immunity. Diplomats and their immediate family members also enjoy personal inviolability, meaning they cannot be arrested or detained. Other foreign government representatives, such as embassy administrative and technical staff members, enjoy a less robust degree of privileges and immunities, but may also be immune from a host state’s civil, administrative, and criminal jurisdiction.
The typical immunities for members of a diplomatic mission are enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a treaty based on the reciprocal interests of all States that both host foreign diplomats and send their own abroad. The Convention also obliges diplomats to respect the host nation’s laws, and implicitly recognizes the long-held privilege of bringing foreign domestic workers on diplomatic assignments abroad.
Domestic workers often face circumstances that leave them extremely vulnerable to exploitation by their diplomat employers. They are usually legally resident in the country in which they are working only by virtue of their employment by the diplomat. Thus, they may remain in exploitative situations because they feel they have no other options. Further, these workers are often isolated from the community beyond the diplomat’s family due to lack of familiarity with the language, institutions, and culture of the country in which they are employed. There is a significant power disparity between a diplomat, who is a government official of some standing, and a domestic worker, who likely has a modest background and may have limited education or language skills. In addition, domestic workers are usually made aware of the special status of diplomats and may believe that rules of accountability do not apply to their employers and that it is hopeless to seek help.
An international consensus has begun to take shape, but it should acknowledge that diplomats should be held accountable for exploitation of domestic workers.
For instance, it is increasingly understood that there is a temporal limit to the immunity enjoyed by diplomats and their family members. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides that, after a diplomat leaves his or her position, the diplomat enjoys a limited form of immunity that extends only to the diplomat’s “official acts” while he or she was accredited. Employment of a domestic worker is widely recognized not to be an official act, thus domestic workers have successfully sued diplomats (and their spouses) afterdiplomatic status has been terminated for abuses alleged to have occurred while the diplomats were accredited.
The following sections outline some of the innovative approaches currently implemented by the U.S. government and other host governments around the world across the “3P” paradigm of Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution to address domestic servitude in diplomatic households.
- Requiring that foreign domestic workers employed by diplomats have written contracts in a language workers understand before arriving in country; the contracts must specify the hours of work, wages, holidays, medical care, etc. Many governments also prohibit employers from holding workers’ travel and identity documents.
- Requiring that domestic workers register in person with the host government (usually the Protocol Office in the Foreign Ministry). Registrations offer workers an opportunity to meet with host government representatives without their employer present to discuss their working conditions and learn about their rights and obligations. A domestic worker typically is provided with an identification card that is renewed periodically and contains contact information for assistance, if needed.
- Prohibiting payment of wages in cash in countries with effective banking systems, and instead requiring direct deposit of wages to a bank account in the sole name of the domestic worker or payment by check. These measures provide objective evidence in the event of a salary dispute. In addition, many governments have minimum wage requirements and prohibit entirely or specify the extent to which lodging or food expenses can be taken from wages, thereby limiting excessive deductions that can mask underpayment of wages.
- Limiting the number of domestic workers that any one diplomat may employ at the same time to help ensure diplomats can afford to pay the promised wages, as well as prohibiting workers’ family members from accompanying them, as family members themselves may be subject to exploitation. Workers accompanied by family may be less likely to report abuse for fear that their spouse or children will lose residence status.
- Requiring that domestic workers demonstrate understanding of at least one of the host country languages before a visa is issued.
- Providing training to diplomatic personnel on appropriate treatment of domestic workers before overseas assignments, and developing internal foreign ministry human resource policies to sanction diplomats who abuse domestic workers while posted abroad.
- Bringing credible allegations of exploitation of a domestic worker by a diplomat to the attention of the ambassador of the sending state’s mission and requesting a timely response to the allegations. Some host governments may also take the preventive step of limiting the issuance of visas for any additional domestic workers to be employed by mission members until the allegations are addressed satisfactorily.
- Engaging diplomatically with foreign governments to encourage settlement and/or payment of final court judgments in civil suits, including default judgments, against one of their diplomats. As described above, diplomats and their family members have been sued successfully by their former domestic workers after diplomatic status has been terminated.
- Encouraging diplomat employers who are the subject of serious allegations by domestic workers to address the problem and, if appropriate, provide compensation to the domestic worker, even if no formal legal redress is available in the country of assignment.
- Setting up alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in an attempt to mediate disputes between diplomats and domestic workers.
- Building partnerships between law enforcement and NGOs in the community to ensure that domestic workers fleeing human trafficking have access to shelter and support.
- Taking serious action to hold diplomats accountable. For example, if law enforcement authorities in the host state advise that they would prosecute the diplomat for a serious crime (including human trafficking) if the diplomat did not have immunity, then that host state could request that the sending state waive immunity to allow the prosecution to proceed. If such a waiver were not granted, the diplomat and family members could be required to depart the country.
- Referring credible allegations of exploitation of a domestic worker by a diplomat to law enforcement for investigation.
- Proposing former foreign mission members and, if appropriate, family members as the subject of Interpol “red notices,” which are flags in an international system that alert law enforcement globally that the individuals are wanted by another national government for prosecution based on an arrest warrant.
Promising Practices in the Eradication of Trafficking in Persons: Tracking Suspicious Financial Flows
Governments, in partnership with civil society and the private sector, can use forensic accounting strategies that enable financial institutions to identify and flag activity that may be consistent with human trafficking schemes.
