Sunday, July 20, 2008

CA: New Ads Reach Out to Trafficking Victims

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are trying to reach out to human-smuggling victims through advertisements featured in major cities, including San Diego.

Advertisements posted on billboards and transit shelters with the slogan “Hidden in Plain Sight” were put on display recently around San Diego County.

The goal is to educate the public about the existence of human trafficking in the country and urge them to report such crimes, officials said.

“These victims are domestic servants, sweatshop employees, sex workers and others lured here by the promise of prosperity, then forced to work without the ability to leave their situation,” Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge in San Diego, said in a news release.

ICE officials say 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders every year. Traffickers often take away the victims' travel and identity documents, and threaten to hurt their families physically and financially if the victims try to escape.

In addition to San Diego, advertisements have been posted in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, Baltimore and New York City. Displays are also planned for Houston, Miami and Washington, D.C.

People can give anonymous tips to ICE agents at (866) 347-2423.


Ohio: Human Trafficking an Issue

COLUMBUS, OHIO - Every night, girls as young as 11 years are trapped into selling their bodies for sex.

The U.S. government calls human trafficking a modern form of slavery, with girls being taken off the streets and threatened with violence unless they comply, 10TV's Kevin Landers reported.

Theresa Flores was 15 when she found herself trafficked for sex.

"(There were) definitely knives being pulled, being tied - being hit - it was very cruel and ruthless sex," Flores said.

Flores said she was raped while she was in high school near Detroit. She said the rapist's cousins were in another room taking pictures of the event and was told the photos would be given to her parents if she did not earn them back.

"That meant (to) be a sex slave for them," Flores said.

For two years, her life was spent being trafficked for sex in hotels around Detroit, Landers said.

She was terrified to tell police.

"My dog was killed the night after I was kidnapped to remind me of being quiet," Flores said.

Flores wrote a book about her experience and there is a movie script in development, Landers reported...


Phillipines: Country's 11th Trafficking Convict Gets Life Imprisonment

BALANGAS, PHILLIPINES - A Batangas court recently sentenced a woman to life imprisonment after finding her guilty of trafficking minors for sexual exploitation.

Apart from the prison sentence, Batangas Regional Trial Court Judge Florencio S. Arellano also ordered the accused to pay a fine of P2million apart from P50,000 for moral damages to each of her victims in a decision promulgated June 30, 2008.

The verdict was the culmination of a three-year case that began in March 2005, when the woman was nabbed by authorities at the Batangas pier while accompanying seven girls.

The suspect in this case is only the 11th person convicted of human trafficking since the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act was enacted in 2003.

The accused and her victims were en route to Sabang, Puerto Galera when a security guard on duty at the passenger terminal noticed the “young looking” girls and tipped off authorities..


Thailand: Trafficking Shame

Young upcountry girls at a school all made up for an annual festival. Human trafficker "headhunters" can sometimes be found at such events scouting for innocent resources. (Photo/Frank G. Anderson – altered to protect girls’ identity.)

Nakhonratchasima, Thailand — Thailand’s 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, signed into law by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Jan. 30, replaced the country’s 1997 anti-trafficking law and updated several provisions to accommodate Thailand’s growing commitment to prevention in the trade. The law forbids the abduction, exploitation, deception and abuse of anyone, with a special mention for children.

With a rich resource of defenseless women, children and young boys – largely from Burma, China and Laos, but also from within Thailand itself – human traffickers have operated for decades to provide prostitutes, sex slaves and indentured labor to their fellows in Thailand, and beyond the country’s borders to the Middle East, Japan, and sometimes to the Americas.

Anyone who has sauntered down Bangkok’s Ploenjit Road can attest to the ease of finding a ready and willing sexual partner even without asking. Beautiful Russian women, light-skinned and dark-haired, may cast a fleeting glance in your direction, and if you are like-minded, a bargain can be struck...


Russia: Sex Slave Industry Thriving

Russian police acknowledge that human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a major problem.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - Young women in bright miniskirts and high heels line up to sell themselves in the dingy back streets throughout the Russian capital. Moscow's illegal flesh markets are flourishing, with up to 30 women at each pickup point, or tochka, standing in order of price for the night.

