April 2017

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By Emily Gwash, Guest Blogger*

The growing humanitarian crisis caused by millions of people fleeing violence and devastation in Syria has captured the world’s attention. A whole host of accompanying issues and dilemmas concerning the plight of these refugees have been identified, garnering further consideration from the global community. In particular, a large number of those fleeing the region have become the victims of human trafficking, as they find themselves in increasingly desperate situations. Even more disheartening is the fact that many of these people are unaccompanied children just trying to make it on their own. However, unaccompanied children being targeted for human trafficking purposes is a global problem, and a similar situation percolates just south of the United States border. 

Central American Unaccompanied Minors  

For several years now (and most notably in 2014), individuals, families, and unaccompanied children have been fleeing Central America and Northern Triangle gang violence, and its associated economic effects. In this process, a large portion of minors traveling alone have become the victims of human trafficking. Like Syrian children, Central American children often lack the money and resources to move quickly out of danger, and are left desperate and with few options.

This migration crisis is regularly conflated with overarching immigration issues between the U.S. and Mexico. However, it is important to remember that a large number of children and adults seeking to enter the U.S. are not beginning their journey in Mexico. According to an article published in the New York Times in November of 2016, 91% of the 77,700 migrants caught trying to cross the United States’ southern border during the 2016 fiscal year were from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Limited Options

While many Central American children leave their homes in hope of reaching the United States, few are able to complete this journey. Instead, thousands find themselves stuck in Mexico, where the government has been consistently unwilling to provide support or asylum, and many are sent back to their country of origin where they face gang recruitment, retaliation, violence and economic instability. For those who do manage to reach U.S. soil (as many as 60,000 this fiscal year) most are briefly detained before being sent back across the border to Mexico. These factors, when combined with the realization that they may never make it to the U.S. in the manner that they had imagined, create conditions of extreme vulnerability and desperation, which have proven to be ripe for exploitation.

As forward migration stagnates in Mexico, victims are either forced into the hands of traffickers, or they seek out opportunities that mutate into situations of trafficking. In all cases however, the perpetrators are finding effective ways to exploit those who are fleeing for their lives. With significant demand for labor and sex trafficking in the United States, the influx of vulnerable people provides coyotes, gang members, and criminals with a larger pool from which to pull victims. In some instances, they have been able to exert very little effort to target these individuals.

A telling example of this targeted exploitation was recently uncovered. In 2014, it was discovered that U.S. authorities did not conduct the proper background checks on “caregivers” who took custody of dozens of Central American minors. The “caregivers” were instead traffickers who sent the children to work on farms in Ohio, where they were told they must repay a $15,000 debt to their employer before they could leave. This is only one example of many similar instances of traffickers gaining easy access to victims. According to UNICEF, in many cases, migrant children are kidnapped, whether traveling alone or with their families, and young girls are forced to work in brothels throughout Mexico, while boys are targeted for labor trafficking.

Moving Action Forward

In both the Central American and Syrian cases, the young victims face similar circumstances. Not only are they incredibly vulnerable to exploitation, but they lack opportunities, resources, and the legal status that comes with asylum. With the inability to return home, these factors have an incapacitating impact on their futures. Nevertheless, while the parallels in these two cases provide an interesting frame with which to understand the plight of unaccompanied minors, it can also be used to motivate action that encourages both the U.S. and Mexican governments to act. The plight of these children cannot be ignored or folded in to broader issues any longer, and awareness may be the first step.

 

*Emily P. Gwash is a Master of Public and International Affairs Candidate at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  This blog is the second of a collaborative series with the University of Pittsburgh resulting from a course on human trafficking taught by Professor Luke N. Condra.

Photo by Amanda Tipton via flickr

 

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the position of the HTC)


About the Human Trafficking Center

The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.

 

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This World Malaria Day, April 25, see how we’re joining with our partners and communities to end malaria for good!

Together, we’re one step closer to ensuring that no child dies from malaria.

On World Malaria Day, I’m reminded of a day last summer when I attended an auspicious graduation ceremony in my home country of Malawi, in the northern district of Mzimba.

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This post was originally published on this site

 

By Bernadette Recznik, Guest Blogger*

No one chooses to be trafficked. Yet in many ways limited choices force individuals to enter, remain in, or return to situations of exploitation. Despite being a  fundamental component to reducing vulnerability, victimization, and revictimization, the need to broaden the choices available to vulnerable individuals often is not realised.