There are a number of identifiable stages of a human trafficking scheme during which traffickers may interact with the financial system. Providing financial systems with guidance on red flag indicators to detect suspicious financial activities can greatly assist law enforcement and other authorities in their efforts to identify and prosecute human trafficking.
Using Financial Transactions to Uncover Human Trafficking
In recent years, governments around the world have established financial intelligence units (FIUs) to receive and analyze reports of suspicious financial activity that may be indicative of embezzlement, money laundering, and, increasingly, human trafficking.
FIUs are able to detect transactions, track money flows, and collect evidence tied to human trafficking crimes. They can also work closely with financial institutions to add red flag indicators of human trafficking to the list of suspicious activities warranting further scrutiny. While every context is unique, groups like the Egmont Group—of which more than 155 FIUs are members—serve as a venue for international collaboration to combat crimes with a financial component, and recent advances make it clear human traffickers should be among the targets.
Governments can develop procedures and precedents to use the information from suspicious transactions to hold human traffickers accountable. In 2017, for example, the Government of Thailand convicted a high-ranking government official for his involvement in human trafficking crimes. In this case, the government uncovered his role in the scheme in part due to its tracking of suspicious financial transactions.
In the United States, the U.S. Department of the Treasury uses its authorities, partnerships with law enforcement, and international engagement to combat human trafficking through targeted sanctions. The Department of the Treasury also protects the U.S. and international financial systems by blocking the property of numerous transnational criminal organizations, including those involved in human trafficking. As recently as January 2018, the United States sanctioned the Zhao Wei transnational criminal organization, a Laos-based group involved in numerous criminal activities, including child sex trafficking.
Tools Developed by Inter-governmental Organizations:
- Money Laundering Risks Arising from Trafficking in Human Beings and Smuggling of Migrants—published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to identify red flag indicators of money laundering from human trafficking operations and foster reporting of suspicious transactions. FATF is in the process of updating this report with a new study focused on the changing nature of the financial flows resulting from human trafficking.
- 25 Keys to Unlock the Financial Chains of Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery—a report on a workshop convened by UN University with the support of the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations in March 2017 on disrupting money laundering associated with human trafficking. The report identifies key actionable items among various stakeholders, including developing strategies for engagement in the financial sector of high-risk industries (palm oil, cocoa, fisheries, hotel industry, mega-sport events construction).
- Policy Guide on Following the Money in Trafficking in Persons Cases—the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime is compiling regional practices and approaches to using anti-money laundering and asset recovery tools to help law enforcement, prosecutors, and financial intelligence units combat human trafficking.
- Leveraging Anti-Money Laundering Regimes to Combat Trafficking in Persons Cases—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) report on participating States’ promising practices to identify and prosecute instances of human trafficking through financial techniques, such as tracing, freezing, and confiscating proceeds.
In October 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network launched a Human Trafficking Project Team through the Egmont Group of FIUs. The major objectives of this project include strengthening knowledge about financial flows related to human trafficking and identifying and disrupting these illicit flows. The Human Trafficking Project Team will work to enhance bilateral information-sharing to produce actionable information to disrupt these illicit financial flows and prosecute human trafficking.
The Importance of Partnerships
Monitoring the daily activity of local and global industries for evidence of illicit activity is a monumental task and governments cannot do it alone. Private financial institutions also play an important role through internal mechanisms to monitor their customers’ transactions for potential red flags. To mitigate risk, financial institutions, brands, and suppliers often turn to internal and third-party risk assessment, due diligence, and compliance firms for data on entities with which they are doing business and on potential perpetrators of financial crimes. These firms provide critical services, often referred to as “Know Your Customer” or “Politically Exposed Persons” services, to assist financial institutions and corporations in screening clients and business partners to avoid complicity in money laundering and a host of other crimes. Law enforcement and government regulatory bodies also rely on these firms and their databases for investigative purposes and to coordinate with other agencies.
Other actors can also be a part of the solution. For example, a small Hong Kong-based NGO collaborates with financial institutions to increase the amount of quality data on potential perpetrators of human trafficking. It operates a media monitoring program that collects media reports and other reliable data (directly and through NGO partners), vets, and then packages the most trustworthy data for further review by these firms. In the last two years, this organization has introduced more than 5,000 names of suspected individuals and companies to these databases, and currently supplies on average more than 300 submissions per month, working with a growing number of global research partners spanning over 20 countries. Expanding the amount of data within this existing and effective institutional framework promises to help disrupt significantly financial flows and supply chains tainted by human trafficking, making it an effective tool for the prevention of human trafficking and the prosecution of perpetrators of human trafficking.
Collaboration, data-gathering, and information-sharing within existing institutional frameworks can be used to effectively disrupt financial flows related to trafficking in persons, and thus provide effective tools for both the prevention of human trafficking and the prosecution of human traffickers.
