Launch of SMS Abolitionist Digest - Please sign up

From: Ray L.
Sent on: Thursday, May 7, 2009 2:05 AM
Hello Members,

We are very happy to announce the official launch of our?SMS Abolitionist's Digest, a weekly newsletter highlighting important trafficking news from around the world. ?This digest is an essential part of our awareness raising efforts and gives us the opportunity to reach a much wider audience to share news and information about our cause. ?

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Below is the first edition of our digest.

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Stop Modern Slavery

?Parents' Outrage Over Brick Slaves

Original reporting in Mandarin by Kou Tianli. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Radio Free Asia

April 21, 2009

HONG KONG--Two years after shocking revelations of a thriving slave trade in northern China led to the well-publicized trial of a brick-kiln boss, parents in the north-central city of Zhengzhou say young people are still regularly being abducted for sale as slaves.

Parents who have lost children and young people to human traffickers now band together and travel the country doing their own detective work, amid a lackluster response from the authorities to the continuing scandal.

"Often the first we know that these people have got lost is when they arrive back in the village," Wang Changyi, a farmer from the central province of Henan who lost his own son to the slave traders, said.

"Like the son of Zhang Aihua. That happened to him. He went to Zhengzhou to sell snacks, and to deliver lunchboxes to construction sites. He was stuffed into a sack by three men, thrown into the back of a truck, and taken off to the brick kilns to be sold," Wang said.

Zhengzhou, as a major transportation hub for northern China, has one of the busiest railway stations in the country, and many people are reported missing in the city every year.

"They were selling people at 300 yuan (U.S. $44) each," Wang said. "They were able to kidnap seven or eight people a day, and were taking them away in one vehicle. He was just walking along the street, and was accosted by three men who covered his mouth and stuffed him into a big sack."

'Truly appalling'

Guo Jiyong, the son of Zhang Aihua from a village near Zhengzhou, escaped with his life from the brick kiln in Shanxi where he was being forced to work, villagers said.

Guo escaped from an illegal factory in Nanyang, where he'd been forced to work for two-and-a-half years, Wang Changyi said.

"When he got out, his hair was more than two feet long. He told us that conditions were truly appalling in that place. He said they wept every day because they were truly powerless. He escaped in the middle of the night."

"If he hadn't succeeded in escaping, he would have died, because he would have been worked to death sooner or later anyway. Those places are terrible, he told us," Wang added.

He said Guo described seeing young people beaten to death for trying to escape the brick kiln.

"He said that he made his escape with two other people, both of whom were caught and beaten to death with sticks," Wang said.

"He said all the kids in that place had been beaten into a terrified state. We took him back there to look for the other kids, and he was also terrified to be there again. He didn't want to carry on; his courage was completely broken."

Wang said he and other parents of abductees had spent several months looking for their children in Shanxi.

"The kids in those places didn't dare to call out when they saw us there. If we spoke to them, they wouldn't say a word. That was because they were terrified of being beaten. They didn't even dare to tell us their hometowns."

Government-backed network helped

Another farmer's son, Jiu Wenjie, 15, was finally rescued from an illegal brick kiln in Kaifeng city, Henan province, after being taken there to work for no pay.

He was released after his relatives contacted a government-backed information network aimed at tracking down missing persons, a relative surnamed Zhang said.

"He has already been rescued. He wasn't in a mine. He was in a brick kiln, a place where they make and fire bricks," Zhang said.

"There are people who make a living out of this business. It costs a certain amount to transport someone, for example. It's a business ... They don't really talk about the details of what happened to them when they get home," said Zhang, adding that the boy's mother, Zhang Xiaoying, made several trips to illegal brick kilns in Shanxi to try to find him.

"He was made to work from the crack of dawn," Zhang said.

"He wasn't in Shanxi, but here in Henan all the time. I didn't find out until I asked him. He said he was slightly better off there than he might have been somewhere else, because there they treated them well as long as he agreed not to try to run away."

"If you did your work every day, they wouldn't beat you. You had to start work when you got up in the morning, take a break for lunch, and carry on working until nightfall."

Hundreds of families

Wang said that he and group of other parents on the trail of missing family members had seen appalling conditions inside brick kilns in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi, where a large number of the kilns are concentrated.

"There are a lot of us here who have lost our children and young people," said Wang. "It's not just one family whose kid we went to look for that time in Zhengzhou. There are several hundred families affected."

