Voluntourism and Avoiding Orphanage Scams When Volunteering Abroad

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Tenby at Savong Orphan Centre, CambodiaGroup photo of the children and staff of Savong Orphan Centre in Cambodia

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“If the orphanage is legitimate, they would ideally have an active family reunification program, but the unfortunate truth is that some organizations, looking to profit from the lucrative business of volunteer with orphans, have gone as far as to pay families to give up their children to the orphanage.” — Jessie Beck

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Whatever your opinion on voluntourism, there is no denying its growth as a new and popular way to travel while at the same time giving back.

Unfortunately, some imitators have found a way to profit from altruistic tourists by running legitimate looking operations that are actually scams – such as the fake orphanages that dupe tourists into paying to participate in this popular voluntourism project.

In Cambodia, for example, an increase in the number of orphanages has accompanied the voluntourism trend. Many of these establishments are genuinely trying to make a difference in a country that undoubtedly needs the service, but hit “volunteering with orphanage scams” into your search engine and you will be bombarded with stories and blog posts about disgruntled travelers who fell for it.

So, with an increase of illegitimate orphanages out there (especially in Southeast Asia) how can you spot one? And what should you look for when choosing an orphanage to volunteer at to avoid being scammed? What can individuals sincerely hoping to make a difference through their volunteer program do to avoid contributing to this unfortunate trend?

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Lotto Mum Jane Surtees with Orphans in Ethiopia“Lotto Mum” Jane Surtees spending time with her orphans in Ethiopia

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Worth Noting: Cultural Differences in What “Orphanage” Means

It’s important to keep in mind that in some cultures, organizations called orphanages don’t necessarily mean that the children have no family or parents. Particularly in countries with a high rate of poverty, families often send children to orphanages because they believe they are more likely to be fed and have access to basic necessities, or because their parents are incapable of taking care of the children because of a disability, mental instability, or drug abuse. In fact, only about 28% of children in Cambodian orphanages have lost both parents.

The fact that many of the children may still have one or both parents does not automatically mean the orphanage is a scam. If the orphanage is legitimate, they would ideally have an active family reunification program, but the unfortunate truth is that some organizations, looking to profit from the lucrative business of volunteer with orphans, have gone as far as to pay families to give up their children to the orphanage.

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Volunteer at an Orphanage in IndiaA volunteer entertains children with soap bubbles at an orphanage in India

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What Volunteers Should Look Out For

Even if an orphanage is a legitimate organization, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being run well. That’s not the sort of orphanage you want to volunteer with. Not only should you try to avoid scams while searching out a volunteer opportunity with orphans, but also strive to do meaningful and effective work with a well-run organization. A great way to learn more about volunteer opportunities before you depart is to read reviews of other people’s experiences volunteering abroad.

Volunteers should look for an orphanage that runs background checks and has systems in place to protect the children from predators. A minimum time commitment, asking volunteers to apply well in advance from when they actually show up, and assigning volunteers to tasks supporting staff are other signs of a well run orphanage.

According to the Singapore-based Expat Living blog, volunteers often confuse the warm and gratifying feelings of working with children with effective volunteer work, which is why this type of volunteer work lends itself so easily to scammers.

In reality, working with staff to make sure daily tasks get done is far more beneficial for the children than singing them nursery rhymes. It is especially difficult when children get emotionally attached to volunteers who will leave in only a couple of days or weeks. Make sure you have a clear outline of what the volunteer position will require of you, and that the organization’s philosophy lists the children’s development and well-being as their main priority.

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Orphanage Volunteer Program GhanaVolunteers learn to nurse babies at an orphanage in Ghana

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Key Signs That This Volunteer Program Might be a Scam

These red flags will help you quickly determine whether an orphanage is a legitimate organization or actually a scam:

1)  They openly solicit tourists – any orphanage that allows tourists to visit immediately and unplanned isn’t likely a well run or trustworthy establishment.

2)  They don’t request a CV, references, and police reports in advance – well run orphanages should have steps in place to protect the orphans from predators, which means knowing as much as possible about the volunteers they put the orphans in contact with. The more information you are asked to provide, the better.

3)  They ask volunteers to work directly with children rather than supporting staff – although it may be more emotionally fulfilling to work directly with the children than support the staff with daily tasks, an orphanage that requires volunteers to work only with the staff are demonstrating that they have the children’s best interest in mind.

4)  They ask volunteers to pay fees in advance with no mention of how a portion of it is being passed on to help run the organization – any program that you volunteer for should be transparent about why they ask volunteers to pay fees and what they are being used for. Orphanages are no exception.

5)  They allow volunteers to work for just a couple of days – to make a real impact in volunteering with orphanages, travelers should expect to commit for a couple of weeks or longer rather than to just drop by and play with the kids for the afternoon. Be sure to reflect on the pros and cons of short-term volunteer programs before you yourself commit to anything.

6)  They ask for large donations of food – one of the most common ways of scamming tourists is to re-sell bulk food donations for a profit, then redistributing the money amongst the orphanage owners. However, donating goods rather than money (after checking the legitimacy of the organization and consulting them of their needs is a great way of giving support.

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Care Volunteer at an Orphanage in ThailandA care volunteer works with children at an orphanage in Thailand

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Another good way to assure you get a volunteer opportunity with a good organization is to track down local NGOs and ask for their advice, or ask someone who has previously volunteered in the area about their experience. There is no substitute for the kind of knowledge they have picked up by witnessing the orphanage first hand.

Scams and the questions of ethics are an unfortunate part of the reality that has accompanied the boom of well-intentioned travelers looking to give back to communities in need. However, when done right, volunteering in an orphanage has the potential to make a huge impact on the lives of the volunteers and the children they work with. The need for volunteers is real, so don’t let the fear of being scammed stop you from trying. Just be smart and know what to look for!

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Jessie Beck

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About the Author

Originally from the Washington, DC area, Jessie Beck studied in Dakar and Malta, taught in Costa Rica, and volunteered with the Peace Corps in Madagascar before finally ending up at the Go Overseas office in California. She is currently the Teach Abroad & Content Director for Go Overseas. When not at work or traveling the globe, she can be found rock climbing, blogging, or reading travelogues in her local coffee shop.

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Human Trafficking: Exposing the Brutal Organ Trade

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Men From the Philippines Show Their Scars From Kidney SalesMen from a slum in the Philippines show their scars from kidney sales

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“The response to trafficking in organ trade has more or less been lackluster. Considering the serious health implications and the severe human rights violations of the vulnerable victims, it is essential that this issue gets the desired attention.” — The UN’s Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking: Trafficking for Organ Trade

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“What will it take to stop the trafficking of vulnerable people for their organs?” — Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

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The slide on the screen showed several skinny, dark Filipino men lined up, displaying their sacred wound, the kidney scar, long as a sabre slice across their convex torsos. More than 150 representatives of scientific and medical bodies from 78 countries stared solemnly at the photo during the Istanbul Summit of 2008, the defining moment in the global recognition of human trafficking for “fresh” kidneys. “Is this why we began as transplant surgeons?” one of the convenors, US surgeon Francis Delmonico, asked. “Are we comfortable with this? Is this fair? Do we want to participate in this?”

The man sitting next to me, a Hindu surgeon in white robes, reminiscent of Hippocrates, was moved. When I asked what he was thinking, he replied: “This is too late. Kidney selling is no longer a strange or exotic act. It is normal, everyday, and entrenched. We in the South can agree that it is a tragic turn of events, but the demand comes from outside.”

In the early 1980s a new form of human trafficking, a global trade in kidneys from living persons to supply the needs and demands of “transplant tourists”, emerged in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.

The first scientific report on the phenomenon, published in The Lancet  in 1990, documented the transplant odysseys of 131 renal patients from three dialysis units in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. They travelled with their private doctors to Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where they were transplanted with kidneys from living “suppliers” organized by local brokers trolling slums and shantytowns. The sellers were paid between $2,000 and $3,000 for a “spare” organ.

On return, these transplant tourists suffered an alarming rate of post-operative complications and mortalities resulting from mismatched organs, and infections including HIV and Hepatitis C. There was no data on, or discussion of, the possible adverse effects on the kidney sellers, who were still an invisible population of anonymous supplier bodies, similar to deceased donors.

In 1997, I co-founded Organs Watch, specifically to draw attention to the then invisible population of kidney “suppliers”. Today human trafficking for organs is a small, vibrant and extremely lucrative business that involves some 50 nations.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAProfessor Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author and co-founder of Organs Watch

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No Cadavers Wanted

In the summer of 2009 I received a phone call that unnerved me.

“Are you the Organs Lady?” a young man I’ll call Jim Deal asked me with a slight tremor in his voice.

“Perhaps,” I replied. “How can I help you?”

“I just found out that my kidneys are failing and my doctor wants me to start dialysis immediately.”

“Yes?”

“Well, I can’t attach myself to a machine three days a week. I’ve just started a new company and I can’t lose a minute. I need a kidney now. Where can I go to get one? I have the resources. Money is not an object.”

My suggestions to ask his relatives (which included several siblings) were rejected – they were all busy with their careers and families. Would he be willing to take the “Steve Jobs option”, registering in multiple transplant centers in different regions of the US, increasing the possibility that his number would be called?

Bingo!

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Organ Transplant Supply and Demand Chart

The growing demand for organ transplants continues to outstrip the supply, resulting in a booming business for illegal organ traffickers.

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The Demand for Organs Outstrips Supply

Advances in medicine that keep us alive longer, coupled with rising levels of type-2 diabetes and heart disease, mean that the pool of patients waiting for organs is growing. In any given year, fewer than 1 in 10 waiting for a donor organ will receive one.