Examples of Red Flag Indicators related to Trafficking in Persons*:
- Use of cash: through couriers and money remitters; repeated cash withdrawals and transfers in small amounts to avoid identification or reporting requirements;
- Use of multiple bank accounts and credit cards, as well as multiple alias identities and addresses;
- Use of front companies, straw persons, or false identity documents;
Inexplicable lifestyle compared to the client profile;
- Relations with persons with suspected or known criminal history;
Use of cash to invest in real estate/high value goods;
- Frequent deposits or withdrawals with no apparent business source;
Lack of any licit business behind banking operations;
- Use of ATM and credit cards at times inconsistent with normal operating hours for the business;
- Frequent money transfer to “risk” countries;
- Third party cash deposits made at various bank branches and via ATMs;
- Laundering of cash through casinos, import/export trades, etc.; and
- Use of the hawala or other informal banking systems.
* This is only a notional list of indicators, which is not exhaustive. No one transaction or red flag by itself is a clear indicator of trafficking in persons; accordingly, financial institutions may consider applying red flags in combination with other factors, such as a customer’s profile and expected transaction activity. For a more comprehensive list of red flag indicators, see FATF, Money Laundering Risks Arising from Trafficking in Human Beings and Smuggling of Migrants, FATF Report (July 2011), Annex B. See also FinCEN Guidance on Recognizing Activity that May be Associated with Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking—Financial Red Flags.
Multilateral Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking Through Global and Regional Engagement
United Nations (UN)
2017 Political Declaration Reaffirming the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons
On September 27, 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted a political declaration reaffirming commitments to implement the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 2010. The Political Declaration includes a directive to examine the progress achieved and the continuing challenges for international organizations and officials at the national, regional, and global levels. The Political Declaration also strengthens the capacity of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to collect information in order to connect and harmonize anti-trafficking efforts across UN programs and policies. To implement the Global Plan of Action a working group was established to advise and assist in the implementation of the Palermo Protocol.
United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Trafficking in Persons in Conflict (2016-2017)
The UN Security Council (the Council) adopted its first resolution on human trafficking (2331) in 2016, which called on member states to investigate, disrupt, and dismantle criminal networks by utilizing anti-money laundering, anti-corruption, and counterterrorism laws. It also emphasized the importance of international cooperation in law enforcement and strong partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
In 2017, the Council reiterated its condemnation of this crime by unanimously adopting resolution 2388, which strongly emphasizes its concern in particular for the heightened vulnerability of children to exploitation and abuse and the unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. It also requested the Secretary-General to further explore the links between child trafficking in conflict situations and the grave violations against children affected by armed conflict, with the view to addressing all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict.
These two resolutions underscore the importance of collecting evidence to ensure perpetrators are held accountable and the Council’s intention to integrate an anti-trafficking component into the work of the Council’s relevant Sanctions Committees. The Council stressed the importance of cooperation in enforcing international law in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases and further emphasized that peacekeeping and political missions can support the efforts of host states in combating human trafficking.
Organization of American States (OAS)
In March 2018, at the Fifth Meeting of National Authorities of the Americas on human trafficking, OAS member states reviewed progress made in the implementation of the Second Work Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons in the Western Hemisphere (2015-2018), the only region in which every country is party to the Palermo Protocol. Member states shared best practices and national experiences, discussed challenges, reaffirmed the region’s commitments to combating trafficking in persons, and adopted the Hemispheric Efforts Against Trafficking in Persons (Declaration of Mexico) to extend the current Work Plan to 2020. The declaration, among other things, promotes psychological, social, medical, and legal assistance for victims; calls for the update of national anti-trafficking legislation to define and criminalize the specific acts, means, and purpose of human trafficking as required by the Palermo Protocol; and calls for cooperation with the private sector and civil society to combat trafficking. The Second Work Plan recommends activities between OAS member states and provides mandates to the General Secretariat of the OAS in the areas of prevention, protection, and prosecution (the “3Ps”). The Second Work Plan also underlines supply chains, not previously highlighted in the first work plan, encouraging codes of conduct to ensure the protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of workers.
Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE)
In 2003, the OSCE created the Office of Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings to promote a victim-centered and human rights-based approach to combating human trafficking and to assist participating states in implementing effective policies. The OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings (2003), which is grounded in the Palermo Protocol, addresses the participating states’ implementation of their commitments across the OSCE’s three dimensions of security (politico-military, economic and environmental, and human). Of note is the 2013 Addendum to the OSCE Action Plan, which includes commitments addressing domestic servitude in diplomatic households, internal trafficking, and the prevention of human trafficking in the tourism industry and in supply chains. In 2017, the OSCE Ministerial Council adopted new commitments addressing preventing human trafficking in government procurement supply chains, as well as strengthening efforts to combat child trafficking. The OSCE is currently working on strengthening its policies to prevent human trafficking in its own institutional procurement of contracts for goods and services. In addition, OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has an Adviser on Anti-Human Trafficking Issues who provides technical assistance to participating States on best practices and on their national referral mechanisms.
The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (BALI PROCESS)
The Bali Process is a non-binding forum for policy dialogue, information-sharing, and practical cooperation to assist countries in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond to address shared challenges on a regional basis. It raises awareness regarding migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and related transnational crimes. It also serves to encourage cooperation and coordination among member states, the private sector, and with other regional and global initiatives to address effectively these crimes. At the 2016 Ministerial Conference, Ministers confirmed the main objectives and priorities by endorsing the Bali Process Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime, which supported comprehensive strategies to address member states’ interests, such as engaging with the private sector to promote and apply humane, non-abusive labor practices throughout supply chains and implement transparent and fair recruitment processes. The Bali Process Government and Business Forum, which launched in 2017, is a business-government partnership to combat human trafficking that highlights the critical role of the private sector in preventing trafficking in supply chains. The Bali Process has also established a Regional Support Office, which supports an ad hoc working group on human trafficking and strengthens practical cooperation to combat trafficking in persons, among other issues.
