No fewer than 30 migrants were killed in a shooting yesterday (27/05) involving a trafficker in Libya.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) deplored the killing describing it as senseless.
The tragedy occurred in a smuggling warehouse in Mezda, near the city of Gharyan, southwest of Tripoli where a group of migrants were being held. 11 migrants who sustained severe injuries had been rushed to hospital.
According to the IOM: “This senseless crime is a bleak reminder of the horrors migrants have to endure at the hands of smugglers and traffickers in Libya,” said IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda.
“These criminal groups are taking advantage of the instability and security situation to prey on desperate people and exploit their vulnerabilities.”
IOM is calling on Libyan authorities to immediately launch an investigation to bring those responsible to justice.
IOM medical staff who referred some of those in critical condition to clinics in the capital and are providing assistance, report that some of the migrants bear old marks of beatings and physical abuse.
As conflict continues unabated in the capital and surrounding areas, conditions for civilians, especially migrants and displaced persons are quickly deteriorating. Many of those intercepted or rescued and returned to Libya this year have been taken to unofficial detention centres where they can easily fall into the hands of smugglers and traffickers.
IOM had previously reported disappearances from these facilities and an inability to account for hundreds if not thousands of those returned by the coast guard.
So far in 2020, nearly 4,000 people have been intercepted or rescued at sea and returned to Libya. The recent and numerous incidents involving boats in distress in the Mediterranean Sea and the reluctance of countries to provide save harbour from the war-torn north African country signals yet again, a need for a change in approach to the situation in Libya.
While prosecuting smugglers and traffickers should remain a priority, it is equally urgent to establish an alternative safe disembarkation scheme whereby those fleeing conflict and violence are provided with a port of safety, and their needs and protection guaranteed.
Cracking the $150b business of human trafficking
Two days ago, the White House hosted its Summit on Human Trafficking. Notable was the absence of several prominent anti-human trafficking organizations who decided to boycott the event which benefited from the U.S. president’s presence and was organized by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump.
Many civil society organizations who boycotted the White House Summit had voiced their harsh criticism of the U.S. government, including for having exerted more scrutiny of T-visa applicants, an immigration status that allows certain victims of human trafficking to remain and work temporarily in the United States—typically if they work with law enforcement and agree to help in the investigation.
“This administration is undermining protections carefully built for trafficking victims over two decades,” said Martina Vandenberg, founder of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, quoted in a Washington Post article.
This comes at a time when global statistics on human trafficking are on the rise: every day thousands of women, men and children are trafficked worldwide for various exploitative purposes. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are currently 25 million victims of human trafficking around the world.
Human trafficking is an issue for all countries and communities. Importantly (and surprising for many), human trafficking does not necessarily involve the crossing of international borders. For example, the Ontario member of parliament, Laurie Scott, admits to having been shocked to learn that 90% of the local human sex trafficked victims were Canadian-born as featured in the Toronto Film Fest documentary Girl Up.
Also not intuitive for many is the fact that women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm according to the 2017 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which covers 155 countries.
Globally, governments and civil society have increased their efforts to combat human trafficking. What is clear is that governments cannot address this issue alone and rely on the private sector and civil society organization to join forces and scale-up solutions.
Why have these public-private partnership strategies proven to be successful? It turns out, human trafficking often involves the legitimate services of the banking system, transportation companies, the hospitality business, health care providers, and digital social media platforms.
The Business of Human Trafficking
The motive of traffickers—regardless of the type of human trafficking they are engaged in—is clear: money! Annually, the business of human trafficking globally generates an estimated $150 billion in profits according to the ILO.
According to Polaris (the nonprofit organization that runs the national human trafficking hotline in the United States and which also boycotted the White House Summit), examples for private sector involvement in human trafficking are abundant: traffickers use banks to deposit and launder their earnings; they use planes, buses and taxi services to transport their victims; they book hotel rooms integral also to sex trafficking; and, they are active users of social media platforms to recruit and advertise the services of their victims.
“Human trafficking is a $150 billion a year global industry and can’t be fully addressed without businesses taking active and effective measures to reduce the potential for exploitation within their own systems.”
Bradley Myles, chief executive officer of Polaris, the nonprofit organization that runs the national human-trafficking hotline in the United States.
While many human trafficking activities remain underground, an increased understanding of how human traffickers use legitimate services has helped companies in various industries begin to crack the business of human trafficking. In many instances, private sector initiated efforts to combat human trafficking (often as part of their corporate social responsibility activities) have also helped companies position themselves as “service provider of choice.”
