This weekend is a “Weekend of Prayer” focused on Human Trafficking. This is an important issue that touches on issues of crumbling labor rights, gender, the environment, and poverty to name a few. A “Weekend of Prayer” is an invitation to spend time with this issue and hopefully become part of the solution.
To get us started I provided a link below to a site that can lead you through the prayer guide for the weekend and article from Truthout that presents a story of human trafficking. Happy journey!
Weekend of Prayer
America’s Shame: The US Government’s Human Trafficking Dilemma
For Vinnie Tuivaga, the offer was the answer to a prayer: A job in a luxury hotel in Dubai–the so-called Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf–making five times what she was earning as a hair stylist in her native Fiji.
She jumped at the chance, even if it meant paying an upfront commission to the recruiter.
You probably know how this story is going to end. There was no high-paying job, luxury location or easy work.
Tuivaga and other Fijians ended up in Iraq where they lived in shipping containers and existed in what amounted to indentured servitude.
Journalist Sarah Stillman told Tuivaga’s story and that of tens of thousands of other foreign workers in acute detail almost a year ago in her New Yorker piece, “The Invisible Army.”
In some cases, Stillman found more severe abuses and more squalid living conditions than what Tuivaga and her fellow Fijians experienced.
But like Tuivaga, thousands of foreign nationals in the U.S. government’s invisible army ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones because they fell victim to human traffickers.
Let that sink in.
This human trafficking pipeline wasn’t benefitting some shadowy war lord or oppressive regime. No, these are workers who were feeding, cleaning up after, and providing logistical support for U.S. troops—the standard-bearers of the free and democratic world.
In its final report to Congress last year, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said it had uncovered evidence of human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan by labor brokers and subcontractors. Commissioner Dov Zakheim later told a Senate panel that the Commission had only scratched the surface of the problem. He called it the “tip of the iceberg.”
In essence, despite a 2002 presidential directive that set a “zero tolerance” on human trafficking, modern-day slavers have been operating with impunity under the aegis of the U.S. government.
Nick Schwellenbach, who until last month was the director of investigations at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and author David Isenberg also wrote about the conditions some of these foreign workers endured in Iraq.
Nick and David uncovered documents that showed how one U.S. contractor—in this case KBR—was well aware that one of its subcontractors, Najlaa International Catering Services, was allegedly involved in trafficking abuses. From their story:
The freshly unearthed documents show that for several months, KBR employees expressed exasperation at Najlaa’s apparent abuse of the laborers and said the subcontractor was embarrassing KBR in front of its main client in Iraq: the U.S. military. But despite its own employees’ strongly worded communications to Najlaa, to this day, KBR continues to award subcontracts to the company.
Nick later testified before a House subcommittee, outlining reforms that Congress should pass to hold contractors and subcontractors accountable.
Well, it appears that some of the attention focused on human trafficking (including the movie The Whistleblower, the story of U.N. peacekeeper Kathryn Bolkovac, who blew the whistle on sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia) in the last year may finally be paying off.
Some Members of Congress have introduced measures aimed at preventing human trafficking by government contractors and subcontractors.
The bipartisan proposals (End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012, H.R. 4259 and S. 2234), which include some of the reforms that POGO has recommended, are sponsored by Rep. Lankford (R-OK) and Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT). Rep. Lankford will likely offer the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (FY13 NDAA) this month. The legislation would bolster the current laws and regulations governing trafficking by requiring contractors to create plans to prevent trafficking and requiring companies to closely monitor and report the activities of their subcontractors.
The measures also call for penalties, including suspending or debarring or criminally prosecuting violators.
Sen. Blumenthal said current law was insufficient and ineffective and failed to prevent abuses.
“Modern-day slavery by government contractors—unknowingly funded by American taxpayers—is unconscionable and intolerable,” Blumenthal said.
And, really, all of us should feel pangs of guilt for the human rights violations perpetrated by those profiting in the name of the American people. POGO launched a campaign this week urging people to tell their Members of Congress to support the anti-trafficking legislation.
It comes too late to help those workers who were abused during our decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and in military bases all over the world continues. And the invisible army we rely upon to keep those bases running needs this protection now as much as it ever has.
It has become sadly well documented fact that large sports events tend to increase “opportunities” for the trafficking of human beings, in particular women and girls for sex trafficking.
In advance of the 2012 Super Bowl occurring in Indianapolis Catholic Sisters through the mid-west have joined together to increase awareness while demanding that officials in Indiana do all they can to ensure a safe environment for all who attend the event.
Check out the two articles below about this important work.
Many of us would probably never guess but 100,00 – 300,000 people are trafficked in the United States every year. One of the biggest draws for trafficked girls and women is the Super Bowl which will be happening in two weeks in Dallas.
Besides just celebrating your favorite team or secretly celebrating that the season is over (whichever side of the aisle reflects your interest), we can take this upcoming Sunday to celebrate human rights and take action for women and girls.
The link below leads to a great site that has educational materials, videos, a petition to sign and faith-based materials that can be shared. All of the tools will help reduce the risk for women and girls who may be trafficked and forced into sex slavery at the Super Bowl.
I invite you to check it out and share it, too! Let’s celebrate human rights with the same enthusiasm we have for our favorite teams! Peace…
January 11, 2010, was a day of awareness for human trafficking. Statistics show that 50,000 people a year are trafficked into the United States, part of a larger estimated 27 million people who are being held by traffickers. 27 million is more than the population of 18 states.
What is trafficking? Trafficking is defined by the U.N. as “a person who is recruited to be controlled and held captive for exploitation…” Trafficking is estimated to be a nine billion dollar industry. People are recruited believing they will be taken to a new country and given legitimate work only to find themselves in a strange land, working for no pay, and literally held captive by their “employers.”
As a single mother in Mexico, Esperanza experienced the loss of a child due to starvation and decided that she must leave her children with her family and go to Los Angeles for a job as a seamstress. Following what she believed to be a legitimate job lead, Esperanza was sold into slavery, which separated her from her children and prevented her from sending home the money that she went to earn. Esperanza was able to leave through the help of an agency that recognized the place that was holding her captive as a potential place for trafficking. Through their investigations Esperanza was able to get the help she needed to get out.
We can help Esperanza and others like her by clicking on the link below. It is a link to site called “Chain Store Reaction” and it gives you the chance to check out some of the places you may shop at and see how well they are doing at ensuring that their goods don’t come from trafficked labor.
It is a simple action and does not completely cover the depth of such a tragic reality, but it gives us a pathway for matching our values to our choices and raises our voices so those in power know we will not support goods made from slavery….Peace Liz