At the same time, there are fewer organs from young, healthy people – who make the best deceased donors – due to the life-saving influence of car seat belts. Prolonged end-of-life medical care can also mean fewer usable organs upon death.

Nevertheless, the WHO believes national self-sufficiency through deceased donor organs is possible – efforts to retrieve usable organs from the deceased need to be maximized. Progress in stem cell research, the creation of workable artificial organs and xenotransplantation could help towards meeting the demand in the future.

“No cadavers,” Jim said. It would have to be a kidney purchased from a living stranger. Could I recommend a surgeon or a broker who could help? Given his family genealogy, which included a grandparent from Iran, I told Jim that he might be in luck. Iran had the only legalized and regulated kidney selling program, but it was reserved for Iranian citizens and diaspora.

“I’m not going to go to Iran, if that’s what you are saying,” Jim countered. “I want First World medicine.”

There was no use trying to convince Jim that Iran had “First World” surgeons. Some weeks later he called to tell me that his family had found several local, willing kidney providers online through Craigslist. He chose the least expensive ‘option’: a kidney from 19-year-old community college student Ji-Hun, an immigrant from South Korea who could not afford his tuition, books, room and board, and who feared deportation if he dropped out.

The deal was secured for $20,000. The night before the transplant, two very nervous Korean brothers met with Jim’s relatives in an upscale suburb of Los Angeles to count the kidney loot in crisp one hundred dollar bills. An armed guard oversaw the encounter. The seller requested half in advance. The family refused, but they agreed to hand over the money to the seller’s older brother as soon as both parties were under anaesthesia but before they knew the outcome of the organ transfer.

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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, California

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By the time I arrived at the famous “hospital for the Hollywood stars” in Beverly Hills, the surgery was over and Jim was out of the recovery room and surrounded by well-wishers. His private room was festive with flowers, gifts, smiles and prayers for Jim’s recovery. Nurses popped their heads in and out to see if everything was going well.

It took some sleuthing to locate Ji-Hun, who was tucked away in a corner room several flights above the regular post-op recovery rooms. He was a delicate young man, weighing no more than 55 kilos. He was doubled over with pain, and blushed with shame when I introduced myself to him as an informal “kidney donor” advocate.

The nurses tittered anxiously when I presented my calling card with its Organs Watch logo. They told me that Ji-Hun would be released that same day, although he had not yet seen a doctor following his kidney removal. He was worried about returning to his one-room bedsitter apartment in a dodgy section of Los Angeles. Before leaving the hospital Ji-Hun gave me his cell-phone number.

A few days later Ji-Hun reported that he was still in bed, immobilized with pain, and unable to eat, urinate or defecate. His older brother, a surly young man who worked as a dish washer in a fast-food restaurant, was angry with him. He had no medical insurance, and the $20,000, which had been handed over to his brother in a public toilet on the surgical ward, was already all but gone after settling unpaid bills along with student tuition and remittances for their parents in Korea. After a few brief calls, Ji-Hun’s phone went dead.

Jim, anxious about disclosure, emigrated to another country and on last report was married and able to work. The head of the surgical staff of the complicit hospital refused to discuss the case, citing patient confidentiality. The consulting nephrologist who worked shifts at the private hospital contacted me to say that he had seen many other instances of bartered kidneys, but was loath to be a “whistleblower”.

While most illicit kidney transplants take place in the so-called developing world – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, and more recently Central Asia and Central America – future transactions are likely to resemble the above story. Facilitated by the internet, organ “suppliers” will be drawn locally from the large pool of new immigrants, refugees and undocumented workers. The transplants will be arranged in private hospitals where the transactions are reported as altruistic, emotionally related donations.

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Organized Crime

That is the future. For now, transplant tours are more usual. They can bring together actors from as many as four or five different countries, with a buyer from one place, the brokers from two other countries, the mobile surgeons travelling from one nation to another where the kidney operations actually take place. In these instances, and the case of a private clinic in Kosovo is perhaps the best example (see The Medicus Affair), the participants appear and disappear quickly, with the guilty parties, including the surgeons, taking with them any incriminating data. When the police finally arrive at the scene, they discover the bloody remains of a black-market clinic, with traces of forensic evidence, but the key players long since disappeared.

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The Medicus Clinic on the Outskirts of Pristina, KosovoThe Medicus Clinic on the outskirts of Pristina, Kosovo, was the former base of operations for an international kidney trafficking ring.

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Over the course of more than 17 years of dogged field research, my Organs Watch colleagues and I had realized that we were not dealing with a question of medical ethics. Rather, we had gained entry into the world of international organized crime. Following fieldwork in Turkey, Moldova, the US, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines and South Africa, it became apparent that organ brokers were human traffickers involved in cut-throat deals that were enforced with violence, if needed. Many of the “kidney hunters” who seek out new candidates in poor localities are former sellers, recruited by crime bosses.

The transplant and organ procurement traffic is far-flung, sophisticated and extremely lucrative. Although trafficking in human organs is illegal in almost every nation, the specifics of the laws differ, making prosecutions that can involve three or more nations a judicial nightmare. In some countries it is illegal to sell a kidney but not to purchase one. In others it is illegal to buy and sell within the country but not to buy and/or sell abroad.

Organ trafficking made its début as a much-contested add-on to the 2000 United Nations Palermo Protocol on Human Trafficking, which recognizes that even willing participants in underworld illicit kidney schemes can be counted as victims. Indeed, most are coerced by need, not physical threats or force. Some even pay significant amounts of money to be trafficked.

As it is covert behavior, it is difficult to know with any degree of certainty how many people are actually trafficked for their kidneys, but a conservative estimate, based on original research by Organs Watch, is that at least 10,000 kidneys are sold each year. Human trafficking for organs is a relatively small and contained problem, one that could be dealt with efficiently with the political will to do so.

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Complex Co-ordination

Unlike other forms of trafficking that unite people from shady backgrounds, the organ trade involves those at the highest – or at least middle-class – levels of society: surgeons, doctors, laboratory technicians, travel agents, as well as criminals and outcasts from the lowest.

Transplant professionals are reluctant to “name and shame” those of their colleagues involved in the trade, thereby creating a screen that conceals and even protects the human traffickers who supply the surgeons. And because trafficking living donors for organs is a traffic in “goods” (life-saving “fresh kidneys”) not traffic in “bads” (drugs or guns) there is reluctance, even on the part of the justice system, to recognize the ‘collateral damage’ it inflicts on vulnerable bodies – and the harm to society and the profession of medicine itself.

Organ brokers are the linchpins of these criminal networks, which handle an onerous feat of logistics. They co-ordinate three key populations: (1) kidney patients willing to travel great distances and face considerable risk and insecurity; (2) kidney sellers recruited and trafficked from the urban slums and collapsed villages of the poor world; (3) outlaw surgeons willing to break the law and violate professional codes of ethics.

Well-connected brokers have access to the necessary infrastructure such as hospitals, transplant centers and medical insurance companies, as well as to local kidney hunters, and brutal enforcers who make sure that “willing” sellers actually get up on the operating table once they realize what the operation actually entails. They can count on both government indifference and police protection.

The complicit medical professionals perform expert teamwork – technicians in the blood and tissue laboratories, dual surgical teams working in tandem, nephrologists and post-operative nurses.

There are “transplant tour agencies” that can organize travel, passports and visas.

In the Middle East and in the US, religious organizations, charitable trusts and patient advocacy groups are often fronts for such international networks.

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Work On a Cruise Ship Advertisement

While this ad is only a handy example, human traffickers do use similar ones to lure the desperate and unwary into traps. “If it sounds too good to be true…”

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Tactics of Persuasion

Some brokers in Moldova used underhand tactics that had already been honed in recruiting naïve Moldovan women into sex work. They offered the opportunity of work abroad to unemployed youth, or household heads in debt or in need of cash to support sick spouses or children.

On arrival, the young men were kept in safe houses, had their passports confiscated, and were reduced to total dependency on the brokers (women were exceptions, see My Heart Weeps Inside Me). A few days later, the brokers would break the news that it was not painting or ironing trousers that was needed from the illegal “guest workers” but their kidneys. Those who refused outright were threatened or beaten. One young man, Vladimir, explained the stark “choice” that faced him in Istanbul: “If I hadn’t given up my kidney to that dog of a surgeon, my body would be floating somewhere in the Bosphorus Strait.”

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Mohammad Saleem Had His kidney Illegally Removed By an Organ-Trafficking Racket

Mohammad Saleem, now 40, traveled to work at a construction site near New Delhi, India in 2008. A house painter with a family of eight, he was lured by the promise of an extra dollar per day. After a few days of waiting in a bungalow for work to begin, Saleem was forcibly anesthetized by two masked men. “When I woke up after several hours, I felt a pain in my right side,” Saleem recalled later. “The men said, ‘We have removed your kidney, and you better not breathe a word about it.’ How can I support my family now? I feel weak and dizzy all the time.”

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Most brokers, however, offer themselves as altruistic intermediaries promising a better life to donors and recipients. The commonest scenario is of vulnerable individuals easily recruited and convinced to participate in the trade. The pressures are subtle; the coercion hidden.

In Baseco, a dockside slum and notorious “kidney-ville” in Manila, brokers recruit young men (and a small number of women) who are distant kin, related by blood or marriage or informal fosterage.