The examples below provide only a glimpse into how private sector actors have started combatting human trafficking.
The banking sector
Traffickers often help trafficked individuals open bank accounts and/or apply for credit cards. They use banks and money remittance services to funnel money—often large amounts of cash. Moreover, traffickers frequently accompany victims to financial institutions to monitor the transaction and structure deposits to fall just under thresholds which could trigger investigation by the financial institutions.
To limit their interactions with traditional financial institutions, traffickers often revert to a growing use of virtual currencies like bitcoin, which can foster a conducive environment for laundering money from criminal activity. Yet, computer analysts have pioneered techniques that provide new insights into human-trafficking networks.
Over the past years financial institutions have done significant analysis to detect trafficking operations. The industry, including through the Lichtenstein Initiative, understands that they can help combat human trafficking through tougher fiscal investigations, more coordinated freezing of criminal assets and expanded digital payrolls. In 2014 the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued an advisory that included a list of potential indicators of trafficking.
In practice, financial institutions such as U.S. Bank are taking action. For example, they had learned that traffickers often move victims into localities of mega sport events to take advantage of the influx of partying visitors (including the American football Super Bowl). So when the 2018 Super Bowl took place at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, the bank put their financial intelligence and anti-money laundering capabilities to work to “help law enforcement tackle the sex trafficking surge” according to the ABA Banking Journal.
What did U.S. Bank learn? Cited red flags for banking staff included customers being accompanied by someone who appears to control them; individuals having multiple accounts in their own name; heavy use of cash; multiple simultaneous charges on ride-hailing services (which sex traffickers are said to prefer over taxis because the traffickers can track their victims’ rides in real-time via the app); and multiple simultaneous hotel room charges.
And then there were the charges that bank officers won’t see in a typical account associated with sex trafficking: no utility payments, no purchases related to hobbies, or mortgage payments.
The hotel industry
According to research by Polaris, traffickers don’t always look for the cheapest hotels. They choose locations based on convenience, buyer comfort, price, hotel policies and procedures. An important decision making point for traffickers often is whether the establishment is likely to be collaborating with potential law enforcement. Hence, hotel chain franchises often are traffickers’ preferred choice as they offer a sense of anonymity and safety.
Cited red flags for hotel staff include extended stays of customers with few possessions; multiple rooms under one name; someone waits onsite (e.g. in parking lot); room is booked with business card but is paid in cash; excessive foot traffic in and out of rooms.
What are hotels doing to combat human trafficking in practice? Take the example of Marriott International, which globally rolled out human trafficking awareness training for more than 500,000 employees since 2017. Efforts by the hotel chain are also underway to educate hotel customers to help identify and report suspicious human trafficking activities. What’s more, efforts have been made to provide potential victims with information on how to access help. Moreover, Marriott International created a program with the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery with the objective to prepare trafficked survivors for careers in the hospitality industry.
The health care sector
There is growing evidence on the range of health consequences faced by individuals who have experienced human trafficking. This can include sexual and reproductive health issues, mental health concerns, on-the-job injuries caused by unsafe working conditions, and issues related to substance use. In fact, research suggests that traffickers often seek out drug rehabilitation centers as well as behavioral and mental health centers to recruit their victims, given their potential vulnerability to becoming dependent and being controlled.
Hotline data and survey evidence indicates that the health care industry can be a larger player in identifying, treating, and responding appropriately to individuals who are at risk or who have been trafficked.
What are health care providers doing to combat human trafficking? To respond more effectively to increasing human trafficking incidents, the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center, designed an online training course to educate health care providers, social workers, public health professionals, and behavioral health professionals. The target audience includes physicians, pharmacists, registered nurses, dentists, psychologists, social workers, case managers, school counselors, and other health professionals.
Getting trafficked persons back on track
Having endured trauma, often lacking self-confidence and having very limited access to resources, survivors can easily end up back in situations of exploitation if they cannot turn to a strong support system. Thus, job readiness efforts by potential employers and access to financial resources can be critical to survivors of human trafficking.
A recently launched United Nations Hope for Justice Initiative in partnership with leading banks from Austria, Canada, Great Britain and the United States, offers survivors of human trafficking accounts and debit cards—financial service products that can provide survivors with a life line, especially if their captors stole their financial identity or ruined their credit. The concept of offering survivors banking services was pioneered by HSBC in Britain, and is part of the Lichtenstein Initiative to harness the power of the global financial industry to combat human trafficking.