The Face of Modern Slavery
When an adult engages in a commercial sex act, such as prostitution, as the result of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion, or any combination of such means, that person is a victim of trafficking. Under such circumstances, perpetrators involved in recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for that purpose are guilty of sex trafficking of an adult. Sex trafficking also may occur through a specific form of coercion whereby individuals are compelled to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt,” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their “sale”—which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free. Even if an adult initially consents to engage in commercial sex, it is irrelevant: if an adult, after consenting, is subsequently held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim and should receive benefits outlined in the Palermo Protocol and applicable domestic laws.
Child Sex Trafficking
When a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, patronized, or solicited for the purpose of a commercial sex act, proving force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for the offense to be prosecuted as human trafficking. There are no exceptions to this rule: no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations alter the fact that children who are exploited in prostitution are trafficking victims. The use of children in the commercial sex industry is prohibited under U.S. law and by statute in most countries around the world. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for children, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death.
Forced labor, sometimes also referred to as labor trafficking, encompasses the range of activities—recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining—involved when a person uses force or physical threats, psychological coercion, abuse of the legal process, deception, or other coercive means to compel someone to work. Once a person’s labor is obtained by such means, the person’s prior consent to work for an employer is legally irrelevant: the employer is a trafficker and the employee a trafficking victim. Migrants are particularly vulnerable to this form of human trafficking, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually abused or exploited as well.
Bonded Labor or Debt Bondage
One form of coercion used by traffickers in both sex trafficking and forced labor is the imposition of a bond or debt. Some workers inherit debt; for example, in South Asia it is estimated that there are millions of trafficking victims working to pay off their ancestors’ debts. Others fall victim to traffickers or recruiters who unlawfully exploit an initial debt assumed, wittingly or unwittingly, as a term of employment. Traffickers, labor agencies, recruiters, and employers in both the country of origin and the destination country can contribute to debt bondage by charging workers recruitment fees and exorbitant interest rates, making it difficult, if not impossible, to pay off the debt. Such circumstances may occur in the context of employment-based temporary work programs in which a worker’s legal status in the destination country is tied to the employer so workers fear seeking redress.
Involuntary domestic servitude is a form of human trafficking found in distinct circumstances—work in a private residence—that create unique vulnerabilities for victims. It is a crime in which a domestic worker is not free to leave his or her employment and is abused and underpaid, if paid at all. Many domestic workers do not receive the basic benefits and protections commonly extended to other groups of workers—things as simple as a day off. Moreover, their ability to move freely is often limited, and employment in private homes increases their isolation and vulnerability. Labor officials generally do not have the authority to inspect employment conditions in private homes. Domestic workers, especially women, confront various forms of abuse, harassment, and exploitation, including sexual and gender-based violence. These issues, taken together, may be symptoms of a situation of domestic servitude. When the employer of a domestic worker has diplomatic status and enjoys immunity from civil and/or criminal jurisdiction, the vulnerability to domestic servitude is enhanced.
Forced Child Labor
Although children may legally engage in certain forms of work, children can also be found in slavery or slavery-like situations. Some indicators of forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who requires the child to perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family and does not offer the child the option of leaving, such as forced begging. Anti-trafficking responses should supplement, not replace, traditional actions against child labor, such as remediation and education. When children are enslaved, their exploiters should not escape criminal punishment—something that occurs when governments exclusively use administrative responses to address cases of forced child labor.
Unlawful Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers
Child soldiering is a manifestation of human trafficking when it involves the unlawful recruitment and use of children—through force, fraud, or coercion—by armed forces as combatants or other forms of labor. Perpetrators may be government armed forces, paramilitary organizations, or rebel groups. Many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants. Others are made to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Young girls may be forced to “marry” or be raped by commanders and male combatants. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused or exploited by armed groups and such children are subject to the same types of devastating physical and psychological consequences associated with child sex trafficking.
The Department of State prepared this Report using information from U.S. embassies, government officials, nongovernmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, academic studies, and research trips to every region of the world, and information submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. This email address provides a means by which organizations and individuals can share information with the Department of State on government progress in addressing trafficking.
U.S. diplomatic posts and domestic agencies reported on the trafficking situation and governmental action to fight trafficking based on thorough research that included meetings with a wide variety of government officials, local and international NGO representatives, officials of international organizations, journalists, academics, and survivors. U.S. missions overseas are dedicated to covering human trafficking issues year-round. The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report covers government efforts undertaken from April 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018.
The Department places each country in this Report onto one of four tiers, as mandated by the TVPA. This placement is based not on the size of the country’s problem but on the extent of governments’ efforts to meet the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking (see page 44), which are generally consistent with the Palermo Protocol.
While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem or that it is doing enough to address the problem. Rather, a Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has made efforts to address the problem that meet the TVPA’s minimum standards. To maintain a Tier 1 ranking, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress each year in combating trafficking. Indeed, Tier 1 represents a responsibility rather than a reprieve.