Customers light up the lines with their car headlights and are asked to pay between $100 and $700 for a woman.

Aid workers for groups fighting for women's rights say Moscow is witnessing a surge in prostitution, including forced prostitution, as a result of Russia's booming economy.

They say thousands of young women are made to work as sex slaves on the city's streets, unable to escape from the ruthless and violent criminal gangs who traffic them...


UN: The Vienna Forum Report - A Way to Combat Trafficking

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, which this week brought together 1,400 delegates from 116 countries to share knowledge and develop a coordinated strategy to combat human trafficking, concluded today with impassioned calls for increased awareness, greater resources and improved coordination in the fight against human trafficking.

Describing the Vienna Forum as a "tipping point" in the global battle against human trafficking, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said, "This Forum is just the beginning of a process. Let us build on the momentum generated here to ensure that people's lives will not be for sale."

Mr. Costa urged national governments, businesses and civil society to speed up the implementation of practical measures to prevent trafficking, including: the implementation of self-certification by businesses to take slave-made products off the shelves; the development of technology to identify, monitor and disrupt human trafficking routes; the tracking and blocking of credit card payments for Internet human trafficking transactions; and, the development of codes of conduct to curb sex tourism...


Nigeria: Trafficking of Girls, Abuse Worsening

Children in Makoko, a slum of houses on stilts in central Lagos, Nigeria. Some 15,000 people live here in the most basic conditions imaginable

KANO, NIGERIA - The trafficking of girls from villages to cities in Nigeria is increasing and the state is powerless to stop the trade, officials told IRIN.

“The business of recruiting teenage girls as domestic help in rich and middle-class homes is booming despite our efforts to put a stop to it”, Bello Ahmed, head of the Kano office of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), told IRIN.

Girls aged 12-17 are regularly trafficked from villages and brought to the city to work as maids for an average monthly wage of 1,500 naira (US$13) which they usually send back to their parents who are caring for several of their siblings, according to Ahmed...


Psychologists for Social Responsibility on Trafficking

According to U.N. estimates, approximately 2.5 million people are being trafficked around the world at any given time, 80% of them women and children. Conservative estimates suggest that the sex industry generates some $32 billion annually. However, estimates of income generated from prostitution in one city, Las Vegas, are as high as $5 billion. Today, sex trafficking is a high-tech, globalized, electronic market, and predators are involved at all levels, using the same methods to control prostituted women that batterers use against their victims: minimization and denial of physical violence, economic exploitation, social isolation, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, physical violence, sexual assault, and captivity. Despite the illogical attempt of some to distinguish prostitution from trafficking, trafficking is simply the global form of prostitution. Sex trafficking may occur within or across international borders, thus women may be either domestically or internationally trafficked or both. Young women are trafficked for sexual use from the countryside to the city, from one part of town to another, and across international borders to wherever there are men who will buy them..


Monday, July 7, 2008

Documentary Premiere: Very Young Girls

Watch the trailer for Very Young Girls below, and visit the website for more information. Now playing in NYC.

UK: 18,000 Women and Children Trafficked in UK Sex Trade

UNITED KINGDOM - Up to 18,000 females, including girls as young as 14, are working in brothels across Britain after being smuggled into the country to meet the booming demand for prostitutes. Police, unveiling the results of the largest ever crackdown on people smuggling yesterday, revealed that nearly five times more women than previously thought are working under duress in massage parlours and suburban homes.

Operation Pentameter 2, a six-month campaign by police forces across the country, resulted in the release of 154 women and 13 girls put to work as part of a lucrative trade dominated by organised crime gangs, which increasingly co-operate via the internet to maximise earnings from their victims.

The campaign, which saw the arrest of 528 suspected traffickers and the closure of 822 brothels and premises being used to sell sexual services, also revealed an increasing use of young British women, who are trafficked within the UK after being groomed by older men who lure them to towns away from their homes. The Home Office highlighted one recent case in Sheffield where 33 victims had been recruited by men in public places and taken away for sexual exploitation.