Not being able to pay for reliable transport services can also be a huge obstacle for survivors to leave their trafficking situation or to enable trafficked persons to return to a location of safety. Airline tickets can particularly be costly. Delta Air Lines’ SkyWish Program is an example of how a company leverages its resources in partnership with its customers and employees to help break cycles of abuse and ensure survivors have access to flight tickets and a way out.
At the White House Summit, the U.S. president signed an executive order meant to combat human trafficking and online child exploitation, including by adding a new position at the White House to focus on the issue. Irrespectively of governments’ plans and policies, the private sector can play a larger role in addressing the issue. What’s more, as customers each one of us can encourage financial service providers, hotels, health care companies and transportation providers in our communities to join forces.
Public-private sector action can ensure that victims of human trafficking are not left voiceless and don’t remain unseen by society.
Enslaved in holy land: 138 trafficked Nigerian ladies seek return from S’Arabia
Days after the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) raised the alarm over critical situation of some trafficked 30 Nigerian ladies stranded in Lebanon, the body has again uncovered another set of Nigerians in hundreds battling with similar fate in Saudi Arabia.
JIFORM President, Ajibola Abayomi, in statement made available to the media on Sunday said the body had profile of 138 ladies trafficked to the Arabian nation by a company identified as TTCO.
Some of the names on list included 23 years old Amina Idris an indigene of Kano whose passport is beign withheld by her host, Atanda Easter Idowu, 42 with passport number A09118374; Salawu Yetunde Victoria, 37, with passport number A08233422 both from Oyo State and Gift Israel Johnnu, 25, with passport number A09136678 from Rivers State.
He said the revelation was unraveled in the data made available to JIFORM by the Rescue Africans In Slavery (RAIS), a foundation advocating against human trafficking and child labour.
“We commend the spirited effort of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State for picking the bills of 55 victims out of 120 list of trafficked ladies in Lebanon recently released by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM).
“Since we launched rescue campaign that led to the rescue of the 30 girls and others in Lebanon by the Nigerian government, several international agencies had been reaching out to us and we have been directing them to relate with the National Agency for Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) accordingly. JIFORM is committed to humanitarian service and we are willing to do more” Ajibola stated.
Calling for another prompt attention from the Federal Government, the JIFORM President said some of the ladies at different locations in the country were in critical health condition and needed to be attended to in good time.
Also worried by the situation, the Executive Director of RAIS, Ms Omotola Fawunmi said although the temporal arrangement had been made to give the ladies first aid treatment in Saudi Arabia, she however pleaded for action to save the lives of the trafficked victims.
One of the victims who spoke under anonymity, an English and Social Studies graduate from Adeniran Ogunsanya Colleague of Education, Lagos state while appealing for help said all efforts to get the attention of the Nigerian ambassador in Saudi Arabia have proved abortive as non- English speaking staff placed as front desk officers refused to give them attention.
The 26 years old lady on salary equivalent of N70, 000 per month lamented that she was fed with hash treatments being meted to her by her host. The Ogun state indigene said she applied as a teacher through her agents over two years ago only to be given out as house maid when she arrived at the country.
Also appealing for government’s attention, The Migrant Project (TMP), Media Lead, Tayo Elegbede, noted with concern that:”The trend of stranded Nigerians in dire conditions across the Middle East is, unfortunately, worrisome.
“We appeal to relevant authorities to ensure the safe and speedy return of these ladies and other Nigerians trapped across the Middle East. Unarguably, there is the need to decipher and address the fundamental factors responsible for gross undocumented migration of Nigerians, particularly from South-West states, to Middle East countries.
“Public campaigns and enlightenment on the risk and realities of irregular migration and human trafficking need to be advanced across the nooks and cranny of the country, whilst providing viable alternatives.”
Human traffickers in brutal exploits (1)
*Activist relives how private investigator was murdered
*Syndicate tortures, dismembers suspected spies
*Informant’s whereabouts unknown
*NAPTIP officials’ lives under threat, says DG
The annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons was celebrated globally on Thursday last week to sensitise people to the reality and dangers of the menace. In spite of intensive campaign and enlightenment against the ungodly practice, hordes of innocent people are still being trafficked daily, with many of the traffickers unleashing terror on anyone seen as standing in their way, INNOCENT DURU reports.
INHUMAN, heartless, deadly or mean are some of the adjectives deployed by victims of human trafficking as well as leaders of different organisations combating the menace to describe the activities of the traffickers.
For the victims, human trafficking is a crime they would not wish that even their enemies to fall victims. And for the various anti-trafficking organisations, it is a daily battle against a formidable and influential cabal determined to sustain and expand their illicit business.