"We have been to the illegal factories and we have seen how many kids there are there too. These places exist all over China," he said.

"That day we went it was raining, and the kids were in the factory working barefoot, even though the weather was very cold that day. Their feet were frozen into a terrible state, wading around in clay pits all day."

Several generations of family planning controls in China have meant that the missing children, many of whom are of adult age but still unmarried, represent the only hope a family has of continuing its line.

They are often also the only hope the elderly parents have of economic assistance in their old age. Wang was sobbing as he spoke of his family's suffering through the abduction of their only heir.

"We worry and fret about our child all day, every day," he said.

"I go to the hospital to see why I have a headache but I'm not sick. It's this situation. Now, there are only us two people in our family home. We only had the one child. We can't have another anyway because my wife has been sterilized. How are we to spend the rest of our lives?"

"In the countryside, people bring up kids so they will have someone to take care of them in their old age. But now we have no one to take care of us at all," he said.

Police inaction alleged

Several villagers said police had refused to respond after being told that their children were being held illegally.

Chinese young people are still often referred to as "children" when they are unmarried, regardless of their legal status as adults.

Police told parents they were unable to take a missing persons report until the person had been gone for 24 hours.

"If you call 110 to report these things, the police do nothing," Wang said.

"That time when we discovered there were illegal brick kilns operating in Yongji, we called 110 to report it and we went along to the police station. But they never sent anyone to check it out, and we waited for a long time. In the end, they told me not to bother waiting anymore, because they weren't sending anyone."

Miao Lisong, parent of missing 25-year-old Miao Xupeng, said the issue had been given scant coverage by China's official media since the high-profile trial of brick kiln boss Wang Bing Bing in 2007.

"The media used to take notice of this story, but now they're not allowed to report it," Miao said from the railway station on his way to search more brick kilns in neighboring Shanxi province.

"There are some journalists who planned to come to interview us but then have been turned back before they arrived here. This has a very bad effect on our country. Most media aren't allowed to touch it. All they want to do is put out good news, but they don't want to hear the bad news," Miao said.

"Ever since the story broke about the brick kiln incident I have been to Shanxi six times," he said. "There are three brick kilns in Shanxi. I asked them to look at photographs. They said they had seen my son. But I don't know where they have taken him since we started to make enquiries."

"Perhaps they took him outside the province, to another part of the country."

Miao said returning abductees had also reported being taken to work for no pay in illegal factories in Guangdong.

"They were all sold for 1,000 yuan each out of Zhengzhou and taken to Guangzhou," Miao said. "Some of them were tricked into going, while others were simply kidnapped."

Official's campaign

Yang Jianchang, a representative at the Shenzhen Municipal People's Congress, has been campaigning on behalf of abductees since 2007.

"I first brought this up in 2007," said Yang. "There are a few places where it is concentrated, where law enforcement is pretty weak and there are loopholes which can be exploited."

"One of the main problems here is that we don't have child protection legislation," he added. "Another is that there isn't enough social cohesion to prevent these things happening. And a third is that the anti-trafficking squads don't do their jobs with enough zeal."

In 2007, the official People's Daily newspaper, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, voiced outrage over the revelation that children were being abducted to work as slave laborers. "How could officials in the area have connived with such audacious and appalling behavior to allow this situation to arise under their very eyes?" it said.

While Beijing has recently said it will remove the 24-hour waiting period for child abductions, parents also called on police to take the abduction of vulnerable young people, who may have legally become adults, more seriously.

"Peng Wenle was the only son we had," Shenzhen-based migrant worker Peng Gaofeng said. "So the effects are being felt by four older people. We simply can't bear it. Our grandmother has already taken to her bed and can't get up again ... My wife has lost 20 pounds. This has taken a huge physical and psychological toll on us all."

Quicker action sought

Meanwhile, another parent of an abductee, Sun Haiyang, called on police to react when cases were first reported.

"They refuse to take a missing persons report any sooner than 24 hours. But who knows where our kids will have been taken by the time 24 hours have passed?"

"We knew that our kid had been taken by a man in his forties. But the police refused to do anything until 24 hours had elapsed. A lot of cases have been the same way. They could have been solved if only the police had agreed to act sooner," Sun said.

Nancy McBride, National Safety Director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said there is no waiting time to report a missing child in the United States.

