Category Archives: Blog

We Need Your Help

I know, I know…the dreaded plea for money.  For you, it may seem as though that is the only help any anti-trafficking organizations want.  And I know that many of you want to be able to provide more concrete, exciting assistance.  But we need your help.  And we want to be creative about ways in which these events can take place.  Continue reading

4th Annual Conference

Do you realize that the 4th Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Conference is next week?  We have an exciting agenda, covering everything from labor trafficking to gang involvement to legal remedies.  Whether you’ve been working in the field for quite some time or this had just come up on your radar – there are sessions for you.

We are almost to capacity, but there are a few spots left. You can even receive free CEUs or CLEs if you sign up today.  With registration closing tomorrow, this is your last chance to sign up. We hope to see you there!

Smuggling to Trafficking

On March 19, 2014, five men were charged with holding 115 people captive in a house in Houston.  The men were smuggling the victims into the United States, but instead of taking them to their desired locations, they trapped them in the 1300 square foot house and asked their family members for ransom.  The captors used guns and threats to hold the victims hostage and stripped them of their shoes and clothing to keep them from escaping.  Some of the victims were being kicked and beaten, and many of the women were groped.

Police found the victims when they received a tip from a woman who said that she paid the men $15,000 to have her daughter and two small grandchildren delivered to Chicago but was then ordered to pay another $13,000 or they would “disappear.”  The police had the house under surveillance when they stopped a car coming out of the house for a traffic stop.  There was a gun in the car which allowed the police to detain the men and check the house.  The doors were locked with dead bolts, and the windows were covered with plywood.  The police found 99 males and 16 females, one of which was pregnant, sitting on each others’ laps and living in filth.  Many of the hostages had been living in the house for two weeks, sharing one toilet and with no hot water.  For more on the article and a video by Fox News, click here.

Houston Smuggling Pic

What we need to think about is that it would be very easy for these men to turn this operation into a trafficking situation.  Many of the victims were from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.  If their families were not able to pay the ransom amount, what might the captors have turned to next?  This is how some people find themselves involved in labor or sex trafficking.  Many foreign national victims of trafficking do not know the laws in the United States or may even feel they cannot leave their situation because they do not know anyone besides their captors.  Their fear and lack of knowledge of our legal system often keeps them by their trafficker’s side, even if they would like to get away.  There is also the fear of being deported at stake because many of them have gone through a great deal in order to even get across the U.S. borders and do not want to go back to the life they came from.  Traffickers often instill false notions of what may happen to their victims if they are to escape from their captors.  Luckily, in this case, law enforcement was able to mitigate the situation before it got any worse.

–Jamie (Stop-It Intern)

Slaves in our Closets

The cotton pod pricks at his fingertips as the white clouds hold on tight to their captor.  He rubs his calloused palms against his pant leg to get feeling flowing back before starting again.  Sweat drips down his brow and his tongue rolls around like sandpaper in his dry mouth.  He looks over at his little sister’s sunburned cheeks and wonders when they will be able to go home and play.

One would think that picking cotton is a thing of the past, but it is a reality for many adults and children in South American and Asian countries.  Some children as young as 8 years old work making clothing or picking cotton.

uzbekistan-child-labor-cotton-1-537x402

Similar to food production, there are many different stages when producing clothing, so while one stage might involve trafficking another may not.  Even if a piece of clothing is made “fairly” in the United States, the textiles may have come from Argentina, where forced or child labor is common.  Free2work has put together a report that goes into detail on clothing production, which covers everything from wages to worker rights to policies of certain companies.  For example, companies like Disney, Good & Fair, and Timberland score high on the list for fair wages and worker rights while companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Forever 21, Lacoste, and Walmart scored low on the rating list.  Most companies scored low on the list when it came to raw materials like cotton.

cotton field in contrast with blue sky

What you can do:

Luckily, there is a way to find out if what you are buying meets your personal standards of production.  The free2work app allows you to see where your products are coming from and the conditions on which they are made while you are shopping.  You can scan the barcode of an item and instantly get information on the production process.

There are also many different websites that offer fair trade items.  One that I found that I like is Stop Traffick Fashion, which offers jobs to former sex trafficking victims making fair trade clothing and accessories.  There are a ton of different sites that sell fair trade clothing, which can be found with a simple Google search.

Jamie (Stop-It Intern)

Child Slaves Make Chocolate

With the chocolate hearts of Valentine’s Day behind us and the Cadbury eggs of Easter ahead we should all consider where our beloved chocolate is coming from and how it is being made.  There are few who don’t enjoy the smooth taste of chocolate melting on his or her tongue, but the truth is that much of the chocolate that we consume today is a product of child labor and slavery.

For the past few years, CNN’s Freedom Project (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/) has been investigating the use of child labor on cocoa plantations that are utilized by some of the world’s largest chocolate companies.  The project’s quest began in 2012 when they aired the documentary, “Chocolate’s Child Slaves.”  This report takes you directly to the Ivory Coast, the producer of 40% of the world’s cocoa supply and the location of over 200,000 child laborers, and shows what life is like for the plantation workers.  The filmmakers chose this topic, not only because chocolate is so widely consumed, but because the entire chocolate industry signed a protocol in 2001 that would eliminate child labor in the cocoa fields by 2008.  The film proves that there was little to no reduction in child slavery on the Ivory Coast after the deadline of the protocol.  See the video below for a glimpse into the life of a child slave.

Click Here: View video clip from “Chocolate’s Child Slaves”

child slavery

 

Response from the chocolate companies:

Ferrero, who makes Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, and Kinder eggs, said that they hope to eradicate child labor by the year 2020.

Hershey pledged $10 million to improve West African cocoa farming by educating farmers on trading and ending child labor

Nestlé partnered with the Fair Labor Association to investigate the child labor issue by mapping which plantations their cocoa was coming from and whether there were children working at those plantations.  This allows the FLA to educate and sanction those who are not in compliance with the law.

CNN followed up with Nestlé on February 27th to take a look at their progress with their initiative in a documentary called “Cocoa-nomics.”  Although there is still much to be changed, Nestlé continues to assess their role in the child labor issue.  While there are still children working on the cocoa plantations, the company is working to educate locals and farmers.

What you can do:

One way to make sure that your chocolate is not made by children is to purchase fair trade products.  For a list of fair trade chocolate companies go to http://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners/cocoa.

As we put chocolate bunnies into Easter baskets and foil covered chocolates into plastic eggs, let’s remember that all children are not as fortunate as ours.  The cocoa that makes our chocolate does not have to be harvested by children, so let’s work towards making our chocolate child labor free.

 

–Jamie (Stop-It Intern)

cacao-tree