Tier rankings and narratives in the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report reflect an assessment of the following:
- enactment of laws prohibiting severe forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by the TVPA, and provision of criminal punishments for trafficking offenses;
- criminal penalties prescribed for human trafficking offenses with a maximum of at least four years’ deprivation of liberty, or a more severe penalty;
- implementation of human trafficking laws through vigorous prosecution of the prevalent forms of trafficking in the country and sentencing of offenders;
- proactive victim identification measures with systematic procedures to guide law enforcement and other government-supported front-line responders in the process of victim identification;
- government funding and partnerships with NGOs to provide victims with access to primary health care, counseling, and shelter, allowing them to recount their trafficking experiences to trained social counselors and law enforcement in an environment of minimal pressure;
- victim protection efforts that include access to services and shelter without detention and with legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship;
- the extent to which a government ensures victims are provided with legal and other assistance and that, consistent with domestic law, proceedings are not prejudicial to victims’ rights, dignity, or psychological well-being;
- the extent to which a government ensures the safe, humane, and to the extent possible, voluntary repatriation and reintegration of victims;
- governmental measures to prevent human trafficking, including efforts to curb practices identified as contributing factors to human trafficking, such as employers’ confiscation of foreign workers’ passports and allowing labor recruiters to charge prospective migrants excessive fees; and
- governmental efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and international sex tourism.
Tier rankings and narratives are NOT affected by the following:
- efforts, however laudable, undertaken exclusively by nongovernmental actors in the country;
- general public awareness events—government-sponsored or otherwise—lacking concrete ties to the prosecution of traffickers, protection of victims, or prevention of trafficking; and
- broad-based law enforcement or developmental initiatives.
A Guide to the Tiers
The governments of countries that fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
The governments of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
Tier 2 Watch List
The government of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, and for which:
a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;
b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution, and convictions of trafficking crimes, increased assistance to victims, and decreasing evidence of complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials; or
c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year.
The governments of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
The TVPA lists additional factors to determine whether a country should be on Tier 2 (or Tier 2 Watch List) versus Tier 3: first, the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking; second, the extent to which the country’s government does not meet the TVPA’s minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking; and third, reasonable measures that the government would need to undertake to be in compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government’s resources and capabilities to address and eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.
A 2008 amendment to the TVPA provides that any country that has been ranked Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years and that would otherwise be ranked Tier 2 Watch List for the next year will instead be ranked Tier 3 in that third year. This “automatic downgrade” provision came into effect for the first time in the 2013 Report. The Secretary of State is authorized to waive the automatic downgrade based on credible evidence that a waiver is justified because the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement the plan. The Secretary can only issue this waiver for two consecutive years. After the third year, a country must either go up to Tier 2 or down to Tier 3. Governments subject to the automatic downgrade provision are noted as such in the country narratives.
Funding Restrictions for Tier 3 Countries
Pursuant to the TVPA, governments of countries on Tier 3 may be subject to certain restrictions on assistance, whereby the President may determine not to provide U.S. government non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance. In addition, the President may determine to withhold funding for government official or employee participation in educational and cultural exchange programs for certain Tier 3 countries. Consistent with the TVPA, the President may also determine to instruct the U.S. Executive Director of each multilateral development bank and the International Monetary Fund to vote against and use his or her best efforts to deny any loans or other uses of the institutions’ funds to a designated Tier 3 country for most purposes (except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development-related assistance). Alternatively, the President may waive application of the foregoing restrictions upon a determination that the provision to a Tier 3 country of such assistance would promote the purposes of the TVPA or is otherwise in the national interest of the United States. The TVPA also authorizes the President to waive funding restrictions if necessary to avoid significant adverse effects on vulnerable populations, including women and children.
Applicable funding restrictions apply for the next Fiscal Year, which begins October 1, 2018.
No tier ranking is permanent.
Every country, including the United States, can do more. All countries must maintain and continually increase efforts to combat trafficking.
Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons
Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Div. A of Pub. L. No. 106-386, § 108, as amended.
(1) The government of the country should prohibit severe forms of trafficking in persons and punish acts of such trafficking.
(2) For the knowing commission of any act of sex trafficking involving force, fraud, coercion, or in which the victim of sex trafficking is a child incapable of giving meaningful consent, or of trafficking which includes rape or kidnapping or which causes a death, the government of the country should prescribe punishment commensurate with that for grave crimes, such as forcible sexual assault.
(3) For the knowing commission of any act of a severe form of trafficking in persons, the government of the country should prescribe punishment that is sufficiently stringent to deter and that adequately reflects the heinous nature of the offense.
(4) The government of the country should make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.
Indicia of “Serious and Sustained Efforts”
(1) Whether the government of the country vigorously investigates and prosecutes acts of severe forms of trafficking in persons, and convicts and sentences persons responsible for such acts, that take place wholly or partly within the territory of the country, including, as appropriate, requiring incarceration of individuals convicted of such acts. For purposes of the preceding sentence, suspended or significantly reduced sentences for convictions of principal actors in cases of severe forms of trafficking in persons shall be considered, on a case-by-case basis, whether to be considered as an indicator of serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons. After reasonable requests from the Department of State for data regarding investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences, a government which does not provide such data, consistent with the capacity of such government to obtain such data, shall be presumed not to have vigorously investigated, prosecuted, convicted, or sentenced such acts. During the periods prior to the annual report submitted on June 1, 2004, and on June 1, 2005, and the periods afterwards until September 30 of each such year, the Secretary of State may disregard the presumption contained in the preceding sentence if the government has provided some data to the Department of State regarding such acts and the Secretary has determined that the government is making a good faith effort to collect such data.