Ray Arcella, a famous broker from the area, could often be seen with his arm slung loosely around the shoulders of his young recruits, some of whom referred to Ray as their uncle or their godfather. Ray’s less than avuncular advice to his many “cousins” and “nephews” was that kidney selling was the best way of helping out one’s family – since mechanized containers had rendered dock work, once Baseco’s main source of employment, obsolete.

Brokers will hire local kidney hunters – often former sellers – to do the dirty work of recruiting their neighbors and extended family members. In these seemingly consensual transactions, controlling behavior, fraud and manipulation are well hidden.

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Moldovan Vladimir Diminetz Died at 25 After Selling a Kidney Vladimir Diminetz died at the age of 25 in Moldova after selling a kidney.

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The Sellers

Kidney sellers are predictably poor and vulnerable: the displaced, the disgraced or the dispossessed. They are the debtors, ex-prisoners or mental patients, the stranded Eastern European peasants, the Turkish junk dealers, Palestinian refugees, runaway soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, Afro-Brazilians from the favelas and slums of northeast Brazil, and Andean Indians.

Most enter willingly into a “transaction” in which they agree to the terms, which are verbal, but only realize later how they have been deceived, defrauded or cheated. Few are informed enough to give consent. They do not under­stand the seriousness of the surgery, the conditions under which they will be detained before and after the operation, or what they are likely to face with respect to the discomfort or immediate inability to resume their normally physically demanding jobs.

Some in the slums of Manila, as in the slums of Brazil, were underage teens who were counselled by brokers to fabricate names and add a few years to their age to make them “acceptable” to the surgeons. Many of those trafficked deny the “sale”, saying that what they were paid was too small to constitute a sale for something as “priceless” as a non-renewable body part. In these unconventional transactions, the boundaries between gift, commodity and theft are decidedly blurred.

Male kidney sellers tend to minimize the trauma they experienced to protect their pride. But their reserve often crumbles under gentle but probing questioning of how their lives have been affected. Some male sellers in Moldova denied that they were “trafficked” because the language of trafficking made them sound like female “prostitutes”, a stigma they could not live with. Others become obsessed with the kidney sale and attribute all the misfortunes that occurred before or since to that one act of “stupidity”.

Among a group of 40 Moldovan kidney sellers we followed from 2001 to 2009, there were deaths from suicide, failure of the remaining kidney, and even from battering by angry villagers who felt that the sellers had disgraced their village. Some were banished from their homes and disappeared.

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Gadalya (Gaddy) Tauber - Organ Trafficking Broker

Gadalya “Gaddy” Tauber described how he facilitated a trafficking scheme that sent poor Brazilians to clinics in South Africa to supply kidneys for Israeli transplant tourists.

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The Brokers

The brokers, who may be transplant surgeons, or organized crime figures, co-ordinate transplant tour junkets that bring together relatively affluent kidney patients from Japan, Italy, Israel, Canada, Taiwan, the United States and Saudi Arabia with the impoverished sellers of healthy organs.

Transplant brokers and organ traffickers are ever more sophisticated, changing their modus operandi, realizing that their engage­ments with public and private hospitals in foreign locations are severely time-limited. Israeli brokers, for example, recently confided that they either have to pay to gain access to deceased donor pools in Russia or Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Panama in particular), or they have to set up new temporary sites and locations (Cyprus, Azerbaijan and Costa Rica) for facilitating illicit transplants quickly and for a short period of time, already anticipating police, government and/or international interventions. They are always prepared to move quickly to new locations where they have established links to clandestine transplant units, some of them no more sophisticated than a walk-in medical clinic or a rented ward in a public hospital.

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Transplant Tourism Map

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The Buyers

Transplant tourists are a varied but determined and risk-taking population, willing to travel to ‘parts unknown’ to purchase a stranger’s kidney. They pay for a package deal; they do not know – nor do they want to know – the exact price that will be paid to the person who will deliver their fresh kidney. They do want to know whether the purchased organ will come from a healthy person, an educated person, a person of acceptable race and ethnicity. (Ethnicity matters to them because it might signify a ‘closer’ or a ‘better’ match.) They want a kidney that has not had to work hard for a living, and they want their surgeon to make sure they get access to the seller’s healthiest kidney.

There is a preference for male donors between the ages of 20-30 years. Transplant tourists are asked to pay a great deal of money – normally somewhere between $100,000 and $180,000 – of which the sellers receive a mere fraction. Some buyers refuse kidneys from women, expressing a kind of old-fashioned chivalry, others an old-fashioned sexism. Men are by far the greatest purchasers.

In 2010, I was paid a visit by a sixty-something man from southern California who insisted on setting me straight on certain matters. “David” wanted me to know what it felt like to be in his shoes. “Dialysis is like a living death,” he said. “You get cataracts, problems in your gut, you can hardly eat. You lose your libido, you lose the ability to relieve yourself until finally you stop urinating altogether. You lose your energy, you become anaemic, and you are cold all the time. You get deeply depressed.”

He was put into contact with a surgeon and his broker in Tel Aviv, who required him to settle the entire package – $150,000 – in advance for a transplant at an undisclosed location. Putting his fate in their hands, David travelled to Israel, and following cursory medical exams, he flew with the Israeli surgeon and his broker on to Istanbul where they picked up a second surgeon. “One takes out and the other puts in,” was the simple explanation.

Only in Istanbul was David told that his transplant would take place in Kosovo, a country he knew nothing about. The day before flying there, the broker announced that police had broken into the Medicus Clinic in Pristina, and that the planned transplant there was now unavailable. However, he was willing to offer, at a cut-price rate, another option that had opened up in Baku, Azerbaijan. And that is where David finally received his kidney, from a seller from Central Asia.

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Rogue Organ Trafficking Surgeon

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The New Generation

Following the Istanbul Summit in 2008, the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group was instituted. For the last eight years, it has been working closely with The Transplantation Society, the World Health Organization (WHO), and a vast network of transplant professionals to negotiate with public health and other government officials to create new laws to encourage deceased donor programs, promote transplant self-sufficiency within nations, and discourage transplant tourism. It has also exerted pressure on hospitals to stop sheltering the outlaw surgeons who perform transplants involving foreign patients and trafficked kidney suppliers.

But illicit transplant trafficking schemes remain robust, exceedingly mobile, resilient and generally one step ahead of the game.

The new generation of organ traffickers is also more ruthless. During the Beijing Olympics, brokers had their supply cut off after foreign access to organs harvested from executed Chinese prisoners was shut down. Undeterred, they began to pursue transplants from living donors, some of them trafficked Vietnamese, others naïve villagers in parts of China where blood-selling programs had groomed people to accept kidney selling as another possibility.

The sites of illicit transplants have expanded within Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Central and Latin America, Europe and the United States. As for the recruitment of kidney sellers, they can be found in almost any nation. One crisis after another has supplied the market with countless political and economic refugees who fall like ripe, low-hanging fruit into the hands of the human traffickers.

Prosecutions are difficult. In most instances a few culprits, usually lower-ranking brokers and kidney sellers, are convicted. The surgeons, without whom no organ trafficking crimes can be facilitated, and the hospital administrators often escape, pleading ignorance.

The famous Netcare case in Durban, South Africa, is a case in point. A total of 109 illicit transplants were performed at Saint Augustine’s Hospital, including five in which the donors were minors. A police sting resulted in several plea bargains from various brokers and their accomplices. Netcare, the largest medical corporation in South Africa, pleaded guilty to having facilitated the transplants. The immediate result was the plummeting of Netcare stocks.

The four surgeons and two transplant co-ordinators who were indicted held fast to their not-guilty plea. Their defense was that they had been deceived by the company and its lawyers, who had stated these international surgeries were legal. In December 2012, they were given a permanent stay of prosecution and the state was ordered to pay their legal costs. It is fair to state that rogue transplant surgeons operate with considerable immunity. This is unfortunate because they constitute the primary link in the transplant-trafficking business.

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Dead Palestinian Organ Trafficking Victim

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A Victimless Crime?

Because human trafficking for organs is seen to benefit some very sick people at the expense of other, less visible or dispensable people, some prosecutors and judges have treated it as a victimless crime.

When New Jersey federal agents caught Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a hyperactive inter­national kidney trafficker who had sold transplant packages for upwards of $180,000, the FBI had no idea what a “kidney salesman” was. The prosecutors could not believe that prestigious US hospitals and surgeons had been complicit with the scheme, or that the trafficked sellers had been deceived and at times coerced. The federal case ended in a plea bargain in 2011 in which Rosenbaum admitted guilt for just three incidents of brokering kidneys for payment, although he acknowledged having been in the business for over a decade.

At the sentencing in July 2012, the judge was impressed by the powerful show of support from the transplant patients who arrived to praise the trafficker and beg that he be shown mercy. The one kidney-selling victim, Elhan Quick, presented as a surprise witness by the prosecution, was a young black Israeli, who had been recruited to travel to a hospital in Minnesota to sell his kidney to a 70-year-old man from Brooklyn. Although Mr Cohen had 11 adult children, not one was disposed to donate a life-saving organ to their father. They were, however, willing to pay $20,000 to a stranger.

Quick testified that he agreed to the donation because he was unemployed at the time, alienated from his community and hoped to do a meritorious act that would improve his social standing. On arrival at the transplant unit, however, he had misgivings and asked his “minder”, Ito, the Israeli enforcer for the trafficking network, if he could get out of the deal as he had changed his mind. These were the last words he uttered before going under anaesthesia.