Choice and Choices

Inherent in the very definition of human trafficking is an individual’s circumstantial inability to make a free choice regarding his or her state of being. This is not to say that the trafficking victim is not capable of making choices for themselves, but that there are few or no viable options for exiting the trafficking situation. Solving this choice problem would essentially solve the problem of trafficking, but that is both unrealistic and beyond what could possibly be covered by this post. Assessing the factors behind this lack of choices, however, is a more accessible venture, yet still provides the potential for profound insight in combating trafficking.

Although individuals are forced or coerced into trafficking in various ways, many victims arrive in trafficking via an initial choice, and often it is choices that result in them remaining in – or returning to – a trafficking situation. This choice, however, is rooted not in preference, but in lack of alternatives. Lack of choices in their home country is the reason many individuals respond to disreputable promises of work abroad. Lack of choices is why many migrants in forced labor remain in such situations. Lack of choices is also why victims of sex trafficking often return to situations of exploitation even if they are no longer actively being trafficked. How to remedy this dearth of choices can be considered at the various stages of trafficking – before, during, and after exploitation.

Preventing Trafficking

Individuals enter trafficking by various means, but the majority do so by pursuing an opportunity founded on deception or coercion, which then leads to exploitation. This is seen when individuals respond to job advertisements, particularly for positions abroad, only to later discover that they are actually being exploited in labor trafficking. One possible solution for this is the creation of certified, monitored job boards that would verify all postings to ensure legitimacy and reduce risk of exploitation. Other individuals find themselves victims of forced labor due to financial difficulties that seem impossible to remedy apart from entering some form of debt bondage. Deeper social safety nets, thus providing for the basic needs of individuals, would reduce desperation, and concurrently decrease the number of individuals willing to enter into coercive labor contracts.

Leaving Trafficking Situations

Seemingly, the most challenging stage in which to introduce alternatives is when a person is being actively trafficked. In fact, sustained efforts are already being made to give these victims alternative choices. Primarily, this is done through outreach and awareness campaigns created to provide this population with the information necessary to obtain assistance in extricating themselves from the situation. While such efforts bear fruit, it is necessary to find more diverse methods to reach a greater number of victims with options for getting out of their ongoing exploitative situation. 

A Vicious Cycle

Unfortunately, even once individuals are removed from a situation of trafficking or exploitation, their options for where to turn next can be extremely limited. Victims of transnational labor trafficking may find themselves illegally in a country, with the choices being to remain in the exploitative situation, face detrimental consequences for their illegal work, or be deported to their home country, where their options were already severely constricted. Programs such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s immigration relief provide alternatives for those who wish to escape trafficking without being deported for illegal stay in the destination country. Expanding the scope of such programs would increase victims’ options, reducing the likelihood of them remaining in a situation of exploitation in order to avoid negative repercussions.

Victims of sex trafficking, whether exploited domestically or internationally, are in a situation further complicated due to the stigma often attached to working in prostitution. Many in this sector are trafficked at a young age, even as children, meaning that their education may have been cut short, and they lack the qualifications for work in other fields. Many NGOs seek to meet this need by providing shelter, employment, or education to create options for those who were previously victims of sex trafficking. Despite the successful work done by many such organizations, the type of vocational training or employment they provide can be limited, and their scale insufficient for the magnitude of the trafficking problem.

Making Choices

Given societal, cultural, educational, and experiential limitations, no one can truly control the choices available to them. However, the dignity of the individual demands that everyone, trafficking victims included, be provided with choices beyond those that lead to exploitation. Making the creation of choices an integral element of comprehensive anti-trafficking programs could significantly lessen vulnerability to trafficking and revictimization, and increase removals from trafficking situations, leading to an effective reduction in the overall prevalence of human trafficking.

 

*Bernadette Recznik is a Master of Public and International Affairs Candidate at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  This blog is the first of a collaborative series with the University of Pittsburgh resulting from a course on human trafficking taught by Professor Luke N. Condra.  

 

Image by qimono via Pixabay

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the position of the HTC)

 


About the Human Trafficking Center

The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.

 

Note: There is a print link embedded within this post, please visit this post to print it.


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Have you ever been lost in the woods — literally or figuratively? Have you rationed your resources, preparing for the worst? Families who can’t access clean water feel this kind of desperation every day.

Blogger Rachel Teodoro has met some of these families. Hear their story and a simple way that you can give them hope!

It was a bright, sunny day about 10 years ago that I decided to take my three young kids on a bike ride on some trails near our home. They brought along their bikes, I brought along some snacks, and we headed off for what I thought was going to a be a quick trek to help burn off some energy.

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