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U.S Places new emphasis on human trafficking

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Global efforts to enact anti-human-trafficking legislation are receiving renewed attention in Washington, D.C. 

   Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly released the 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report last month, (June 14) at the U.S. Department of State.

   "All of us have the possibility of bringing this problem to an end," Clinton said during the report's 10th annual release. "We have to ensure that our policies live up to our own ideals."

   This marks the first year the United States is ranked in the TIP report. This country is considered a source, transit and destination for labor and sexual trafficking. The majority of U.S. cases involve victims from the Latino community, with traffickers being both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens.

   The report identified 18,144 more victims globally in 2009 than in the year before. Trafficking prosecutions also rose from 5,212 to 5,606.  

   Speaking afterwards at a press briefing, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons attributed the prosecution gains to the development of sufficient governmental infrastructures.

   Argentina is one of several countries that have shown success in their efforts to work closely with non-governmental organizations by creating an anti-trafficking unit as a specialized law enforcement section. 

    Mexico's civil rights division has also been working in partnership with the U.S. government to control trafficking rings in both countries.

   Within the United States, increased numbers of adults and children are being trafficked for forced labor, commonly in domestic servitude, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, construction, health and elder care, hair and nail salons, and strip club dancing, according to the report. 

   The U.S. victims came primarily from Thailand, Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, India, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

   "What we have in the United States is a situation where home-grown traffickers are enslaving people in various segments of the economy. Some foreign nationals who are here were recruited in their home countries. Others might have immigrated and when they are here they get trapped," CdeBaca said.

   The TIP report doesn't include the number of persons being trafficked in this country, and the rankings do not reflect the size of the problem. CdeBaca said that estimates as to the number of U.S. trafficking cases over the past decade range from 14,500 to 50,000.

   According to the TIP report, more U.S citizens, both adult and children, are found in sex trafficking than labor trafficking and more foreign victims are found in labor trafficking than sex trafficking. Some victims entered the country through work or student-based visa programs.

   Laura Germino, an anti-slavery campaign coordinator for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who has helped prosecute seven cases of slavery in Florida over the past 15 years, is the first U.S-based recipient to receive recognition as an "Anti-trafficking Hero."  

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   "I think it's incredibly important that the TIP now includes the United States because it formally acknowledges that we have a problem of forced labor not just in agriculture but in factories, other work sites and forced prostitution," Germino said. 

    The Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit within the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division charged 114 individuals and obtained 47 convictions in 43 human trafficking prosecutions within 2009.

   On a global scale, labor trafficking prosecutions have tripled to 335 cases.

   The world's demand for exploiting labor also seems to be slightly decreasing, said CdeBaca, "On the one hand, people are desperate and therefore willing to take more risks putting themselves into harms way with an abusive labor recruiter. On the other hand, there are fewer big projects for them to be placed by those abusive labor recruiters." 

   The report surveyed policies in 177 countries based on standards set by the International Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

  The report estimated 12.3 million persons are still being held in force labor, bonded labor and forced prostitution.

   (Raisa Camargo is a reporter with Hispanic Link News Service based in Washington D.C. email: [email protected])

   ©2010 

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