His testimony had no impact. The judge concluded that it was a sorry case. She hated to send Rosenbaum to a low-security prison in New Jersey for two-and-a-half years as she was convinced that deep down he was a “good man”. She argued that Elhan Quick had not been defrauded; he was paid what he was promised. “Everyone,” she said, “got something out of this deal.”

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Medical Mobsters

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Closing Down the Networks

Convicted brokers and their kidney hunters are easily replaced by other criminals – the rewards of their crimes ensure that. Prosecuting transplant professionals, on the other hand, would definitely interrupt the networks. Professional sanctions – such as loss of licence to practice – could be very effective. Outlaw surgeons and their colleagues co-operate within a code of silence equal to that of the Vatican. International bodies like the UN and the EU need to take concerted action on the legal framework in order to prosecute these international crimes.

Prosecutors look kindly on kidney buyers because they are sick and looking to save their lives. But buyers have no qualms about taking a kidney from deprived persons without any medical insurance, any future, and sometimes no home. They have to be made accountable.

Until we can revolutionize the practice of transplantation, a case needs to be made for a more modest medicine that realizes our lives are not limitless. This is a difficult message to convey when transplant patient advocacy groups and religious organizations have sprung up demanding unobstructed access to transplants and to the life-saving “spare” organs of “the other”, as if this were a moral crusade.

The kidney is the blood diamond of our times. The organ trade is one of the more egregious examples of late capitalism where poor bodies are on the market in the service of rich bodies.

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Organized Crime Chief Characteristics Chart

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Nancy Scheper-Hughes is Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and an activist in many social movements.

Organs Watch was co-founded with Lawrence Cohen, another professor of medical anthropology at UC Berkeley. Together they made initial anthropological forays into the various sites where illicit transplant operations were arranged. Over the years they have been joined by a number of independent medical human rights activists from the countries in which they have worked.

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Sources:  Nancy Scheper-Hughes, New Internationalist, Pat RoqueAssociated Press, Press Association Images, Rama Lakshmi, The Washington Post

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20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

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Illustration for human traffickingHuman trafficking is now the fastest-growing crime in the world

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After first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration…

1. Learn the red flags that may indicate human trafficking and ask follow up questions so that you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, and federal employees.

2. In the United States, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 (24/7) to get help and connect with a service provider in your area, report a tip with information on potential human trafficking activity; or learn more by requesting training, technical assistance, or resources. Call federal law enforcement directly to report suspicious activity and get help from the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 (24/7), or submit a tip online at http://www.ice.gov/tips, or from the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581 from 9:00am to 5:00pm (EST). Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.

3. Be a conscientious consumer. Discover your Slavery Footprint, and check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies, including your own, to take steps to investigate and eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains and to publish the information for consumer awareness.

4. Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant [example].

5. Join or start a grassroots anti-trafficking coalition.

6. Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community, and ask what they are doing to address human trafficking in your area.

7. Distribute public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.

8. Volunteer to do victim outreach or offer your professional services to a local anti-trafficking organization.

9. Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization in your area.

10. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.

11. Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival.

12. Encourage your local schools to partner with students and include the issue of modern day slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.

13. Set up a Google alert to receive current human trafficking news.

14. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about human trafficking in your community.

15. Start or sign a human trafficking petition.

16. Businesses: Provide internships, job skills training, and/or jobs to trafficking survivors. Consumers: Purchase items made by trafficking survivors such as from Jewel Girls or Made by Survivors.

17. Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university or secondary school club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Professors: Request that human trafficking be an issue included in university curriculum. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.

18. Law Enforcement Officials: Join or start a local human trafficking task force.

19. Mental Health or Medical Providers: Extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations. Train your staff on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims.

20. Attorneys: Look for signs of human trafficking among your clients. Offer pro-bono services to trafficking victims or anti-trafficking organizations. Learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the legal benefits for which they are eligible. Assist anti-trafficking NGOs with capacity building and legal work.

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Sources:  U.S. Department of State

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“Super Bowl” Sex Trafficking Sting Nets Nearly 600 Arrests Nationwide

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Super Bowl XLIX is Displayed on the University of Phoenix StadiumSuper Bowl XLIX is displayed on the UOPX Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

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Law enforcement agencies in 17 states arrested nearly 600 people and rescued 68 victims of human trafficking during a sting in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX, police said.

As part of the “National Day of Johns” sex trafficking sting, spearheaded by the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s Office, police said that they captured hundreds of men and women attempting to hire prostitutes through websites such as Backpage.com and Craigslist. Police also said they rescued dozens of women who said they had been forced into prostitution.

“Sex trafficking continues to destroy countless lives, and this broad national movement should send a strong message to prospective johns that their ‘hobby’ is much more than a ‘victimless’ crime,” Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said in a statement. “It’s particularly meaningful that this sting culminated on the day of the Super Bowl, which unfortunately has emerged as a prominent haven for sex trafficking.”

After last year’s Super Bowl in New Jersey, the FBI said it rescued 25 child prostitutes and filed criminal charges against 45 pimps.

Many of the girls had been reported missing in New York or New Jersey and were being held by members of trafficking rings who traveled to the Garden State for the Super Bowl last year.

This year’s sting took place from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1, ending the day of the Super Bowl.

Dart said 570 people were arrested on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes. More than 70 percent of those people were responding to advertisements for prostitution posted online, he said, adding that most of the ads were on Backpage.com.

Police also arrested 23 people on suspicion of sex trafficking and rescued 68 victims of trafficking, including 14 juveniles, Dart said.

In Phoenix, just miles from the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl, police said they rescued several women who told law enforcement they had been brought to Arizona specifically to work as prostitutes near the game, Dart said.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Alameda County district attorney’s office and Oakland police arrested 23 solicitation suspects, according to Dart’s statement.

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Sources:  The Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, James Queally, Charlie Riedel

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25 Alarming Facts About Human Trafficking For Organ Harvesting

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With an estimated 120,675 patients waiting on the national waiting list for organ transplant, it’s obvious that the demand for fresh new organs is high, a fact that has created the perfect conditions for thugs, corrupt medics, and politicians to exploit organs from those who have nothing, then sell them to those who have much and in the process make a sizable profit.

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Here are 25 alarming facts about organ trafficking…

1) Organ trafficking accounts for five to 10 per cent of all kidney transplants worldwide.

2) According to the World Health Organization, the illegal trade in kidneys has risen to such a level that an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving purchased human organs now take place annually.

3) Prices vary depending on the body part. But as an example, a heart can fetch up to 1 million pounds in the black market.

4) According to Organ failure solutions, Organs watch, and ESOT; the typical organ donor is a male of about 28.9 years old with an annual income of $480 while the typical recipient is a male of about 48.1 years old with an annual income of $53,000.

5) Those who choose to go through an illegal organ transplant face great dangers as the organs are not guaranteed to work and many in fact fail after the operation.

6) Organs are used for other purposes (not just transplants). For example, there is a demand for illicit experimentations from unethical scientists and even parts like the genitals are used in “black magic” or juju rituals.

7) According to the Department of health and Human Services, every month, more than 2,000 new names are added to the national waiting list for organ transplants, which had 120,675 patients as of publication.

8) About 18 people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant in the United States.

9) Some doctors, say that since demand is so high, and waiting times for organs from cadavers so long, organ sales should be legalized, but tightly regulated.

10) According to evidence collected by a worldwide network of doctors; traffickers are cashing in on rising international demand for replacement kidneys driven by the increase in diabetes and other diseases.

11) Some people have become victims of body snatching or involuntary organ donation.

12) In the U.S., there have been accusations (though no proof) of allowing patients on life support to die in order to remove the organs while the heart is still beating.

13) Sadly, human trafficking for organs is still generally seen as a victimless crime that benefits some very sick people at the expense of other, more invisible — or at least dispensable — people.

14) The organ trafficking trade involves a network of human traffickers including mobile surgeons, brokers, patients, and sellers.

15) Corrupt doctors often target children, especially those from poor backgrounds or children with disabilities for organ harvest.

18) Sites of illicit transplant have expanded from Asia to the Middle East, Eastern Europe, South Africa, Central Asia, Latin America and the US.

17) Some donors have resorted to selling their organs on eBay

18) Some have suggested that countries can defeat the traffickers by maximizing the supply of organs from deceased and living donors; and by encouraging healthy lifestyles which would help stop people getting conditions such as diabetes in the first place.

19) In spite of its awareness, trafficking is still increasing.

20) Estimates state that Kidneys make up 75% of the global illicit trade in organs and because of the rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems the demand for kidneys far outstrip supply.

21) Nato documents leaked in 2011 claimed that Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci was the head of a “mafia-like” network responsible for organ trafficking (among other things).

22) Lack of law enforcement in some countries, and lack of laws in others, make it easy for traffickers to offer financial incentives to poor people to part with organs.

23) Organ brokers in China advertise their services by using clever slogans such as “Donate a kidney, buy the new iPad!”

24) Patients (many of whom go to China, India or Pakistan for surgery) can pay up to $200,000 (nearly £128,000) for a kidney to traffickers who harvest organs from vulnerable, desperate people, sometimes for as little as $5,000.

25) In spite of the risks and exploitation associated with organ trafficking, some of the victims see the situation as a chance to save someone’s life.

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Sources:  List25.com

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ICE Paints Bullseyes On Top Traffickers With “Ten Most Wanted” List Issued Today

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ICE Ten Most Wanted Traffickers in PersonsThe new ICE “Ten Most Wanted’ traffickers list for 2015 was revealed today.

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For a decade, federal authorities say Paulino Ramirez-Granados and Raul Granados-Rendon were known for their skill at professing love to young, lonely women.