Not too long ago, a private investigator with Project Ferry, a non-governmental organisation that rescues and facilitates the return of trafficked persons, was brutally murdered by a trafficker who got wind of her moves.
A co-founder of the organization, Motilola Adekunle, in a telephone chat with our correspondent, relived how the graduate of Criminology was killed.
She said: “One of our private investigators in our NGO was murdered by a trafficker in Ikorodu area of Lagos State. She was a graduate of Criminology in Benin. “She was gruesomely murdered as she was stabbed to death. It is unfortunate. We have reported the matter but the culprit has still not been prosecuted,” she said in a tone laden with deep frustration and disappointment.
Motilola, who is also an actress, regretted that the suspect has continued with his despicable business and was “currently threatening a victim who recently returned to the country”.
She said the case in question had been forwarded to NAPTIP, but “up until now, the guy is till roaming free, working on trafficking other people.
“How do you begin to combat that? How do you tell a victim to feel free to tell you who trafficked her when a trafficker who murdered somebody is still alive, walking around the streets of Lagos?
“Traffickers are leeches who profit from the misfortune of another human being. They profit from the ignorance of an innocent person,” Adekunle said.
The President of Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration Development and Reintegration (IYAMIDR), Comrade Solomon Okoduwa, whose organisation has been at the forefront of campaigning against human trafficking, told of how some of the oraganisation’s informants were brutally dealt with by traffickers.
He said: “My experience with traffickers has not been smooth because they are a cartel. Coming out to kick against their business has not been very easy. Most of them are either cultists or members of one gang or the other. They like to fight back.
“Traffickers are always after informants who leak their information. The informants are sometimes members of their cartel who they have betrayed.
“I had an informant who, as we speak, nobody knows his whereabouts. The traffickers trailed him and one other guy. They beat the hell out of one, making him to leave Edo State. The other one is nowhere to be found. We have been looking for him for a very long time, but even his number is not reachable.
“The parents have reported the matter to the police. But I don’t think the boy is dead.
“There are so many of them like that. Because their lives are not protected, they would run away from the country rather than staying back to get killed. Informants’ lives are very much in danger.”
After the Oba of Benin had publicly spoken against trafficking, Okoduwa said, most traffickers now use “intimidation and oppressive tendencies to suppress their victims by holding on to them and not taking them to native doctors.
“They go to their houses to beat up the parents because their daughters refused to comply. Once the girl’s mother says anything contrary, they would descend on her. What the woman would do at that point is to call her daughter and plead with her to simply comply because her life is in danger in Nigeria.”
He blamed the plight of informants on the insincerity of security officials who, according to him, release information about informants’ activities to traffickers.
•Security agents with arrested
trafficker and rescued children
“After being compromised, they will tell the trafficker it was Mr XYZ Who told us that you wanted to take one or two girls out. Before you know it, they will just descend on the informant,” Okoduwa said.
In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IYMIDR president said, people are still being trafficked.
“It is a business that is done in secrecy. You don’t know who is to be trafficked until a crime has been committed.
“People are still leaving the country, but not at the rate they used to.
“I read in the papers recently that NAPTIP arrested some persons allegedly leaving Nigeria for Libya in the midst of the pandemic. Those were the ones we heard about. What about those who were not apprehended?
It’s a battle with dark, retrogressive minds – NAPTIP DG
The Director-General of NAPTIP, Barrister Julie Okah-Donli, whose organisation daily confronts traffickers, in a telephone chat with The NATION, said the dangers her staff faced were many.
She said: “The corrupt minds who have invested in that evil trade will naturally fight back. They will attack my person by posting spurious and concocted stories about me to defame me and stain my integrity.
“They access victims and manipulate them not to help in their prosecution. They threaten me, my staff and our families on a daily basis. But in spite of these, NAPTIP is still here and standing.”
She described the fight against human trafficking as one with criminals and dark and retrogressive minds who are seeking to destroy the future of this country.
“Human Trafficking is a waste of Nigeria’s best and brightest, because it is an arrow in the heart of Nigeria’s human resource.
“No country can sustain the wastage of its youths the way human trafficking portends. Since I assumed office, I have retooled our arsenal for strategic planning, intervention, arrest, investigation, prosecution and rehabilitation of victims.
“Most importantly, I have personally invested both energy and passion in awareness creation and enlightenment of our public, just so that nobody is in doubt of the dangers posed by human trafficking and its human security implications.”
