Last Month, Today: Trafficking in Persons News for June 2016
Like everything else on this rotating spaceship that we call planet earth, human trafficking continues to morph and change: traffickers adapt tactics, governments and NGOs revise approaches, researchers refine definitions. To combat this epidemic, it’s important that we keep up to date. Near the beginning of each month, The SOLD Project will highlight five to ten of the most recent and relevant developments in the world of human trafficking and the fight against it. Check out June’s update below, and check back in early August for July’s.
California: Sex Trafficking Scandal in Oakland
The Oakland Police Department is currently under investigation due to accusations that multiple police officers have been having sexual relations with an underage survivor of commercial sexual exploitation, Celeste Guap. While 18 years old now, Celeste claims she was rescued as a 17-year-old by Oakland Police Officer, Brendan O’Brien, whom she subsequently began dating and having a sexual relationship with while underage. O’Brien took his life last September, leaving behind a note outlining details of this trafficking scandal within the Oakland Police Department. Twenty-eight police officers in the Bay Area now face allegations involving Guap: 14 Oakland police officers, 5 Richmond police officers, several Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, a Livermore police officer, and a Contra Costa County Sheriff’s deputy. Many police officers who were not involved in this scandal are mortified and disgusted by these allegations.
Sara Sidner at WCVB (CNN)
Caleb Pershan at SF Ist
Thailand: Thailand Successfully Eradicates Mother to Child HIV Transmission
This month, an HIV-infected patient successfully gave birth without transferring the disease to her child. Euan McKirdy writes, “The World Health Organization has congratulated Thailand as the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.” This is a huge gain, given that in Thailand more than 450,000 people are infected with HIV.
Euan McKirdy at CNN
Bill to Help Victims of Human Trafficking in New York State
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas’ bill to help victims of human trafficking in New York State has passed. The bill, passed on June 8th, requires the State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to put up posters with a hotline to call for help. The hotline, operated by a non-profit, is toll-free, anonymous, confidential, and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and in 170 languages. This poster will be placed where victims will most likely see it such as bus stations, highway rest stops, truck stops, airports, adult or sexually oriented businesses, hospitals, and urgent care centers. Simotas intends to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the bill.
The Global Slavery Index 2016
According to the Global Slavery Index, “In 2016, we estimate that 45.8 million people are in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries.” The index estimates that 425,500 of the 67,959,000 people in Thailand are involved in modern slavery; this constitutes 0.626 percent of the Thai population.
Lawsuit Against U.S. and Thai Seafood Industry
Rural Cambodian villagers recently filed a lawsuit against four U.S. and Thai companies for human trafficking. They worked in forced-labor conditions in a Thai seafood factory. The men and women who filed suit claimed, according to Sebastien Malo of Reuters, that after they had left their homeland for Thailand, “factory managers confiscated their passports and made them work up to six days a week for wages that were less than promised.”
Sebastien Malo at Reuters
U.S. Upgrades Thailand in Annual Human Trafficking Report
The U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report has upgraded Thailand from Tier 3 to the Tier 2 Watch List. The report categorizes countries into tiers based on trafficking records: Tier 1 for nations that meet minimum U.S. standards; Tier 2 for nations making significant efforts to meet those standards; Tier 2 “Watch List” for nations that deserve special scrutiny; and Tier 3 for countries that are not making significant efforts. This upgrade is expected to smooth relations between the U.S. and Bangkok’s military-run government. Szep at Reuters writes, “This report is expected to cite improvements in Thailand’s efforts to combat human trafficking.” Thai Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan recognized that “even though we will be moved to Tier 2, we need to keep solving this problem.”
Jason Szep, Matt Spetanick, and Andrew R.C. Marshall at Reuters
New App Developed to Help Fight Human Trafficking?
A new phone app developed in St. Louis, called TraffickCam, helps fight human trafficking. The app encourages travelers to snap pictures of their hotel rooms and submit them. The app then matches the images with a national database used by the police. Using small details such as carpet type, wall art, and furniture, TraffickCam’s algorithm matches uploaded hotel rooms with advertisements that sex traffickers put up of women or children posing in hotel rooms. The hope is that the app will help find victims of sex trafficking.
Nancy Cambria at St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Saving the Girl Next Door Bill in Canada
Trafficking survivors’ advocates say more young women are being forced into the sex trade in Canada. The country recently developed a “Saving the Girl Next Door” bill, which advocates hope will help combat the issue. This bill has three components. First, there will be a day of awareness that educates the public on the severity of the human trafficking problem in Canada. Second, the bill will enforce current laws on human trafficking with the hope of having an immediate impact. This enforcement includes protection orders on behalf of victims of traffickers. Finally, the bill will increase public awareness of traffickers so that anyone can find out if a trafficker is in their community. The lawmakers are looking to make sure this new bill is enforced.
Nelia Raposo at Independent Free Press