Then they smuggled the women into the U.S. from Mexico and forced them to work as prostitutes.

Today, they are known as something else: fugitives.

The men have been on the lam since they were indicted in 2011 for their part in leading a family ring of sex traffickers from Tenancingo, Mexico, who took dozens of women to Queens, N.Y., and made them turn tricks for $30 to $35 per quarter-hour.

The duo have made the Immigration and Customs Enforcement list of the 10 most wanted fugitives indicted for human trafficking, the agency announced today.

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PAULINO RAMIREZ GRANADOS

Paulino Ramirez-Granados, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with sex trafficking, alien smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy to import aliens.

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RAUL GRANDADOS RENDON

Raul Granados-Rendon, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with sex trafficking, alien smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy to import aliens.

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Most are wanted for sex trafficking. Half come from Tenancingo, a Mexican town of 10,000 people 80 miles southwest of Mexico City that has become known as that country’s sex trafficking capital.

“We’ve seen the horror that these defendants are capable of,” says Special Agent James Hayes of the ICE New York office. He is asking the public’s help to find the fugitives.

The release of the list of fugitives comes as the number of trafficking cases in the USA has increased from 651 in fiscal year 2010 to 987 in fiscal year 2014. In the past two years, the Obama administration has trained more police to identify trafficking victims and pushed for more counseling, legal services and other help.

The issue isn’t limited to foreigners brought to the United States. Polaris, an advocacy group that works to end human trafficking, says that of the 3,840 cases reported through their hotline last year, almost 1,500 involved victims who are American citizens. Many are young teens who are in foster care, have run away or live in troubled homes.

Trafficking comes in two forms, sexual exploitation and forced labor. Either way, it is difficult to track, says Sharon Peyus, who heads ICE’s victim assistance program.

She says victims are afraid to flee because they are brainwashed and beaten, and they and their families are threatened with harm.

“The traffickers’ hold on victims is incredibly strong,” she says.

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Mexican Sex Trafficking Stable Loitering on the Streets of TenancingoA Mexican sex trafficker’s “stable” loitering on the streets of Tenancingo. 

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Trafficking can happen in a number of ways…

In sex trafficking, the most common scenario involves a man who finds a vulnerable young woman, often at a mall, train station or bus stop. He befriends her, makes promises of a better life and romances her so she believes the man is the only person who cares about her.

The trafficker then convinces her that if she loves him, she will work as a prostitute to make money for him.

Traffickers control their victims’ every move – where they live, who they talk to and even when they eat.

“This is a global pandemic,” Peyus says. “It’s overwhelming to get your mind around the indignity of how we can treat another human being this way. It’s modern-day slavery.”

The members of the Granados sex-trafficking ring followed the script to a “T”, Hayes says.

For about 10 years, starting in 1998, members of the Granados family romanced young women in their native Mexico, then forced them into prostitution. Some of the women were smuggled into the U.S. and taken to work in an immigrant community in Queens, N.Y., the indictments said.

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Chica Cards Collected Near Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York“Chica cards” collected near Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York.

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The sex ring handed out pamphlets in Spanish called “Chica cards” on one of the borough’s busiest thoroughfares, advertising a phone number to call for cheap sex.

Ramirez-Grandados, 44, and Granados-Rendon, 28, were integral to the operation, Hayes says.

When federal authorities made arrests in 2011, they found 26 victims, at least one of whom was younger than 14.

Thirteen other members of the organization have been indicted, arrested or convicted, but the two men fled and are probably in the Tenancingo area, Hayes says.

Federal authorities say sex trafficking is one of the town’s biggest exports going back to the 1960s. The illicit business makes so much money for families there that town festivals feature elaborately dressed traffickers showing off their prostitutes, Hayes says.

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Tenancingo, Mexico's Sex Trafficking CapitalLocation map of Tenancingo, Mexico.

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Aerial View of Tenancingo, MexicoAerial view of Tenancingo, Mexico.

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City of Tenancingo Welcome SignCity of Tenancingo, Mexico welcome sign.

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Santo Desierto del Carmen, Tenancingo, MexicoSanto Desierto del Carmen, Tenancingo, Mexico.

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Sex Trafficked Prostitutes on the Streets of Tenancingo, MexicoSex-trafficked prostitutes on the streets of Tenancingo, Mexico.

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Three Uzbekistan nationals, Sandjar Agzamov, 33, Nodir Yunusov, 28, and Rustamjon Shukurov, 27, are on the ICE list for labor trafficking, which authorities say is harder to detect than sex trafficking.

The three were indicted for what authorities allege was their part in a complicated labor scheme. From 2005 through 2009, the indictments say, they defrauded the government into issuing visas for jobs that didn’t exist, then brought more than 40 people into the U.S. from Uzbekistan, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines to clean hotel rooms or work in other low-wage jobs for more than 40 hours a week for as little as $50.

The fugitives were college students in St. Louis and Kansas City, where they met other Uzbekistan nationals and came up with the scheme, according to court records and the federal agents who investigated the case. All told, 11 men have been indicted.

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SANDJAR AGZAMOV

Sandjar Agzamov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, is charged with RICO, aggravated identity theft, and harboring illegal aliens.

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NODIR YUNUSOV

Nodir Yunusov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, charged with RICO, forced labor trafficking, and fraud in foreign labor contracting.

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RUSTAMJON SHUKUROV

Rustamjon Shukurov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, charged with RICO, forced labor trafficking, and fraud in foreign labor contracting.

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The traffickers charged the workers as much as $5,000 in fees to obtain visas, bring them to the U.S. and find them work.

The traffickers required them to live in apartments the ring leased, charging them up to $350 a month to live with as many as 12 other people, the indictments said. The traffickers drove them to and from work to control their movements.

If the workers complained, the traffickers threatened to cancel their visas and charge them $5,000 to return home.

When federal agents broke up the ring in 2009, they found more than 40 victims working in hotels and factories in Kansas City, St. Louis, Wyoming, Florida and Virginia.

Mark Fox, ICE supervisory special agent in Kansas City, says the traffickers exploited the extreme poverty in developing countries.

“One gentleman, he was a civil engineer and came to work here in housekeeping,” he says. “The money is better in housekeeping. … Five billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day. That’s the pool these traffickers were taking from.”

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The Remaining Five On The List

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SAUL ROMERO RUGERIOSaul Romero-Rugerio, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with sex trafficking.

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SEVERIANO MARTINEZ-ROJASSeveriano Martinez-Rojas, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with sex trafficking.

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JAMAL MOOREJamal Moore is a citizen of the U.S. He is charged with sex trafficking of a minor.

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EUGENIO HERNANDEZ-PRIETOEugenio Hernandez-Prieto is a citizen of Mexico. He is charged with conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking.

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JOSE ISIDRO GUTIERREZ-MAREZJose Isidro Gutierrez-Marez — aka: Pelon — of Guatemala is charged with harboring aliens for financial gain.

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Sources: USA Today

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Understanding the Organization, Operation, and Victimization Process of Labor Trafficking in the United States

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Labor Trafficked Minor Ethnic Female Toiling in Farm FieldYou are now looking at an actual child labor-trafficked agricultural slave.

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The 2014 Urban Institute/Northeastern University Research Report on Labor Trafficking in the US: Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations

This landmark study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice, examined the organization, operation, and victimization process of labor trafficking across multiple industries in the United States.

It examined labor trafficking victim abuse and exploitation along a continuum, from victims’ recruitment for work in the United States; through their migration experiences (if any), employment victimization experiences, and efforts to seek help; to their ultimate escape and receipt of services.

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Three research questions guided the study:

1) What is the nature of the labor trafficking victimization experience in the United States?

2) How are domestic and international labor trafficking syndicates operating in the United States organized? Who are the traffickers, and what is their connection to other illicit networks that help facilitate labor trafficking operations? and

3) What are the challenges of law enforcement investigating labor trafficking cases identified by victim service providers? Why are so few identified cases investigated and prosecuted?

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Annual Domestic Human Trafficking Statistical Graphic - United States________________________________________

Data for this study came from a sample of 122 closed labor trafficking victim service records from service providers in four US cities.

In addition, interviews were conducted with labor trafficking survivors, local and federal law enforcement officials, legal advocates, and service providers in each site to better understand the labor trafficking victimization experience, the networks involved in labor trafficking and the escape and removal process, and the barriers to investigation and prosecution of labor trafficking cases.

All the victims in the study sample were immigrants working in the United States. The vast majority of the sample (71 percent) entered the United States on a temporary visa. The most common temporary visas were H-2A visas for work in agriculture and H-2B visas for jobs in hospitality, construction, and restaurants.

The study also identified female domestic servitude victims who had arrived in the United States on diplomatic, business, or tourist visas. Individuals who entered the United States without authorization were most commonly trafficked in agriculture and domestic work.

Labor trafficking victims’ cases were coded to collect information on their labor trafficking experience, as well as any forms of civil labor violations victims encountered.

All victims in the sample experienced elements of force, fraud and coercion necessary to substantiate labor trafficking. Elements of force, fraud and coercion included document fraud; withholding documents; extortion; sexual abuse and rape; discrimination; psychological manipulation and coercion; torture; attempted murder; and violence and threats against themselves and their family members.

In addition to criminal forms of abuse, it was found that labor trafficking victims faced high rates of civil labor exploitation. These forms of civil labor exploitation included, but were not limited to, being paid less than minimum wage; being paid less than promised; wage theft; and illegal deductions.