Asked why people continue to fall victim to the crime in spite of the massive enlightenment campaigns, the NAPTIP boss said: “People fall prey to human trafficking due to deprivation, greed, ignorance, poverty, and low self-esteem. This is part of the reasons that I am campaigning for the whole of government and whole of society’s effort and synergy to curb this menace and scourge. “Everybody has a responsibility, from the parents, who are first responders, to the community, which must erect anti-human trafficking road blocks, and the local government which must invest in targeting all children of school going age to make sure they are in school.
“The states must erect structures that protect children both in law and in deeds; adopt the child rights act, domesticate the law on violence against persons; and make education free, compulsory and accessible to every child.
“If we create this web of response and cover, our communities will become impregnable to traffickers. The private sector and all have a responsibility too.”
On the challenges militating against the anti-trafficking battle, she said: “The critical challenges include the tendency of state governors to leave this fight to the Federal Government. I am going round the states to persuade them to adopt and domesticate the laws I mentioned; to create state working groups on human trafficking, create empowerment programmes to lift women and families out of poverty and support our enlightenment effort by producing and playing anti-trafficking jingles on their state radio and television stations.
“You must also know that NAPTIP is the only law enforcement agency in this country that rehabilitates victims of crime. This places a huge demand for funds on the agency for this purpose.
“There are many victims in our care who have undergone skills acquisition programmes. The states are not helping by meeting NAPTIP at least half way in this journey by empowering them.”
The effect of human trafficking on victims and the society at large, according to her, is huge. “Nothing destroys the country’s human resource potentials like trafficking in persons. It has human security implications.
“I travelled to Mali and Libya and saw Nigerian girls in slave camps. It was heartbreaking. However hard I try, I can’t delete those images from my brain. That experience told me that there is work here to be done.
“Just imagine, right now, the Federal Government is spending money to bring back our girls from Oman, Lebanon, UAE, and so on.
“The agency has since inception secured the conviction of over 450 traffickers who have been brought to justice for their crimes.
“With the slow but assured wheel of justice grinding, there are over 150 cases in several courts in the land.”
She described a trafficker as “a merciless, corrupt minded fellow who targets the weak and the vulnerable amongst us with false promises of jobs, marriages, money and opportunities anywhere, everywhere for exploitative reasons and for his own personal gain.
“He destroys our best, brightest, young or old, irrespective of age. His primary concern is profit. He will never let go of his victim until he has no further use of that victim.”
Traffickers are reputed for buying their ways out when the long arms of the law catches up with them, but the NAPTIP DG says that is not possible with her.
“How will you approach me for such rubbish? The fear of NAPTIP is the beginning of wisdom. They won’t even think of it,” she said.
‘Ways to check trafficking’
Checkmating human trafficking according to Co-founder of Project Ferry, Motilola Adekunle, is not rocket science.
According to her, trafficking in persons has become an institution in Nigeria. “It is a hydra headed monster which if we are not careful will be around for a very long time. Each time we think we have stopped one aspect of it, you realise that there are more to unfold.
“It is so disappointing that the stakeholders are not doing enough to stop trafficking in the country. There are five phases to this.”
She revealed the five steps that must be taken to check trafficking and also help its victims. need to know that trafficking does exist. There is a qualified nurse in Nigeria who was earning as much as N120,000 monthly. She was told that there was a job in Dubai and that she was going to be working as a nurse and earning as much as N600,000. She accepted. But instead of Dubai, she found herself in Lebanon, working as a maid and earning less than N60,000 a month.
“It can happen to anybody. That is the first thing everybody needs to know. Trafficking is not beyond you. It doesn’t matter whether you are educated or not.
“The second thing is that there needs to be trafficking desk at every airport in Nigeria. People should not be in a hurry to jet out. At every point, let them ask you what are you going there to do? Do you know the person that is coming to pick you up? Do you have the person’s number and are you aware that you are actually going to be a maid? Those who cannot satisfactorily answer the questions should be turned back for their own good.”
The third, she added, “is that we need to repatriate. Anybody who finds themselves in the web of trafficking should be willingly allowed to come back.
“The fourth stage is the rehabilitation and reintegration of victims which NAPTIP and IOM are doing. It has not been enough. We need to do more. If this society has not failed them, there would be no need for a qualified nurse to jet out of Nigeria to earn N60,000 as a cleaner in an airport outside Nigeria.
“When they come back, they need to know that there is something in store for them. How about collaborating with microfinance banks to give them soft loans to finance their businesses and have them pay back over a period of time? How about partnering with the Bank of Industry to fund all of these things?
“The fifth is prosecuting the traffickers. Once you have evidence that a lady has been trafficked, why are her traffickers not arrested and prosecuted? Let their trials be fast tracked so that the victims could get some justice for all the ills that have been meted out to them.”
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