(2) Whether the government of the country protects victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons and encourages their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of such trafficking, including provisions for legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship, and ensures that victims are not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked, including by providing training to law enforcement and immigration officials regarding the identification and treatment of trafficking victims using approaches that focus on the needs of the victims.
(3) Whether the government of the country has adopted measures to prevent severe forms of trafficking in persons, such as measures to inform and educate the public, including potential victims, about the causes and consequences of severe forms of trafficking in persons, measures to establish the identity of local populations, including birth registration, citizenship, and nationality, measures to ensure that its nationals who are deployed abroad as part of a diplomatic, peacekeeping, or other similar mission do not engage in or facilitate severe forms of trafficking in persons or exploit victims of such trafficking, a transparent system for remediating or punishing such public officials as a deterrent, measures to prevent the use of forced labor or child labor in violation of international standards, effective bilateral, multilateral, or regional information sharing and cooperation arrangements with other countries, and effective policies or laws regulating foreign labor recruiters and holding them civilly and criminally liable for fraudulent recruiting.
(4) Whether the government of the country cooperates with other governments in the investigation and prosecution of severe forms of trafficking in persons and has entered into bilateral, multilateral, or regional law enforcement cooperation and coordination arrangements with other countries.
(5) Whether the government of the country extradites persons charged with acts of severe forms of trafficking in persons on substantially the same terms and to substantially the same extent as persons charged with other serious crimes (or, to the extent such extradition would be inconsistent with the laws of such country or with international agreements to which the country is a party, whether the government is taking all appropriate measures to modify or replace such laws and treaties so as to permit such extradition).
(6) Whether the government of the country monitors immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of severe forms of trafficking in persons and whether law enforcement agencies of the country respond to any such evidence in a manner that is consistent with the vigorous investigation and prosecution of acts of such trafficking, as well as with the protection of human rights of victims and the internationally recognized human right to leave any country, including one’s own, and to return to one’s own country.
(7) Whether the government of the country vigorously investigates, prosecutes, convicts, and sentences public officials, including diplomats and soldiers, who participate in or facilitate severe forms of trafficking in persons, including nationals of the country who are deployed abroad as part of a diplomatic, peacekeeping, or other similar mission who engage in or facilitate severe forms of trafficking in persons or exploit victims of such trafficking, and takes all appropriate measures against officials who condone such trafficking. A government’s failure to appropriately address public allegations against such public officials, especially once such officials have returned to their home countries, shall be considered inaction under these criteria. After reasonable requests from the Department of State for data regarding such investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences, a government which does not provide such data consistent with its resources shall be presumed not to have vigorously investigated, prosecuted, convicted, or sentenced such acts. During the periods prior to the annual report submitted on June 1, 2004, and June 1, 2005, and the periods afterwards until September 30 of each such year, the Secretary of State may disregard the presumption contained in the preceding sentence if the government has provided some data to the Department of State regarding such acts and the Secretary has determined that the government is making a good faith effort to collect such data.
(8) Whether the percentage of victims of severe forms of trafficking in the country that are non-citizens of such countries is insignificant.
(9) Whether the government has entered into effective, transparent partnerships, cooperative arrangements, or agreements that have resulted in concrete and measurable outcomes with
(A) domestic civil society organizations, private sector entities, or international nongovernmental organizations, or into multilateral or regional arrangements or agreements, to assist the government’s efforts to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and punish traffickers; or
(B) the United States toward agreed goals and objectives in the collective fight against trafficking.
(10) Whether the government of the country, consistent with the capacity of such government, systematically monitors its efforts to satisfy the criteria described in paragraphs (1) through (8) and makes available publicly a periodic assessment of such efforts.
(11) Whether the government of the country achieves appreciable progress in eliminating severe forms of trafficking when compared to the assessment in the previous year.
(12) Whether the government of the country has made serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for
(A) commercial sex acts; and
(B) participation in international sex tourism by nationals of the country.
2018 TIP Report Heroes
Each year, the Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. These individuals included NGO workers, lawmakers, government officials, survivors of human trafficking, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery. They are recognized for their tireless efforts—despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives—to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of human trafficking trends in their countries and abroad. For more information about current and past Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes, including how to connect with them, please visit the Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes Global Network at www.tipheroes.org .
Ausamah AlAbsi | Bahrain
Ausamah AlAbsi, the CEO of the Bahraini government’s Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and Chairman of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons (NCCTIP), has played an instrumental role in increasing protections for trafficking victims and reducing the vulnerability of migrant workers to human trafficking in Bahrain.
As CEO of the LMRA, and previously as the Deputy CEO for Special Projects in the Economic Development Board, Mr. AlAbsi has been a devoted advocate working to improve labor conditions for Bahrain’s large migrant worker population. Under his leadership, the Government of Bahrain launched its National Referral Mechanism for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which streamlines the identification of potential victims, ensures proper documentation and referral of cases, and provides assistance to potential victims until the resolution of their cases or voluntary return to their home countries. Mr. AlAbsi also led the NCCTIP in establishing an impressive 200-bed shelter for trafficking victims that remains a model for its high standards of victim care and implemented programs to increase protections for Bahrain’s undocumented worker population. In addition, the LMRA launched the “flexible work permit” program in July 2017, an initiative that moves Bahrain away from a strict sponsorship system by allowing some foreign workers to live and work in the country as their own sponsors, in an effort to reduce their vulnerability to trafficking by unscrupulous employers.