While legal under some visa programs and labor law, employers/traffickers also controlled the housing, food, and transportation of a significant proportion of the sample.

Immigration status was a powerful mechanism of control – with employers threatening both workers with visas and unauthorized workers with arrest as a means of keeping them in forced labor. Despite 71 percent of the sample arriving in the United States for work on a visa, by the time victims escaped and were connected to service providers, 69 percent were unauthorized.

By and large, labor trafficking investigations were not prioritized by local or federal law enforcement agencies. This lack of prioritization was consistent across all study sites and across all industries in which labor trafficking occurred.

The US Department of Labor was rarely involved. Survivors mostly escaped on their own and lived for several months or years before being connected to a specialized service provider. A lack of awareness and outreach, coupled with the victims’ fear of being unauthorized, inhibited the identification of survivors.

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Domestic Human Trafficking in the US Pie Chart Graphic________________________________________

Principal Findings

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Characteristics of Labor Trafficking Victims and Suspects

Who are labor trafficking victims and perpetrators, and where does the victimization take place? Are labor traffickers involved in other illicit activities and criminal networks? The exploration of these and other questions revealed the following:

o Labor trafficking victims in this study were victimized across various work venues. The most common venues of exploitation were agriculture, hospitality, domestic service in private residences, construction, and restaurants.

o Roughly half the victims studied were male. Gender of victims varied by work venue. Almost all the agricultural workers were male, and nearly all the domestic service workers were female.

o Labor trafficking victims had diverse educational backgrounds. Some had very little formal education, but others had attained a great deal of education, some with college and graduate degrees.

o The majority of victims (71 percent) entered the United States on a lawful visa, but most victims were unauthorized (69 percent) by the time they escaped labor trafficking and sought services. Victims in agricultural work were less likely to have had lawful immigration status upon entry to the United States.

o Two-thirds of labor trafficking perpetrators were male, most of whom were in their thirties or forties. Perpetrators were both foreign nationals and US citizens.

o Nearly half the identified perpetrators were confirmed as being arrested. Various factors led to low arrest rates, including a reactive approach to labor trafficking investigations, prosecutorial declination of cases brought forward by victims, and suspects absconding to non-extradition countries. Victims’ fear of the police, fear of being deported, and reticence to provide information about their exploiters out of fear of retribution further inhibited labor trafficking investigations.

o Few formal connections were found between labor trafficking perpetrators and other criminal networks such as drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, or money laundering. Some perpetrators were involved in smuggling, document fraud, and sexual abuse.

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Domestic Labor Trafficking Victims Percentages by Industry Pie Chart GraphicDomestic labor trafficking in America: percentages of victims by industry.

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Recruitment into Labor Trafficking

How are victims recruited, and what methods do traffickers and their associates use to recruit? Many survivors of labor trafficking came to the United States in search of an opportunity to better their lives and, often, the lives of their family members.

o Labor trafficking victims were most often recruited in their home countries for work in the United States.

o Victims first learned about the job opportunities that became labor trafficking situations through their social networks.

o Recruiters were working on behalf of third (or even fourth) party employment agencies, which were often located in the victim’s home country. Many of these agencies had direct ties to groups and organizations in the United States.

o Recruiters engaged in fraud and coercion during the recruitment process, using a combination of false promises and high-pressure, coercive tactics to get victims to commit to employment offers.

o On average, victims paid $6,150 in recruitment fees to recruitment agencies for jobs in the United States. This figure was higher than the annual per capita income of the top six countries of origin for victims in the sample.

o During the recruitment process, some victims came into contact with authority figures such as staff member of a US embassy or consulate during the visa application process. Recruiters and traffickers often trained the victims about the interview process with embassy or consulate staff.

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US Border Patrol Agents Detain Illegal Aliens Crossing BorderA coyote’s pack of illegals is discovered crossing the border into the U.S.

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Movement

What forms of movement/transport do traffickers use? Did victims come into contact with criminal justice or other authorities during their travel?

o For victims in the case record sample, movement to the United States most often originated in Asia and Latin America.

o To facilitate movement into the United States, victims usually obtained legal visas. Few victims in the sample used fraudulent documents, and approximately 29 percent of individuals entered the United States without authorization, many of whom were smuggled into the United States.

o The most common forms of transportation during the movement process involved flight (71 percent), the use of a car or van (52 percent), and walking (22 percent). Journeys that involved crossing the US–Mexican border were more likely than others to rely on multiple methods of transportation, such as walking and using cars or vans.

o During the movement process, similar to the recruitment stage, fraud and coercion were more prevalent than force. When force was present, it often took place in domestic servitude cases and cases involving immigrants who were unauthorized before their labor trafficking.

o Labor trafficking victims rarely came into contact with authorities during the movement process. Survivors who entered with visas met with immigration officials at the point of entry, but they often described their interactions as routine and uneventful.

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Labor Trafficked Factory Workers Outside Factory in Slave CampSlave labor trafficked factory workers outside factory in hobo community.

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Labor Trafficking Victimization and Labor Exploitation Experiences

What forms of intimidation or threats did traffickers use to force victims to remain in the exploitative situation? What are the distinctions between labor violations/labor exploitation and labor trafficking? In chapter 6, we document victimization experiences:

o All victims in our sample experienced elements of force, fraud, and coercion necessary to substantiate labor trafficking. These elements included document fraud, withholding documents, extortion, sexual abuse and rape, discrimination, psychological manipulation and coercion, torture, attempted murder, and violence and threats against victims and their family members.

o In addition to the criminal forms of abuse used to dehumanize victims, labor trafficking victims faced high rates of civil labor exploitation. These forms of exploitation included being paid less than minimum wage, being paid less than promised, wage theft, and illegal deductions.

o Although physical abuse and violence constituted the extreme forms of victimization that labor trafficking victims experienced, more subtle, nuanced forms of coercion and fraud were most common. In the cases of victims who were essentially hidden in plain sight—working jobs that required interacting with the public—traffickers used tactics to dehumanize them. For example, they told victims that no one would want to help them because of their immigration status.

o The types of labor trafficking victimization that individuals experienced varied by the industry in which they worked.

o Many victims interacted with individuals other than their traffickers, such as members of law enforcement, staff working for the trafficker (e.g., gardeners, secretaries, maintenance workers), or other coworkers. Although these encounters sometimes played a critical role in victims’ escapes, many of these interactions resulted in an unrealized opportunity for rescue.

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Labor Trafficked Domestic Slave - Hotel MaidA labor-trafficked domestic servitude slave faces an endless day of drudgery.

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Escape from Labor Trafficking

How did labor trafficking victims escape their situations, and who helped them?

o Physical barriers, psychological abuse, and law enforcement shortcomings (e.g., lack of familiarity with different ethnic groups and language barriers) created challenges in escaping.

o Fear of deportation made victims reluctant to contact law enforcement.

o Most victims escaped by running away. However, the support of community members, friends, and law enforcement were also important.

o In some cases, traffickers continued to contact victims after escape and expanded threats and harassment to the victims’ families in their home countries.

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Survivor Outcomes after Escape

What services did victims need upon fleeing their situations? What were their long-term outcomes?

o After they escaped, survivors in the sample commonly went for several months or years until they were properly identified and connected to specialized service providers. During this time the majority of survivors were unauthorized, most as a result of their trafficking.

o As a consequence of being unauthorized, some labor trafficking victims were placed in deportation proceedings, threatened by immigration officials, and/or arrested and placed in detention centers.

o Secure emergency shelter and long-term transitional housing were the greatest needs and the greatest challenges reported by service providers, survivors, and law enforcement.

o Obtaining continued presence for labor trafficking survivors was extremely rare across sites.

o Civil damages and criminal restitution were rarely awarded to labor trafficking survivors.

o Some survivors reported challenges accessing social benefits they qualified for through their T visa (e.g., driver’s licenses, Social Security cards) because of a lack of program administrator awareness of human trafficking or T visa benefits.

o As a result of their victimization, labor trafficking survivors suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicidal ideation and attempts, and fear and difficulty forming trusting relationships.

o Labor trafficking survivors tended to remain mired in low-wage work in the same industries in which they had been trafficked. Commonly, survivors remained in situations where they were at risk for further exploitation owing to a lack of work history, references, and job-training programs.

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Is this man a labor-trafficked debt bondage slave? Only investigation can tell…

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Criminal Justice Process

How does law enforcement in local communities define labor trafficking? What role does law enforcement play in investigating labor trafficking cases?

o Labor trafficking investigations were not prioritized by local law enforcement agencies.

o Local and federal law enforcement agencies had difficulty defining labor trafficking and separating it from other forms of labor exploitation and workplace violations.

o Law enforcement struggled to investigate labor trafficking cases that they believed had little evidence to corroborate victim statements.

o When involved in cases, law enforcement sometimes played a critical role in securing victims and facilitating victim services. This role was most common in domestic servitude cases.

o Local law enforcement was reluctant to pursue immigration relief for various reasons, including anti-immigration sentiment, lack of belief of victim statements, and challenges of working collaboratively with the US Department of Homeland Security.

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Undocumented Illegals in Detention by US Border PatrolUnauthorized immigrants sit out the war at a federal detention facility.

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Principal Recommendations for Policy and Practice

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Policy and practice recommendations are presented below across four core areas:

1) Immigration, state, and labor law reform;

2) Criminal and civil justice policy and practice;

3) Awareness and outreach; and

4) Service provision.

