Trafficking Persons Across International Borders – Benevento

TRAFFICKING PERSONS ACROSS INTERNATIONAL BORDERS – BENEVENTO 05/28/03

Salutation – Government/local government.

I want to begin this morning by telling you a story…

Tatiana is a young woman from Belarus. Her economic situation was not great and so she wanted to travel abroad to support her family. Through an agent in Belarus, she arranged to move to Holland to work as a waitress. A number of the agent’s contacts assisted her in her journey from Belarus, through Germany to Holland, and everything went smoothly, until she arrived.

Once in Holland, Tatiana was taken to a night club where she was forced to work as a prostitute. For the next four months she was a prisoner, living and working in the club. All her earnings were taken by the club owner, for rent, food and other living costs, and he also demanded payment for her initial travel expenses from Belarus. Her dream of earning money as a waitress had turned into a nightmare. She was unable to send money home, and could not find a way to escape her desperate situation. On top of all this, she was subjected to regular beatings.

After working in the club for four months, Tatiana was rescued in a police raid. At last help was at hand. But instead of providing support and informing her of her legal rights – a three month stay to help her recover from her ordeal – the police gave her an ultimatum, to report the traffickers or be deported. Terrified of reporting the traffickers, fearing violent reprisals against her and her family, and afraid to go home for fear of being branded a prostitute, she was trapped once again.

Tatiana chose to give a statement, hoping that justice would be done. However, instead of providing her with accommodation through social services, the police kept her at the station for two nights. She received no care or support during this time.

Tatiana applied for a residence permit that allowed her to stay in Holland for four years, after which time she made another application for a residence permit. It was then she discovered that the criminal case against the trafficker had been dismissed four years before. Tatiana’s testimony had not been considered sufficient to warrant prosecution, and so the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Tatiana’s attempt to see justice carried out against her trafficker was crushed. The trafficker had walked free, and yet the police had provided her with no protection. After all she has faced, the authorities still treat her with suspicion, her application for residency to stay in Holland is in question. The case continues.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of women, children and men worldwide are bought, sold, transported, and held against their will in slavery or slavery-like conditions each year. The U.S. Government condemns trafficking in persons and is committed to fighting this scourge and protecting the victims who fall prey to traffickers.

Trafficking in persons — involving the recruitment, transport or harboring of individuals through force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual or labor exploitation — is nothing less than modern-day slavery.  Trafficking in persons occurs across international borders, from one country to another, or within a country, typically from rural areas to urban centers. People are forced to work in brothels, factories, fields, restaurants and homes. Many women and children are forced into prostitution or other illicit, sexually explicit, commercial activity such as pornography or strip club dancing.

Unfortunately, trafficking in human beings is the fastest growing form of transnational organized crime. It thrives on the fact that many countries do not have adequate laws against trafficking. The laws, when enacted, often do not recognize a trafficked person as a victim. The victim is treated as a criminal while real criminals go scot-free.  Most countries’ laws do not take adequate care of the human rights of victims. In some countries the law may provide for prosecution and punishment of women and girls found soliciting in public places, and it may provide for prosecution and punishment of pimps and brothel keepers. But few countries impose an obligation on law enforcement agencies or the State to provide safe shelters for rescued victims.  Few provide for counseling, vocational training or measures for reintegration of the victim with family or society.  Few provide for compensation or a rehabilitation allowance from the State or from the exploiter to the victim.  Few impose an adequate punishment on traffickers, pimps, brothel-keepers or clients. All of these legal shortcomings make it much less risky for organized crime syndicates to indulge in human trafficking.  That is why after drug trafficking and arms trafficking, trafficking in human beings is the third most profitable criminal operation in the world today.

Serving as the international leader in combating human trafficking, the United States is promoting increased public awareness and cooperation at national, regional and international levels.  During 2001, the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development provided more than $17 million for 110 anti-trafficking programs in 50 countries.  Trafficking in persons must be stamped out through both national law enforcement and international cooperation.  I am pleased that trafficking in persons is on the agenda of this conference on transportation and I welcome your interest in uniting our efforts on a global scale to end this human tragedy.

In October 2000, the United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to combat trafficking and ensure both the just and effective punishment of traffickers, and, just as important, the protection of victims. Addressing both the domestic and international nature of trafficking, the U.S. Act added new crimes, strengthened existing criminal penalties, afforded new protections to trafficking victims and made available certain benefits and services to victims of severe forms of trafficking

A cabinet-level task force is responsible for enforcement of the Act, which provides numerous foreign and domestic policy tools to combat human trafficking.  Secretary of State Colin Powell chairs the task force, which includes the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Health and Human Services, the Attorney General, the Director of Central Intelligence and the US Aid and International Development Administrator and other relevant agency principals.  The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, established in October 2002, serves as the lead coordinator at the Department of State to implement these anti-trafficking efforts.

While women are often presumed to be the primary victims of trafficking, children and men also fall prey to these crimes.  All are victims and thus deserve the utmost respect and care from immigration and law enforcement officials.