Josue Ango | Burkina Faso
Josue Ango, the director of the department in charge of combating violence against children within the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity and Family, is a driving force behind Burkina Faso’s efforts to combat human trafficking. In addition to his regular duties, Mr. Ango devotes his personal time to serving as the National Coordinator for the Working Group on Child Protection including Trafficking in Persons, which brings together Burkinabe government agencies, and national and international organizations, to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts.
Throughout his career, Mr. Ango has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to building the Burkinabe government’s capacity to address this crime. Mr. Ango has organized and conducted trainings for numerous stakeholders, including government officials, social workers, police officers, and traditional and religious leaders on children rights. He drafted the National Program to Combat Child Labor in the mining sector, which included new provisions to strengthen protections for children. Mr. Ango played a critical role in recognizing the need for and developing a solution to establish stronger cooperation between Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire to combat cross-border human trafficking.
In addition, Mr. Ango has worked tirelessly to reduce the vulnerability of youth in Burkina Faso’s two major cities, Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, through projects focused on the social and economic empowerment and reintegration of homeless youth.
Francisca Awah Mbuli | Cameroon
Francisca Awah Mbuli is a survivor of human trafficking and the founding director of Survivors’ Network, a Cameroonian NGO comprised of trafficking survivors that raises awareness, helps victims escape their trafficking situations, and offers temporary housing, vocational training, and other essential services that survivors need for successful reintegration. As a survivor of domestic servitude, Ms. Awah Mbuli uses her experience to educate and prevent others in Cameroon from experiencing human trafficking. Since 2015, Ms. Awah Mbuli and her organization have helped 28 women from West and Central Africa free themselves from their situations of forced labor, including debt bondage, in the Middle East. Under her leadership, Survivors’ Network has built a unique approach to survivor empowerment by focusing on economic independence and fostering entrepreneurship among women and girls. She has provided guidance to more than 500 victims of trafficking, and her organization has helped create economic opportunities for survivors across Cameroon by providing micro-financing to small businesses and income-generating projects as well as job and small business training.
Ms. Awah Mbuli has sought out creative ways to reach different communities and socioeconomic groups throughout the country, including through appearances on national and international television and radio stations. She has taken every opportunity to advocate for better protections and support services for trafficking victims with Cameroonian and foreign government ministries. Through the outreach campaigns and partnerships formed with international non-profit organizations and her grassroots workshops and programs, Ms. Awah Mbuli and the Survivors’ Network have raised the level of awareness among Cameroonians and others around the world.
Yanira Violeta Olivares Pineda | El Salvador
Yanira Violeta Olivares Pineda is the head of the national Specialized Trafficking in Persons Unit in San Salvador, where she leads a team of prosecutors dedicated to holding human traffickers accountable and delivering justice to victims. Ms. Olivares Pineda has been a central and fearless figure in elevating human trafficking as a priority issue for the Salvadoran government and strengthening its efforts to combat this crime. Under her exemplary leadership, the Unit has overcome resource constraints to maintain constant pressure on traffickers. Ms. Olivares Pineda personally opened more than 143 cases involving 174 victims, securing more than 30 convictions with punishments ranging from four to 20 years in prison.
In her role, Ms. Olivares Pineda has been a strong partner of the U.S. government, establishing procedures for information- and intelligence-sharing with U.S. law enforcement on trafficking investigations that have resulted in the identification of traffickers in both the United States and El Salvador, the seizure of their assets, and an increase in the number of traffickers extradited from the United States to El Salvador.
Maizidah Salas | Indonesia
Maizidah Salas is a leading voice for migrant worker rights in Indonesia. Using her experience as a former migrant worker and survivor of human trafficking, Ms. Salas pioneered the establishment of the Village of Migrant Workers, a community that provides skills training and support to individuals and their families who migrate for economic opportunity and that works to increase awareness about human trafficking among this vulnerable population. Her organization employs former migrant workers, including trafficking survivors, to provide training on safe migration practices, economic empowerment, and early childhood education for those working or considering work overseas. The Village has become a model community in Indonesia.
Since 2011, Ms. Salas has served on the executive board of the National Council of Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union and as the Chairwoman of the local Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union in Wonosobo. Her ambition and drive have also led her to establish a school for children of migrant workers in a village in Wonosobo, which garnered recognition from the Indonesian government.
Ms. Salas has been a staunch advocate for trafficking survivors and their families, elevating the importance of protecting their rights and offering needed services. She has also raised awareness among Indonesians about human trafficking through multiple public outreach campaigns, including through her role in a recent anti-trafficking film.
Sunita Danuwar | Nepal
Sunita Danuwar has made the remarkable transformation from trafficking victim to one of Nepal’s leading social activists. As the co-founder and Executive Director of Shakti Samuha, an NGO founded in 1996 that began providing shelter support to trafficking victims in Nepal in 2004, Ms. Danuwar has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to empowering other survivors. Under her leadership, Shakti Samuha has expanded its services to provide repatriation assistance, legal aid, vocational and life skill training, livelihood support, job placement services, and psycho-social counseling to more than 20,000 people in some of the poorest communities across 13 districts in Nepal.