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Reforms to State and Federal Laws

o Immigration reform is needed for guest worker programs because tying a worker’s immigration status to a specific employer is one of the most powerful forms of control used against labor trafficking victims across industries. A oversight process with the goal of protecting workers from abuse is also needed, as is transparency for consumers about employers that traffic and use forced labor in their supply chains.

o Examine and strengthen state and federal labor laws to ensure back wage and overtime regulations are the same for foreign national and US workers, and to increase domestic worker rights under labor law.

o Enact state laws to ensure all companies certify a lack of slavery or forced labor in their supply chains. The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act is the only state law requiring US companies to disclose their efforts to ensure their supply chains are free of human trafficking. Other states should consider adopting similar laws. State governments could also look to the federal government’s executive order on trafficking in federal contracts and adapt similar laws applicable at the state level.

o Labor trafficking victims may be arrested for crimes or violations committed pursuant to their victimization. State laws should be amended to allow a victim’s criminal record to be expunged if the crimes committed were a direct result of being trafficked.

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Hidden Slave Labor in Domestic Consumer Products Flow ChartHidden slave labor “trickle-down taint” on domestic consumer goods flow chart

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Criminal and Civil Justice Policy and Practice

o Specialized training is necessary to help law enforcement identify coercion and fraud that lead to trafficking as distinct from labor exploitation.

o Involve the US embassy and consulate staff in investigating the practices of overseas recruitment agencies used by American companies. These workers could be a powerful resource to help identify trafficking and exploitation situations before workers arrive in the United States.

o An independent agency, in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, should audit and thoroughly review continued presence policies and practices for human trafficking.

o Federal policies surrounding diplomat and foreign official use of domestic workers and their relative immunity from criminal accountability for labor trafficking should be reexamined. If the criminal justice process is not a viable option, alternate forms of justice should be pursued, including payment of back wages to victims and deportation and non-renewal of visas for perpetrators.

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Human Trafficking - Look Beneath the Surface - Poster________________________________________

Awareness and Outreach

o Public awareness campaigns about labor trafficking are needed. Campaigns could feature survivors’ voices, highlight a few major forms of labor trafficking, and indicate that labor trafficking can involve US citizens, as well as unauthorized and authorized immigrant workers in the United States. Materials should be developed in multiple languages and media formats.

o Training of state and local regulators that come into contact with trafficked persons during the course of routine inspections is also needed.

o Training of US embassy and consulate staff and border officials is pertinent to recognizing potential indicators of trafficking (e.g., payment of recruitment fees, immigration benefit promises). Staff should always privately interview those applying for visas.

o All individuals obtaining visas to the United States should be given information regarding their rights and numbers to call for help (911 and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center) by US embassy and consulate staff and by border officials.

o Major commercial airlines could develop, in consultation with anti-trafficking experts and survivors, short awareness-raising videos to be played, and available in several different languages, on airplanes arriving in the United States (71 percent of the sample arrived in the United States via airplane before they were labor trafficked).

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Current Global Profits From Forced Labor by Trading Block________________________________________

Service Provision

o Funding through the Office for Victims of Crime or an alternative federal funding stream should be specifically dedicated to support civil litigation for trafficking survivors so they can collect back wages and damages. Efforts should also be made to better coordinate with the Department of Labor to file back wage claims for trafficking survivors. Dedicating responsibility to local department of labor officials assigned to labor trafficking back wage cases would be helpful.

o Create a national network of housing providers willing to work with service providers to increase short- and long-term housing options for survivors. Given that survivors lack credit histories and are often unable to work legally for months, service provider organizations could pay the cost of the apartment and then use a sliding scale of payment until survivors are back on their feet.

o Remove the requirement that trafficking victims cooperate with law enforcement to obtain T visas. Doing so may increase victim identification and cooperation.

o Explore options to increase availability of trauma-informed, linguistically-and culturally-competent mental health care.

o It is imperative that vocational training programs be created for survivors of trafficking and existing program requirements be amended to increase access.

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Polaris 2014 State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws________________________________________

Principal Conclusions

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This study was the first of its kind to examine the organization, operation, and victimization process of labor trafficking in multiple industries in the United States. It was also the first study to measure the use of force, fraud, and coercion throughout the continuum of recruitment, labor trafficking victimization, and victims’ efforts to escape and seek assistance.

Through service provider case reviews and interviews with survivors, service providers, and law enforcement, information was also uncovered regarding survivors’ long-term outcomes after their escape and their experiences with the criminal justice system, in addition to the barriers to investigating and prosecuting labor trafficking cases.

The vast majority of the sample (71 percent) entered the United States on a temporary visa. The most common were H-2A visas for work in agriculture and H-2B visas for jobs in hospitality, construction, and restaurants. Our study also identified female domestic servitude victims who had arrived in the United States on diplomatic, business, or tourist visas.

Victims were often recruited for work in the United States through recruitment agencies abroad. These agencies engaged in high levels of fraud and coercion and charged workers, on average, $6,150 for jobs in the United States.

Once in the United States, traffickers used various tactics to dehumanize victims and force their labor, including restricting their communication; monitoring and surveillance; manipulating debts they owed; physical, psychological, and sexual abuse; controlling victims’ housing and movement to work; keeping victims in substandard living conditions; and denying food and medical care. Victims were forced to work long hours, denied pay, or given less pay than promised.

Traffickers also manipulated workers to remain in forced labor by exploiting their immigration status. Victims were often hidden in plain sight, labor trafficked in jobs that involved interaction with the public. Ninety-four percent of the sample realized at some point they were being abused, but none were aware they were being labor trafficked and were afforded rights under law regardless of immigration status. Some victims reached out for help while being trafficked, but individuals failed to identify and help them, resulting in further demoralization.

By and large, labor trafficking investigations were not prioritized by local or federal law enforcement agencies. There was no evidence of arrest for more than half of all suspects identified. The Department of Labor was rarely involved in the proactive identification of trafficking victims. As such, labor trafficking victims mostly escaped on their own and lived for several months or years before being connected to a specialized service provider.

Sixty-nine percent of victims were unauthorized when they were connected to specialized service providers. Service providers met resistance from law enforcement in securing immigration relief in the form of continued presence for victims. Although the majority of victims in the sample were willing to cooperate in an investigation or prosecution of their traffickers, investigations and prosecutions were rare. Civil actions or back wage claims were also rarely pursued, further compounding victims’ debts and stolen wages.

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Polaris 2014 State Ratings on Victims' Assistance Laws________________________________________

Four Courses of Action Recommended

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To comprehensively improve how labor trafficking crimes are identified and responded to, the study recommends four courses of action:

1)  Close loopholes in labor and immigration laws;

2)  Implement coordinated efforts between law enforcement agencies and the Department of Labor to identify, investigate, and prosecute cases;

3)  Increase housing, job training, and other services for victims; and

4)  Enhance outreach to a public largely unaware that crimes resembling slavery take place in America every day from coast to coast.

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ABOUT THE URBAN INSTITUTE

The Urban Institute is a nonprofit policy research organization dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.

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The War on Human Trafficking: Areas For Improvement and Greatest Unmet Needs

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Sex Trafficking in the United States - Eden

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This article features a number of observations and suggestions from leading anti-trafficking organizations and providers of services to victims & survivors, on which areas of the battle front are still lacking in terms of accurate data collection and analysis, public and private funding, general overall support, and adecuate provision, dissemination, and distribution of appropriate information and necessary services. The entries will be cataloged in random and uncategorized fashion.

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“Data collection on human trafficking needs improvement. Existing statistics on human trafficking are only capturing a small picture of the problem. Until we have learned to identify all victims of human trafficking, statistics will not be reflective of the full spectrum of victims, including victims who are transgender; male and female; citizens and foreign nationals; adults and children; sex- and labor-trafficked; free and still in bondage.”Freedom Network

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“Include quality and impact in the evaluation of responses to human trafficking survivors. So often the focus is on the number of victims identified and how many people become certified 20 “Include quality and impact in the evaluation of responses to human trafficking survivors. So often the focus is on the number of victims identified and how many people become certified “Include quality and impact in the evaluation of responses to human trafficking survivors. So often the focus is on the number of victims identified and how many people become certified or employed. Qualitative research is necessary to adequately assess other important measures of success (e.g., survivors’ improved feelings of safety and well being; preparedness to enter the job market; increased engagement in one’s community).” -– Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium

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“Coordination among federal agencies on funding is vital to expanding anti-human trafficking efforts. Lack of funding is often cited as a challenge to trafficking investigations and services, which go hand in hand. Creative or additional means of funding should be sought. Solicitations for joint grants should be concise and reviewed carefully for contradictory requirements.”Indiana Office of the Attorney General

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“An important aspect of coordination and collaboration between agencies should be the development of a standardized training for agencies—one that is based on a uniform definition of human trafficking and then adapted to the specialized needs of each agency. Standardized trainings will help create more cohesion and unity between agencies.” — Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking

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“Training to increase collaboration with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking agencies should include education on the intersections of these issues with human trafficking and provision of services to human trafficking victims. Many of these agencies are already serving trafficking victims but need to feel incorporated into the anti-trafficking field not just as ‘related fields’ but as fields that have direct intersections with human trafficking and are filling the gaps in service provision throughout the country.”Denver Anti-Trafficking Alliance, Denver District Attorney’s Office

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“The public benefits available to a human trafficking victim may vary on a case-by-case basis. Due to the complexities in meeting the eligibility requirements for these programs, victims are generally unable to obtain public benefits on their own. Legal aid providers and victim services agencies help trafficking victims access public benefits and meet their basic survival needs, but they often lack the funding and staff capacity to fully meet this need.” –- Santa Clara University Law School

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“Providing low barrier access to services and better identification of victims and survivors so they can access services is really the key to responding to human trafficking. Focusing on this gives us a more actionable plan than spreading ourselves too broadly.” –- International Rescue Committee Washington

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“One of the primary barriers we face as service providers is finding appropriate housing for survivors, especially transitional/emergency housing. Not having safe, affordable housing to turn to means that victims are more likely to stay in exploitative situations (because there is nowhere else to go), or be re-trafficked or otherwise unsafe. Even if we manage to find safe housing, there is a risk of wiping out their entire services fund to pay rent and not having enough left over for other basic needs.” –- Break the Chain Campaign

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Source(s):  Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States 2013-2017

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What Goes On At The Other End Of The Supply Chain

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Chinese Sweatshop SlaveA Chinese mentally-handicapped man, sold into slavery and fed on dog food

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“God help us if the labor-management relations being developed in China become the new low standard for the rest of the world.” — Charles Kernaghan, Director of the NLC

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“Almost all the workers who have tried to organize… have been arrested.” — Elisabeth Tang, Chief Executive of the HKCTU

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On February 5, 2009, Charles Kernaghan and the National Labor Committee (NLC), a Pittsburgh-based human rights group which campaigns for workers across the globe, released a 60-page report, High Tech Misery in China, documenting the grueling hours, low wages and draconian disciplinary measures at the Meitai factory in southern China.

