Dublin, Ireland: The revelation here in Ireland of a human trafficking syndicate bringing young men and women into slave-like conditions from poverty in Romania has shocked police and public. The human trafficking ring was centered in Letterkenny, County Donegal, and a group of young men were being forced to work without salary and forced to sleep in dirty, unsanitary degrading conditions.
They were fearful for their families back in Romania who were under threat of retaliation by the trafficking mafia. New legislation in Ireland will penalize the traders and those who use the victims. This will also penalize the men who sexually exploit girls and women forced into sex slavery.
How wrong we are if we think that this crime against poor, vulnerable people is committed only in the developing world and poor countries. It can be found anywhere even in developed countries and is perhaps more prevalent there than we know.
We need special courts in all countries where human trafficking is rampant, where a second retired judge from another country will join a local judge to help as a volunteer to speed up the process and prevent bribery and corruption.
The United Kingdom and the Philippines have a special challenge to stop trafficking. Some years ago twelve Filipina women were found in Northern Ireland near Omaha controlled by a slave master who made them work in a factory without pay, just promises, and he held their passports. They were trapped. Angie, one of the women in the group, had a hidden cell phone. One night, a group of men came to break into the house to rape them. Then Angie called a Columban Father in the nearby town of Omaha whose number she had and they were rescued.
Human trafficking involves abduction, cheating, lying, imprisonment, grave threats, physical brutality, forced labor, prostitution, rape and imprisonment by the traffickers. If the victims run away, they are tagged as illegal migrants and undocumented aliens and can be charged and jailed. Although this is changing in some countries where they are now seen as victims of a crime and get protection and help. That is how it should be everywhere.
The United Kingdom has made a significant step forward with the appointment of a former police constable, Kevin Hyland, OBE (born 1963), as the United Kingdom’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to fight slavery and human trafficking. He was formerly head of the London Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Trafficking Unit. Every country needs such an independent commission to investigate this crime.
The British government realized the enormity and extent of the crime after 21 Chinese men, smuggled into Britain by traffickers, died by drowning in Morecambe Bay while picking cockles at low tide. They were caught by the fast incoming tide. They were smuggled illegally into England hidden in a container van and were hired out by Chinese gangs to a local businessman and his son to collect cockles.
In the Philippines the number of internally trafficked girls and minors is not exactly known but the sex bars are thriving and full of young girls for sale. Many are minors as discovered by Preda Foundation social workers. Hundreds of Filipinas are trafficked to Korea under the E6 visa system as entertainers but most end up in the brothels around the Korean US bases.
The rich countries of the North, the United States and the European community are prime target destinations for people traffickers. There they get a premium price for their human cargos. They see these poor people they traffic as commercial property, as something they own and to be sold. Much has not changed since the days of legalized slavery. The Americans fought a civil war over slavery when the northern states led by Abraham Lincoln tried to abolish it and free all slaves.
Like the thousands of slave owners of the past in Europe and America who considered their slaves as human property to be bought and sold, today’s slavers have a similar attitude but they are more covert.
Slavery was abolished in England in the 18th century, thanks to campaigners William Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament, and anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson. It was not implemented for many years. Then the British slave owners demanded compensation for the loss of their human property. The University of London has compiled a database of the thousands of slave owners and investors in slavery in England who got paid huge sums.
The slaves who suffered got nothing. Jamaican descendants of slaves are demanding compensation and will raise the issue during the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron who is visiting the Caribbean island soon. Ironically his ancestor cousin, 6 times removed, was a slave owner who got as much as 3 million sterling pounds in today’s money.
Kidnapping and using forced labor to get rich is a very common crime in Asia and sex slavery and trafficking of minors in particular is widespread in Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Hundreds of Thai men were rescued earlier this year from an island in Indonesia where they were imprisoned for years with no escape and forced to work on fishing boats without pay. Many died there in misery and anguish far from their families. The fish products identified as being processed and sold into the markets of the United States and the EU will be banned.
Pope Francis at the end of an inter-faith meeting of heads of religions and police chiefs from around the world held in the Vatican April 2014 declared human trafficking to be a crime against humanity. The sooner the United Nations declares the same the better.
Globalization of the world economy makes human trafficking easy for the corrupt to thrive but the globalization of justice is nowhere to be seen except in the International Criminal Court and tribunals in African countries bringing war criminals to trial.
We need to expand this process of justice so that special courts with prosecutors from different nations working together and judges from other countries will sit on each other’s benches and quickly judge the human trafficking cases. This sharing of the judicial process will stymie and prevent bribery and corruption. Specially selected juries with members noted for their honesty and uncorrupted integrity is also a possible solution.
Justice and accountability for crime have to be the way forward to end this scourge against humanity, especially the women and children most cruelly abused and exploited. There is hope and action to counter this evil but we all have to do our share to end it once and for all.