Most victims are foreign, with least 85 per cent of the women working as prostitutes coming from countries including Brazil, China, Lithuania and Thailand. Many victims are lured to Britain with false promises of work in bars or nightclubs only to be sold for up to £5,000, often at airports or service stations, to pimps and brothel-keepers. The women are then set quotas of the number of men they must have sex with each week, working for little or nothing under threat of violence against their families...


Bulgaria: Int'l Sex Ring Busted

SOFIA, BULGARIA - Bulgarian police said on Monday they had broken an international sex-trafficking ring and arrested a Greek man believed to have run the operation.

The women from Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan were sent as sex workers to Greece via neighbouring Bulgaria using fake Bulgarian identity documents, police said in a statement.

Police said they had charged the Greek man with trafficking.

Surveys by Bulgarian non-governmental organisations say that sex-trafficking brings in about 1.8 billion euros (1.4 billion pounds) a year to the gangs behind it, making it the European Union newcomer's most profitable criminal activity.


Ireland: Trafficking Not Just Urban

IRELAND - More than half of all women trafficked in to Ireland for sexual exploitation are forced to work in rural areas of the country, it has emerged.

New figures revealed three minors were among 44 women who broke free from the sex trade and looked for help in 2007. Geraldine Rowley of Ruhama - an organisation that provides support services to women trafficked for sexual exploitation - said the figures show the sex industry has gone nationwide.

"The reality is pimps are trafficking women into the country and some of them are putting women in to very remote areas," she said. "It shows we have a serious trafficking problem which is not just urban based."...


Texas: Docs, Interviews Reveal How Sex Ring Was Busted

HOUSTON, TEXAS - A Houston bar owner controlled girls and women from Central America forced to take part in one of the nation's largest sex trafficking rings by threatening to kill their families, according to a newspaper report.

Recently obtained documents and interviews by the Houston Chronicle offer the first detailed account of how authorities in 2005 brought down the Houston-based sex trafficking ring.

The ring preyed on women and girls from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, illegally bringing them to Houston with false promises of legitimate work and then forcing them to work as prostitutes in cantinas to pay off smuggling fees and living expenses, according to court records and interviews with investigators.

The ring, run by Maximino "El Chimino" Mondragon, an immigrant from El Salvador, was based in at least three seemingly normal looking bars and restaurants in northwest Houston.

He worked closely with lead smuggler Walter Corea, a convicted felon and illegal immigrant who conspired to bring women to Houston from Central America

Mondragon had run businesses in Houston for at least a decade, according to records and interviews with police and a labor activist who helped rescue cantina workers.

To control the women, Mondragon kept "intelligence" on each one — the names of their mothers, brothers and children and locations of their homes and schools. Records show victims said he threatened to kill relatives or burn down family homes if they did not cooperate.

"They were scared to death of him. ... They thought he was the devil," said Sgt. Michael Barnett of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's enforcement division in Houston.

Beatings, forced abortions and prostitution took place behind closed doors or in adjacent buildings, houses and apartments around the bars, court records show. Aborted fetuses were buried or thrown down a drainage hole into the city sewer system, women told police...


Media: New Documentary Takes a Harrowing Look at Teenage Prostitutes, Trafficking in NYC

A scene from “Very Young Girls,” David Schisgall’s documentary film about child prostitution and sex trafficking in New York City. (Photos: Swinging T Productions)

NEW YORK CITY - Dominique ran away from her home in the Bronx at 13, fleeing domestic violence. She quickly fell under the sway of a man who soon had her circling the blocks of Hell’s Kitchen, looking for johns. She explained the pimp’s influence this way: “He used to get into bed with me and used to, like, hold me like I was his kid. … He took care of me.”

“Very Young Girls” is an 83-minute documentary film that opens on Friday at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village. This is the film’s first commercial release; it received critical acclaim at its premiere last September at the Toronto International Film Festival. (See a review by Jeannette Catsoulis of The Times.)