The 2,000 workers — mostly young women — produce keyboards and other equipment for Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft and IBM. Along with worker interviews, photographs of primitive factory and dorm conditions and extensive internal company documents were smuggled out of the factory.

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Chinese Sweatshop________________________________________

Workers sit on hard wooden stools as 500 computer keyboards an hour move down the assembly line, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with just two days off a month.

The workers have 1.1 seconds to snap on each key, an operation repeated 3,250 times an hour, 35,750 a day, 250,250 a week and over one million times a month. The pace is relentless. Workers are paid 1/50th of a cent for each operation they complete.

Workers cannot talk, listen to music or even lift their heads to look around. They must “periodically trim their nails,” or be fined.

Workers needing to use the bathroom must learn to hold it until there is a break. Security guards spy on the workers, who are prohibited from putting their hands in their pockets and are searched when they leave the factory.

All overtime is mandatory and workers are at the factory up to 87 hours a week, while earning a take-home wage of just 41 cents an hour. Workers are being cheated of up to 19 percent of the wages due them.

Ten to twelve workers share each overcrowded dorm room, sleeping on metal bunk beds and draping old sheets over their cubicles for privacy. Workers bathe using small plastic buckets and must walk down several flights of stairs to fetch hot water. Workers are locked in the factory compound four days a week and prohibited from even taking a walk.

For breakfast the workers receive a thin rice gruel. On Fridays they receive a small chicken leg and foot to symbolize “their improving life.” Workers are instructed to “love the company like your home”…”continuously striving for perfection” …and to spy on and “actively monitor each other.”

One Metai worker summed up the general feeling in the factory: “I feel like I am serving a prison sentence… The factory is forever pressing down on our heads and will not tolerate even the tiniest mistake. When working, we work continuously. When we eat, we have to eat with lightning speed… The security guards are like policemen watching over prisoners. We’re really livestock and shouldn’t be called workers.”

Charles Kernaghan, director of the NLC commented, “God help us if the labor-management relations being developed in China become the new low standard for the rest of the world. The $200 personal computer and $22.99 keyboard may seem like a great bargain. But they come at a terrible cost. The low wages and lack of worker rights protections in China are leading the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy, where there are no winners.”

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05_Flatbed_WEB - APRILPhotos of female workers, their heads resting in their arms while on what passes for their “break”, were smuggled out of the KYE Systems factory at Dongguan, China, in April, 2010, as part of a three-year investigation by the National Labour Committee.

According to the report, KYE, who manufactures products for Microsoft, recruits hundreds of “work-study” students 16 and 17 years of age, who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week, making webcams and accessories.

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“Like Something Out of a Horror Movie”

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Shanghied Chinese TouristA passing tourist, who stopped at the Jiaersi Green Construction Material Chemical Factory, located in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang to ask for some water to drink, was Shanghied and enslaved for over 2 years. Forced to toil every day with a tin bowl of noodles and a beating his only compensation, he twice tried to escape, only to be captured, returned, and flogged mercilessly for his efforts.

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According to Chinese state media and Global Times reports from mid-December, 2010, at least 11 workers, including eight intellectually disabled people, were sold to the same building materials factory to work without pay.

The state media reports also cited authorities as saying that the workers were given no protective gear and were given the same food as the factory manager’s dogs. and that they had been confined to the factory, living in the most deplorable conditions imaginable and toiling like galley slaves, for at least three years.

China has had many previous cases of mentally ill people being abused as laborers. For instance, in May 2009, police in the eastern province of Anhui arrested 10 men for enslaving more than 30 mentally handicapped people who were forced to work at brick kilns. Hundreds of brick kiln slaves, many of them handicapped, were freed in raids in 2007 in northern China.

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Chinese Slave Laboring________________________________________

Chinese Slave on Rockpile________________________________________

Guard Watching Over Slaves While Feeding________________________________________

Mentally Handicapped Slave Laborer________________________________________

The 2007 Chinese Slave Scandal

The 2007 Chinese slave scandal, also known as the “Shanxi Black Brick Kiln Incident”, was a series of forced labor cases in Shanxi, China. Thousands of Chinese people including children had been forced to work as slaves in illegal brickyards (kilns), and tortured by the owners of the brickyards. In June 2007 alone, approximately 550 people were rescued from such situations.

Shanxi is located in the Loess Plateau in northern China, which is known for its rich clay deposits which are easier and cheaper to mine than coal. Through corrupt relationships with officials, slave “bosses” opened illegal brickyards. Due to the scarcity of labor in Shanxi, some factories outsourced production to middlemen who recruited workers from other provinces, making huge profits for the bosses.

The existence of illegal brickyards was first reported to authorities in 1998 by a laborer who had escaped from one. The escapee also wrote to the chairman of the Shanxi People’s Congress. As a result, slave rescue operations were carried out by provincial government authorities without notifying local officials. Over 150 slaves, three of them child laborers, were freed from the illegal brickyards as a result.

There have been continuing reports of cruelty committed at these illegal brickyards. In May of 2007, Henan TV Metro Channel reported the case of five minors around sixteen years old who had disappeared from the environs of Zhengzhou Railway Station. Having heard of earlier instances of child laborers being kidnapped for brickyards in Shanxi, their parents suspected their children might be found there.

Two months later these five were among fifty minors from Henan who were found at an illegal brickyard. Human traffickers had sold them to the brickyards for 500 Yuan each. The slaves included children as young as eight years old.

Moreover, brickyard owners hired guards and wolfdogs to watch their slaves. These slaves were forced to work over sixteen hours every day and any mistakes were punished by brutal torture. One teenager who was rescued from an illegal brickyard said that, during his slavery, he had been taken to another brickyard by his boss to watch another slave being fed to a meat grinder.

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Sweatshop Hall of Shame

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Sweatshop Hall of Shame 2010

The Sweatshop Hall of Shame 2010 highlights apparel and textile companies that use sweatshops in their global production. Hall of Shame inductees are responsible for evading fair labor standards and often are slow to respond or provide no response at all to any attempts by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), workers, or others to improve working conditions.

I wasn’t able to find any results for 2015 — or for anything beyond 2010 for that matter, which has me wondering, but what can you do.

So… The official inductees of the 2010 Sweatshop Hall of Shame are:

Abercrombie and Fitch

Gymboree

Hanes

Ikea

Kohl’s

LL Bean

Pier 1 Imports

Propper International

Walmart

This list also includes an Honorable Mention to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, a national trade association representing apparel and footwear companies. This association has exhibited a flagrant disregard for workers’ rights by primarily focusing on maintaining trade with Honduras in the middle of a military coup.

Most of the companies listed employ laborers who toil for long hours under dangerous working conditions for poverty wages. When these workers attempt to form a union to voice their collective concerns, they face threats from management and risk being fired, beaten… or even worse.

Many of 2010’s inductees used suppliers that practiced illegal tactics to suppress workers’ rights to organize. Some of the companies mentioned weave shame into their clothing by continuing to use cotton sourced from Uzbekistan where harvesting is accomplished through forced child labor.

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Facebook to Issue Missing Children Alerts in U.S.

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People pose with laptops in front of projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken in Zenica________________________________________

Social networking website Facebook plans to use its estimated 140 million daily U.S. users to help track missing children through emergency alerts, the company said today.

Facebook partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to immediately begin sending AMBER Alerts, including photographs and other details, to the news feeds of users in targeted search areas.

“The chances of finding a missing child increase when more people are on the lookout,” Emily Vacher, trust and safety manager at Facebook, said in a statement. “Our goal is to help get these alerts out quickly to the people who are in the best position to help.”

AMBER Alert is a voluntary program coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice in which emergency messages are issued by law enforcement, broadcasters and other agencies in cases of serious child abductions.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday said expanding the alerts to Facebook would raise the chances of saving abducted children, who can be in increasing danger the longer they go missing.

“The more vigilant the citizens we have on the lookout, the better our chances of a quick recovery,” Holder said in a video statement.

The AMBER Alert program launched in 1996 after the kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas. Hagerman’s family worked with local radio stations to broadcast alerts about kidnapped children following her death.

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Sources:  Reuters, YahooNews.com

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