Trafficking in persons is a global problem; no one region of the world is exempt.  Trafficking is modern-day slavery with deception, fraud and coercion at its core.  Traffickers are feeding on vulnerable persons—people living in despair, in extreme poverty or in war-torn areas—and then preying upon their ignorance or their dreams for a better life to exploit and enslave them.  Whether it is women sold into prostitution or sweatshops, children robbed of their childhood, or men working in years of “peonage” to repay the fabricated costs of elusive opportunities, trafficking exploits desperate people.  How many of us have stopped at an intersection here in Italy, or elsewhere in Europe, only to be approached by a scruffy young person begging us for money, or offering to clean the windscreen or headlamps of our cars?  How many times have we seen women from Nigeria, Moldova, Romania or Ukraine warming themselves around small campfires along this country’s highways or in secluded truck stops?  How many times have our newspapers reported the release of Asians trapped in textile sweatshops, often by their unscrupulous fellow countrymen? These people are not workers trying to make a few extra euros.  The reality is that they are the victims of exploitative traffickers who treat them as productive and profitable merchandise and who will stop at nothing to protect their “slaves”.

Trafficking in persons is distinct from migrant smuggling.  The United States has different laws addressing trafficking and smuggling.  The United Nations also has separate protocols covering each of these crimes.  Migrant smuggling is the exploitation of a country’s boundaries, while trafficking in persons is the exploitation of a person.

Driven by greed, human traffickers view their victims as highly profitable, low-risk, expendable, reusable and resalable commodities.  Traffickers also rely on weak border controls, low-salaried law enforcement, immigration and border personnel and out-dated laws to move and exploit their human cargo.

Targeting trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution reduces trafficking entries and promotes deterrence.  The Department of Justice prosecutes federal trafficking cases occurring within United States jurisdiction. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration coordinates anti-smuggling efforts within its divisions, including Investigations, Overseas Offices, Inspections (at ports-of-entry), and Border Patrol (units between ports-of-entry).

The United States and 109 other countries have signed the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  The protocol supplements the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Both provide important new tools for international cooperation.  Twenty countries have currently ratified the Convention.  U.S. ratification of the Convention and Protocol has been delayed because we must define the ways in which our mix of federal and state laws apply to these issues, but the United States is actively moving toward ratification.

But I want to keep our focus on the victims.  Trafficked persons are almost always “doubly victimized.”  They are coerced or misled into the trafficking situation, and then typically forced into a work activity that often places them beyond legal protection. The law and law enforcement personnel must recognize the need to protect people twice victimized.

Trafficking victims often remain traumatized long after they are liberated.  Many victims of sexual exploitation are physically assaulted, emotionally traumatized, infected with diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and rejected by their families and society.  Child victims are deprived of their very childhood, as well as essentials such as medical care, proper nutrition, and basic education to shape their adult lives.  Such exploitation often generates lasting social and psychological scars.

The Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons, or TIP, Report surveys trafficking activity in nations around the world, as required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The TIP Report is the most comprehensive, international anti-trafficking review issued by any single government.  The TIP Report examines those countries with a significant number of trafficking victims and assesses   governmental commitment and efforts to address trafficking.

The intent of the TIP Report is not to grade countries nor be an end in itself.  Instead, the TIP Report is meant to be used as a diplomatic tool to engage other governments on the issue, share best practices and identify areas for practical improvement.  As a transnational problem, the greater the number of countries coordinating and working together, the more likely we are to make progress in eradicating trafficking.

The second annual TIP Report issued in June 2002 found that 14 nations had made progress in their efforts to curtail trafficking.  They are: Albania, the Czech Republic, France, Gabon, Israel, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Poland, South Korea, Romania and Yugoslavia.

In 2003, the third year since passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the law calls for sanctions to be imposed on those governments that have not met basic minimum standards to combat trafficking in persons.   The sanctions will limit non-humanitarian and non-trade related assistance and will invoke U.S. opposition to the issuance of loans from international financial institutions.   Waivers, however, may be granted in appropriate circumstances.

 

Only through cooperative efforts can we solve the trafficking problem and bring relief to its many victims. This cooperation must occur bilaterally and multilaterally among governments, as well as between governments and civil society, including NGOs, and, especially, communities of faith, which play a crucial role in this battle.  Cooperation must range from national counter-trafficking strategies to coordination at the local level to truly eradicate this degrading human rights abuse and rampant transnational crime.

I have a deep personal interest in the problem of human trafficking, particularly how it affects women and children.  Some years ago, in my hometown on Denver, Colorado, I became involved in a scheme to provide shelters to women who were victims of domestic violence.  [insert Ambassador's personal reflections here].  Trafficking is one of the worst forms of violence against women.