The film offers a vivid and disturbing look at the sexual exploitation and trafficking of teenage girls in New York City. The average age of girls when they enter the sex industry is 13. The girls interviewed in the film — all identified by their real first names, except for one given the pseudonym Nicole — were participants in a New York-based nonprofit advocacy group, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, which was established in 1998 by Rachel Lloyd, a former prostitute, originally from England, who has dedicated her career to combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls. GEMS now works with about 200 girls a year.

The first part of the film intersperses interviews with the girls with scenes shot by two brothers, Anthony and Chris Griffith, who taped their exploits in the New York area as pimps for what they hoped could become a cable television series. (The brothers were ultimately convicted of trafficking minors across state lines and were sentenced to 10 years in federal prison; the videos were used as evidence.)

Among the girls interviewed are Shaneiqua, a former A student who craved affection and described her first time having sex with her pimp in this way: “I thought that was the best thing that ever happened to me — the best, best.” Soon the man, nearly 20 years her senior, told her, “I would love you a lot more if you brought in more money.” After the first time she had sex for money, she said, “My whole body just felt dead.”

Another girl, Shaquanna, 15, is shown on a hospital bed, ingesting liquid medication that had been injected into a cup of Jell-O for her. She had been found on the side of a road, unconscious; she could not remember who had attacked her. Yet even in her painful condition — bruised, bloodied, her front teeth missing and chipped — she expresses relief. “I was praying for a situation to happen so that I’d be able to go home.”

The filmmaker, David Schisgall, said he had been making films about young people in war zones for MTV’s “True Life” series. “International sex trafficking was on our list of topics,” he said in a phone interview. “In the course of our search we found that there was trafficking going on in the United States that nobody was talking about.”

Mr. Schisgall, 40, who grew up in the Maryland suburbs outside Washington, said the “audience response has been overwhelmingly positive.” He said the film would be broadcast on Showtime in December...


CA: Porn Director Busted in Brothel Scheme

SHERMAN OAKS, CALIFORNIA - Two Hungarian nationals and a San Fernando Valley porn director were arrested on suspicion of tricking Hungarian women to come to the United States and work as prostitutes in a Sherman Oaks brothel, authorities said today.

David Allen Crawford, 37, known in the adult film industry as David Lord, was arrested today at his Reseda home on suspicion of making false statements on immigration applications related to sham marriages.

The owner of Primal Productions is charged with perjury in relation to an immigration application for his Hungarian "spouse," Agnes Jeges, who also was arrested today at her Van Nuys apartment.

A federal criminal complaint filed in the case alleges that Crawford, who is a United States citizen, entered into a fake marriage with Jeges to enable her to remain in the United States.

Jeges, 35, is also charged with making false statements. In applying for Jeges' "green card," the two stated they lived together, when they did not, and Jeges denied she had ever engaged in prostitution.

According to court documents, Jeges actually worked as a prostitute for Angela Csutai, 33, of Van Nuys, who allegedly ran the prostitution operation.

Csutai purportedly operated a brothel employing Hungarian women out of a Sherman Oaks apartment complex from 2004 to 2006. Csutai, who was arrested June 17, was formally charged Tuesday with perjury and making false statements on an immigration application in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury, Immigration Customs and Enforcement official said.

Like Jeges, Csutai is suspected of entering into a sham marriage with a U.S. citizen to gain legal permanent residency..


Zimbabwe: Youth Militias Accused of Holding Women as Sex Slaves

HARARE, ZIMBABWE -- She has to call the young men her "comrades." She cooks food for the comrades and serves them. She sweeps the comrades' floor and cleans up after them.

And whenever any of the comrades want sex, she is raped.

Asiatu, 21, is a prisoner of the comrades at a command base of the ruling ZANU-PF party, one of 900 such camps set up by the party to terrorize Zimbabweans into voting for Robert Mugabe in the one-man presidential runoff late last month and extending his 28-year rule.

The election is over, but the terror isn't.

"I'm still at the base. I'm being raped by four or five men daily," she whispers, bursting into tears. "Any time they want, night or day.

"To me, a comrade is a murderer, someone who's cruel."