Ms. Danuwar has worked tirelessly to prevent human trafficking in poor and rural Nepali communities, traveling to villages to raise awareness and creating plays depicting human trafficking. She recently published her autobiography, Ashuko Shakti (“The Power of Tears”), to elevate self-esteem among survivors and empower them to overcome social stigma when discussing their experiences.
From 2009 to 2011, Ms. Danuwar headed the Alliance Against Trafficking of Women and Children in Nepal, a national network of NGOs working to raise strong and collective voices against human trafficking, and served as a board member of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, a global anti-trafficking network. Since 2014, Ms. Danuwar has served as a survivor representative on the National Committee on Controlling Human Trafficking. In each of her positions, Ms. Danuwar dedicated herself to giving a voice to trafficking survivors and elevating their perspectives.
Blessing Okoedion | Nigeria
Blessing Okoedion is an inspirational voice in the fight against modern slavery. Ms. Okoedion plays an integral role in pushing Italian authorities to ensure that survivors, especially Nigerian women and girls, receive the services they deserve during their healing process and that law enforcement and service providers engage with survivors in an increasingly culturally informed, victim-centered manner. She selflessly devotes her time to ensure survivors feel they have a trusted champion who can advocate on their behalf as they go through the process of reintegrating into society, including through her work as a cultural mediator for trafficking victims staying in a local shelter run by a community of Ursuline sisters.
Ms. Okoedion has demonstrated exceptional courage in drawing from her own experiences as a trafficking survivor to raise awareness about human trafficking in Italy, where she was subjected to sex trafficking. Ms. Okoedion also partners with the Catholic Church, particularly women religious, and travels throughout her home country of Nigeria to educate vulnerable women and girls in poor and remote areas to help them detect traffickers’ fraudulent recruitment and employment tactics, including false promises of work and a better life in large cities and other countries. In 2017, she published a book, co-written with an Italian journalist, to tell her story and to shine a light on this abhorrent practice.
Ivana Radovic | Serbia
Ivana Radovic is the Head of Policy and Learning at ASTRA, one of Serbia’s leading grassroots anti-trafficking NGOs. In this role, she has worked tirelessly to strengthen Serbia’s response to human trafficking through advocacy and engagement with the government, the development of reports and resources for practitioners, and the provision of legal representation for victims, including free legal review of workers’ employment contracts to ensure compliance with labor laws. She also acts as ASTRA’s public relations officer, boldly serving as the public representative of the organization in the face of threats, harassment, and scrutiny.
Ms. Radovic produces the organization’s annual report on the successes and shortfalls in Serbia’s prosecution efforts on human trafficking cases and has authored a number of key manuals that Serbian court officials reference extensively. These tools have played an instrumental role in helping Serbia’s judicial system provide relief to victims in an increasingly victim-centered manner and enhancing prosecutors’ and judges’ understanding of human trafficking in its various forms.
As a result of Ms. Radovic’s work to build ASTRA into one of the most credible NGOs fighting human trafficking in the country, Serbia’s government established a cooperative relationship with the organization and has included its staff in many of its anti-trafficking initiatives to serve as subject matter experts.
Kim Jong-chul | South Korea
Kim Jong-chul is the founder and former Director of the Advocates for Public Interest Law. He has worked tirelessly as an attorney to ensure justice for victims of human trafficking and as a researcher whose groundbreaking investigative findings have shed light on the issue of forced labor in South Korea and around the world. Mr. Kim’s renowned research studies are based on his meticulous on-the-ground investigations. His findings have increased understanding of forced labor and other human rights abuses across multiple countries and industries, including seafood in East Asia, cotton in Uzbekistan, steel mills in India, electronics in Mexico, palm oil in Indonesia, and garments in Bangladesh.
Through Mr. Kim’s criminal litigation work and administrative advocacy on behalf of trafficking victims, he has fought to prevent the detention and deportation of sex trafficking victims and to secure convictions against fishing companies and individuals for sex and labor trafficking. As a recognized subject matter expert on human trafficking, he has worked extensively with South Korean members of parliament to craft a law that strengthens regulations to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent human trafficking.
Yosief Abrham Mehari | Sudan
Yosief Abrham Mehari is a practicing medical doctor who has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to serving survivors of human trafficking in Sudan. He devotes his personal time to ensure victims in Khartoum and in Sudan’s remote areas receive high-quality medical care and support. Dr. Abrham Mehari dedicates his nights and weekends to lend his medical expertise on a volunteer basis at Eritrean and Ethiopian safe houses, where the majority of the beneficiaries are victims of trafficking. He has selflessly offered to be on call 24/7 so victims have a primary point of contact when they first seek services after escaping their traffickers.
Access to medical care is often limited or non-existent for trafficking victims who lack legal status and fear reprisal from traffickers. These challenges are exacerbated when the service providers that do exist lack the medical supplies needed to appropriately care for victims. In a demonstration of his extraordinary generosity, Dr. Abrham Mehari often purchases medicine and even medical equipment using his own resources. In addition to volunteering his resources and expertise, Dr. Abrham Mehari coordinates with Sudanese authorities and service providers to see that victims receive proper care and traffickers are held accountable.