McBride said her center works in close cooperation with law enforcement at federal, state, and local level, circulating photographs of the missing child to the public.

It also gives out information about the child to the media and displays it on roadside billboards with a description, with cases including circulated photographs showing a one-in-six success rate.

Documentary Examines U.S. Child Sex Trade

By Michelle Nichols


April 29, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Filmmaker Libby Spears wanted to make a documentary about the sexual exploitation of kids in Asia and Latin America, but that changed when she discovered that child sex trafficking is a big problem in the United States.

"Playground," which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, looks at the child sex trade in the United States and discrepancies in laws and the perception of the exploitation of foreign and U.S. children.

"We have laws in this country that protect international victims of sex trafficking and don't have laws that protect domestic victims, but that's just starting to change," Spears told Reuters in a recent interview.

"Here (in the United States) when it's a 12-year-old girl they like to call it prostitution, they like to call her a prostitute, when that's not accurate," said Spears, who hopes her film will raise awareness and help push policy change. "There needs to be more resources for these kids long term."

The film quotes figures from the group End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), which says U.S. citizens account for 25 percent of child sex tourists worldwide.

The international group also says 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of being forced into the sex trade.

Spears credits an interview with Ernie Allen, president and chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, for changing the direction of her film.

"People don't think it happens in this country. It may look in some cases different than it looks in other parts of the world, but vulnerable kids are targeted by procurers, by exploiters, by pimps, lured into the sex trade," Allen says in the documentary.

"There are not many American cities, where you won't be able to go out and find young kids on the streets engaging in the sex trade and virtually none of that is voluntary," he said. "It's organized crime."

Throughout the film Spears searches for a child named Michelle who was abused by foster parents and then abducted from Portland, Oregon when she was 11 years old. She was discovered soon after in Vancouver by police doing a so-called "baby stroll" and being paid by men for sex.

She was returned to foster care in the United States, but went missing again 2004 when she was 14 years old and it was never reported to authorities. Spears found her in 2008. Michelle had been working in the sex trade and had two young children. During filming she was arrested on drug charges.

"The fact that I found her was so miraculous," said Spears, who used Michelle's story as an example of the lack of help given to exploited children. "She's not well. She's five months pregnant and she's in an abusive situation."

Among the executive producers of the film are director Steven Soderbergh and actor George Clooney.

"We were just there to be supporters of it because we felt the subject matter was really compelling and important," Soderbergh told Reuters. "It's one of those things you can look and go, 'That's wrong and illegal.'"

Spears is hoping the film will be distributed in the university and school system. "We're just trying to get it in front of as many eyes as possible."

'I Worked For Human Traffickers'

Original reporting in Burmese by Kyaw Min Htun. Edited for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Radio Free Asia

April 29, 2009

Ko Wunna is a 28-year-old resident of Burma's former capital, Rangoon, who was trafficked to Malaysia by gangs importing illegal workers in a constantly revolving racket in which, former participants say, the Malaysian police are also complicit.?

Here, Ko Wunna speaks to RFA Burmese service reporter Kyaw Min Htun about his experiences over three months working for a trafficking gang in the region in and around northern Malaysia's Kedah province, which borders Songkhla and Yala provinces in Thailand. He reveals that illegal migrants who don't come under the aegis of one gang are vulnerable to worse exploitation by others.

The Malaysian government has recently pledged to investigate claims made by many other Burmese like Ko Wunna.

"I was arrested [by Malaysian immigration authorities] on Nov. 15, 2008 and was sentenced to jail for two months and one stroke of the lash. I was released on Jan. 2, 2009. After I was released from prison, the Thai human traffickers [to whom Ko Wunna says he was then sold by immigration authorities] told me to buy myself 'back in' [to work in Malaysia] from the border town of Changlun. But they wanted 2050 ringgit (U.S. $570) to buy myself back in. I couldn't give them that much money. Those who could pay were able to leave [the trafficking gang]."

"Seven of us were left behind. We told them that we would work our way out. But they would not accept it. They said if we could not pay we would be sold to an Indonesian boat under a five-year plan. What we heard about this five-year plan was that if we were unable to work, they would kill us, beat us to death. We were afraid, so we escaped in the night. The traffickers and their Thai boss chased us. We fled into the forest."