She has been at the base for about 10 weeks, ever since she was abducted in the middle of the night because her mother is a supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

She has to stay most of each day and night at the base, a sex slave of the thuggish youth militias unleashed by the government. The Times interviewed her during one of the several short daily periods she is allowed to leave the ZANU-PF base.

When asked why she doesn't escape during that time, Asiatu gives a chilling explanation: "They promised me if I run away, my mother will be killed."

A slight, pretty figure, about 5 feet tall, Asiatu wears a flowing black dress with splashes of red. Her braids are tied back by an extravagant puff of red tulle. Her eyes are sad and fearful. And she rarely smiles.

She says she looked forward to the June 27 runoff and the result, assuming that she would be freed.

But with the election over and no sign of her imprisonment ending, she has lost hope. She is fearful she may be pregnant, and terrified she may have HIV/AIDS. She is the sole breadwinner in her family, earning some money selling vegetables, but has not been able to because she spends most of her time at the base.

"I pray to God most of the time. I pray, 'You are the one who knows my future. Help me. Stop this happening to me.' "...


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Jamaica: A Teen Trafficking; Prostitution Hotbed

NEGRIL, JAMAICA - A report on human trafficking in Jamaica, commissioned by the National Task Force against Trafficking in Persons within the Ministry of National Security, reveals a connection between sexual exploitation, forced labour and tourism.

Completed late last year, the report: 'Human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labour in Jamaica', was prepared by Sybil Ricketts and Dr Leith Dunn of Kingston-based Searchcon Resource Consultants. The study was conducted in Kingston and St Andrew, Negril in Westmoreland and Montego Bay, St James. The findings indicate that the tourist industry, more specifically, the informal sex industry, is a significant contributor to the exploitation of individuals.

The findings showed that several children in the western resort town of Negril were victims of human trafficking, which was directly related to increased advertising for escort services. Eleven victims from the area were singled out in the study.

"Girls as young as 13 are full-fledged prostitutes," the report noted, stating that some of them live on their own, while others are taken to holding areas in the communities and used as dancers in the more popular nightclubs...


CA: Child Prostitutes Sell Themselves on Craigslist

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA -- For more than two years, undercover cops on the Sacramento Police Department's vice squad have been working one of the most draining beats: trying to crack down on online child prostitution.

Police have nabbed nearly 70 girls under the age of 18 since 2005. Most of the girls were released to foster or group homes. Those are just the official figures; investigators think there are many more child prostitutes out there.

It is no easy task.

"We're asking these girls to do a big thing ... which is to stop what they're doing," said Sgt. Pam Seyffert of the Sacramento Police Department. "Stop what's working for them. Surviving is basically what they're doing."

Sacramento police are working with the FBI as part of a nationwide campaign to combat underage prostitution called Innocence Lost. The goal of the program, which is now in almost 30 U.S. cities, is to decriminalize the girls and concentrate on catching the pimps who control them.

"It really makes me angry," Seyffert said. "I think everybody on the team has different reactions to it, but I just flat out get really angry that some guy thinks he can take this girl and basically deprive her of her freedom."...


US: Hundreds of Girls Work the Streets of Seattle

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - For the first time in decades, Seattle is attempting to quantify an elusive population - teen prostitutes.

In a report called "Who Pays the Price? Assessment of Youth Involvement in Prostitution in Seattle," author Debra Boyer comes up with a conservative estimate of more than 200 juveniles involved in prostitution in Seattle.

On average, they started at age 14, and the vast majority had been sexually victimized at home. Street life extends the pattern.

Boyer says her figures, taken from case studies and police reports, are conservative estimates, but she says the case is clear that more services are needed for these children. She says safe housing to help girls escape violent pimps is nonexistent, outreach programs are understaffed and substance abuse and mental health counselors are not trained to help the teens.

"The inadequacy of community services for the population of youth who have come to the attention of the juvenile justice system is nothing less than shocking," wrote Boyer, a cultural anthropologist who has been studying street life for two decades. "Whose problem is it when a 12-year-old is being prostituted?"

Boyer's study comes at a time of renewed national attention to the problem. On Wednesday, federal investigators rounded up about 300 pimps and others accused of forcing children into prostitution in 17 cities. Seattle was not among them...