As the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See I have dedicated myself to the fight against trafficking.  It is one of my Embassy’s priorities for.  Early in my term I was pleased to have been able to hand over U.S. government funding for two anti-trafficking projects based here in Italy.  One was in partnership with Caritas Brindisi, which supported a group of Italian nuns working in the town of Vlore in Albania.  As you know, Albania is a major source country for trafficking in women and children.  Our project sought to enhance the dignity of young women in and around Vlore, and to teach them of the hidden dangers behind the promises made by the unscrupulous traffickers who stop at nothing to bring another profitable shipment into Italy.  The nuns also worked with families, who sometimes conspired with the traffickers to send their daughters to Italy and other western countries.  Here we tried to change harmful cultural models, especially among men, that treat women as chattels or as sources of extra income for the family.

Our second project was centered on the Adriatic city of Pescara.  There we worked in close collaboration with Archbishop Francesco Cuccarese – a wonderful man dedicated to protecting human life.  The project had two elements: one to provide shelter to women who sought to leave prostitution rings in the region or who became pregnant, and the other to provide vocational training to these women so that they could either return to their home countries to begin new lives or remain in Italy, but with new skills to facilitate their return to society.

At present we are negotiating with officials in Washington and with the International Organization for Migrants – the IOM – to set up a training program for nuns who come to Rome for post-graduate education.  Often these nuns come from originating countries for trafficking.  Our aim is to provide them with skills that will 1) sensitize them to the phenomenon of trafficking and 2) give them some rudimentary skills to contribute to the fight against trafficking.  We’ll also put them in touch with our embassies in their home countries so they will be part of a wider anti-trafficking network.  Working at the Holy See, I have come to realize that the Church has a vast army of dedicated, concerned people, often members of religious orders, operating at the grass roots level all over the world in direct contact with potential victims of trafficking.  President Bush knows this too and has committed his administration to working in partnership with faith-based organizations on a whole range of issues, including the fight against trafficking in human beings.

You know, we’re really talking about a moral issue here. Trafficking is not just about good law enforcement, or passing legislation, or controlling borders.  There is a whole cultural phenomenon of “demand” that needs to be addressed.  Trafficking is a lucrative business precisely because men in Western nations want to have sex with women from developing nations – and are willing to look at them as simple commodities, or objects.  What these “demandeurs” don’t often realize is that these women are often forced into submission by their pimps, that they are subject to a host of sexually transmitted diseases, and that they experience a living hell.

 

Yes, trafficking is a moral issue – family men, our fathers, husbands, our sons are caught up in, and more importantly, perpetuate this horror.  Recently, I was speaking with the wife of a U.S. diplomat who is totally committed to the fight against trafficking.  She told me than one in two men in her country uses, or should I say, abuses, prostitutes for sex – often they are women trafficked into the country from Eastern Europe or elsewhere.  This is a Christian nation, founded on ancient human values.  If this is true, I am deeply saddened that so many men can behave in a way that degrades their fellow human beings. .

Trafficking is a core human rights issue.  That’s why, last May, I decided that a major conference would be a good way to draw international attention to this dimension.  Framed within the context of human rights, our three-day Conference spread the anti-trafficking message and to gave a voice and hope to the often-silent victims and the organizations that offer protection and prevention programs, through a dialogue around solutions.  We had more than 400 participants and 75 speakers from 35 countries.

In his message to conference participants, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, wrote that, “the trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offence against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights.” He further observed that “the disturbing tendency to treat prostitution as a business or industry not only contributes to the trade in human beings, but is itself evidence of a growing tendency to detach freedom from the moral law and to reduce the rich mystery of human sexuality to a mere commodity”.

The Conference was a forum for victims, international policy-makers, Holy See human rights experts, and NGOs that work directly with victims to explore the human dimension of the problem and ways to stop this cruel, dehumanizing phenomenon.  The Conference elicited principles that informed the European Union’s deliberations on the subject in September of last year, as well as national social and legal responsibilities in originating, transit and destination states.

On the first evening, a panel of media luminaries focused on the issues and discussed the role of the media in highlighting the problems of trafficking in women and children around the world, and the opportunity and responsibility they have to be the catalyst for positive change.  Often the image we have of women is gained from the media and thus plays a determining part in how we treat them at a personal and social level.  I do not understand why in so many countries it is necessary to have scantily clad women grace the covers of magazines, or to have young women in bikinis helping to host early evening quiz shows.  I suspect that men in Western nations need more than a little of that gender sensitizing that my Embassy is supporting in Albania.

Many governments, including the United States, have initiated international anti-trafficking and collaborative development programs to assist countries to combat this ever-growing scourge. These initiatives demonstrate the growing international commitment to address this scourge and encourage worldwide support for the victims. This is slavery going on in the 21st century. It is no different than throwing a net over people in Africa in the 19th century and sending them to plantations in America.  This must stop.

I’m so glad to have had to opportunity to be with you at this ICOSIT conference.  It has been another powerful opportunity to expand awareness of this human tragedy and to spread the anti-trafficking message.  We need to seize upon every opportunity to publicize the plight of the victims and to point our fingers at those who would perpetuate or tolerate such a gross affront to human dignity.  Our combined efforts will ensure that no longer will ignorance be an excuse to turn a blind eye to this blight on the international scene.  I wish you well for the rest of your deliberations.

Thank you.