Sunday, January 22, 2012

U.S. officials visit Burma to open dialogue regarding human trafficking

This past December, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Burma, also known as Myanmar, in a start to a tentative rebuilding of relations after 50 years of estrangement between the two countries.

Secretary Clinton met with the Burmese Prime Minister and parliament officials in the new capital of Naypyitaw. She also met with the pro-democratic opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest in November 2010 after nearly 15 years.

In addition, 651 imprisoned political activists were freed and received amnesty from the Burmese government on January 13, 2012. This marks an important step in the right direction for democracy and social change in a one of the world's most reclusive countries.

Earlier this month, Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, also traveled to Burma and met with Burmese leaders to discuss reforms and efforts to combat trafficking and forced labor. Since the of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report was created by the U.S. Department of State, Burma has received the lowest Tier 3 ranking each year. In a press conference from the U.S. Embassy in Burma, Ambassador CdeBaca candidly discussed conversations with Burmese leaders, what improvements are being made to combat modern slavery and what still needs to take place.

 Click to read the full Q&A media session with Ambassador CdeBaca.  I highly suggest reading it.

Pro-democratic opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton meets with Aung San Suu Kyi

U.S. special ambassadors Derek Mitchell, left, and Lois CdeBaca, right, and Aung San Suu Kyi after talks at her home in Rangoon. Photo: Mizzima

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Recognize and Report Human Trafficking

When people ask me questions about modern slavery and human trafficking, often the questions is asked, "How can I tell if someone is a victim?"
There is no exact science. Knowing if someone is a human trafficking victim is similar to finding out if someone is being abused. There are some definite warning signs to look for and questions to ask. You may never find or report a case of human trafficking, but if you know what to look for and how to report it, you can be aware of your surroundings and know what to do if you notice something suspicious.
The U.S. Department of State suggests the following key indicators to look for and questions to ask if you suspect human trafficking. These are good rules to keep in mind whenever you go out. Many victims have been saved when concerned citizens noticed things out of place while at the spa, salon, gas stations, rest stops, farms, restaraunts, etc...

Human Trafficking Indicators

While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:
  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

Questions to Ask

Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:
  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?

Where to Get Help

If you believe you have identified someone still in the trafficking situation, alert law enforcement immediately at the numbers provided below. It may be unsafe to attempt to rescue a trafficking victim. You have no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate against the victim and you. If, however, you identify a victim who has escaped the trafficking situation, there are a number of organizations to whom the victim could be referred for help with shelter, medical care, legal assistance, and other critical services. In this case, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below.

911 Emergency
For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911. You may also want to alert the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below so that they can ensure response by law enforcement officials knowledgeable about human trafficking.

1-888-3737-888 National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Call 1-888-3737-888 to report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. The Center is equipped to handle calls from all regions of the United States from a wide range of callers including, but not limited to: potential trafficking victims, community members, law enforcement, medical professionals, legal professionals, service providers, researchers, students, and policymakers.
Source: U.S. Department of State Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons

Sunday, January 1, 2012

President Obama Declares January as National Slavery Prevention Month

On December 30, 2011, President Obama declared January 2012 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In separate presidential proclamations he also declared January as Mentoring Month and Stalker Awareness month.

Presidential proclamations have long been a way for U.S. Presidents to share their opinions regarding numerous issues and offer good PR.  Typically not much comes from these proclamations, but I hope something does come from this one. 

I hope it raises awareness. I hope it strengthens those organizations and individuals working against modern slavery. It is heart-wrenching work and I hope they know they are appreciated. I hope it reminds us of the millions of victims of slavery worldwide. I hope it reminds us to pray for them.  I hope it stirs up feelings strong enough to take action this month, even just one action, to combat human trafficking.  I hope it brings hope and reinforcements in this struggle.

Below is a list of ways you can help this month. Afterwards you can read the full record of President Obama's proclamation. There are over 27 million slaves worldwide and we can help. 

1. Save the National Human Trafficking hotline on your phone. (1-888-3737-888) If you notice anything suspicious, don't hesitate to call. You can learn more about the signs of human trafficking on their website.
2Get educated. Read a book about modern slavery. If you're part of a book club, suggest a book on the subject. See my suggested reading list.
3. Sign petitions online. makes it simple to sign petitions or start your own regarding human trafficking. You can help pass new legislation, change company policies and influence politicians. It's easy. Just go to
4. Link to articles via your personal Twitter, Facebook, eMail and Blogs.
5. Donate money to non-profit organizations combating modern slavery. There are many out there. Here are just a few. Free the Slaves, International Justice Mission, Not For Sale and Love146.
6. Repeat steps 1-5.

Presidential Proclamation -- National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, 2012

Nearly a century and a half ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation -- a document that reaffirmed the noble goals of equality and freedom for all that lie at the heart of what it means to live in America.  In the years since, we have tirelessly pursued the realization and protection of these essential principles.  Yet, despite our successes, thousands of individuals living in the United States and still more abroad suffer in silence under the intolerable yoke of modern slavery.  During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we stand with all those who are held in compelled service; we recognize the people, organizations, and government entities that are working to combat human trafficking; and we recommit to bringing an end to this inexcusable human rights abuse.
Human trafficking endangers the lives of millions of people around the world, and it is a crime that knows no borders.  Trafficking networks operate both domestically and transnationally, and although abuses disproportionally affect women and girls, the victims of this ongoing global tragedy are men, women, and children of all ages.  Around the world, we are monitoring the progress of governments in combating trafficking while supporting programs aimed at its eradication.  From forced labor and debt bondage to forced commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude, human trafficking leaves no country untouched.  With this knowledge, we rededicate ourselves to forging robust international partnerships that strengthen global anti-trafficking efforts, and to confronting traffickers here at home.
My Administration continues to implement our comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking in America.  By coordinating our response across Federal agencies, we are working to protect victims of human trafficking with effective services and support, prosecute traffickers through consistent enforcement, and prevent human rights abuses by furthering public awareness and addressing the root causes of modern slavery.  The steadfast defense of human rights is an essential part of our national identity, and as long as individuals suffer the violence of slavery and human trafficking, we must continue the fight.
With the start of each year, we commemorate the anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation, which became effective on January 1, 1863, and the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln and submitted to the States for ratification on February 1, 1865. 
These documents stand as testaments to the gains we have made in pursuit of freedom and justice for all, and they remind us of the work that remains to be done.  This month, I urge all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking.  Together, and in cooperation with our partners around the world, we can work to end this terrible injustice and protect the rights to life and liberty entrusted to us by our forebears and owed to our children.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 2012 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the annual celebration of National Freedom Day on February 1.  I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the vital role we can play in ending modern slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
thirtieth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.