"In the morning we saw a tea shop and asked for help. The people in the tea shop asked what nationality we were. We told them we were from Burma. They said we should contact the police. We thought about it. The traffickers chasing us had iron rods and were closing in on us. They also had motorcycles and if we crossed the street they would have tried to hit us with their cars. And if we were caught by the Thais we knew we would be dead. So we decided it would be better to be arrested, so we surrendered to the police."

Police 'took money from traffickers'

"The police told us to wait while they telephoned their officer in charge. The police told us to sit and wait at the tea shop. While we were waiting the police officer arrived. But it seemed that the police officer and the traffickers had done business in the past, because one of the traffickers came along with the police officer. They told us to get into the car. The police officer himself drove the car while the trafficker sat next to him. They took us to the same place that we had been kept before."

"After leaving us there, the police left, after receiving 2,000 ringgit from the traffickers. There were four traffickers. They kicked us with their boots. Later three more of them arrived with a gun and a metal chain. They hit us, but not on our faces where the injuries could be seen. They also used knuckle-dusters to hit us on our bodies."

"After we were caught again, the price [to leave the gang] went up to 3,000 ringgit. They said that if we did not pay the 3,000, the Thai bosses would cut our legs off as an example to the others... I was concerned so I contacted my home, but they were also in a tight situation in terms of money. So I did not ask for help from them again."

Ordered to beat new arrivals

"There was no way I could pay the money they asked for. So they told me to work for the payment. I agreed and did what they told me to do. After that they did not look after the new arrivals, they just kept them in that big house with just me looking after the new arrivals ... The traffickers gave me a phone, a book, and a ball-point pen. I had to register their names, their destination, and the phone numbers the new arrivals were calling. Those who could pay the money were brought forward first."

"The traffickers first showed me how to deal with the new arrivals. If they could pay 2,500 ringgit they were allowed to make the telephone call. If they could not pay, or if they said they would pay at the end of the month or later, I was told to hit them across their faces. Since they asked me to hit them, I had to do it."

"It was not easy, as I myself had gone through the same fate in the past. But I had to hit them because if I did not do as I was told they would turn against me. So I had to hit them a bit in front of the trafficker. But after the traffickers had left, I would apologize to the new arrivals. I told them that I would have to hit them, kick them, and treat them roughly in front of the traffickers, but that I was not really like that. And I asked them to understand my situation. They understood, as all of us were Burmese."
Malaysia Vows Action on Myanmar Human Trafficking
By Julia Zappei?
April 25, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia's prime minister vowed to investigate a scathing report by U.S. lawmakers saying thousands of Myanmar refugees were handed over to human traffickers with some ending up working in Thai brothels.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said in the report that illegal Myanmar migrants deported from Malaysia were often forced to work in brothels, fishing boats and restaurants across the border in Thailand if they had no money to purchase their freedom.

The report was based on a yearlong review by committee staff who spoke to migrants from military-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, and human rights activists.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday that his government hopes to get more information on the report from U.S. authorities.

"We will take appropriate action," Najib told reporters. "We do not want Malaysia to be used as a point for human trafficking ... but we need to know more facts."

Earlier this year, former Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar dismissed claims of human trafficking at the border as "wild allegations." But national police chief Musa Hassan said earlier this month that Malaysian and Thai police and immigration officials were investigating the claims.

Many who flee persecution in Myanmar try to stay illegally in Malaysia, which does not recognize refugees and can arrest them, whip them as punishment then deport them.

According to the Senate committee report, "a few thousand" Myanmar migrants in recent years might have become victims of extortion and trafficking once they were deported across Malaysia's northern border with Thailand.

"Upon arrival at the Malaysia-Thailand border, human traffickers reportedly take possession of the migrants," the report said.

The report quoted one unidentified migrant as saying women "are sold at a brothel if they look good. If they are not beautiful, they might sell them at a restaurant or housekeeping job."

It called on Malaysia to investigate and prosecute "the trafficking, selling and slavery of Burmese and other migrants."

"The prospect that Burmese migrants, having fled the heavy hand of the Burmese junta, only to find themselves in harms' way in Malaysia seemed beyond belief," it said.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Malaysia's government "should act on this U.S. Senate report to protect the rights of refugees and victims of human trafficking."

The U.N. refugee agency has registered 47,600 refugees living in Malaysia as of the end of March, of whom 42,300 were from Myanmar.

Malaysian opposition politician Lim Kit Siang also urged the government to "respond with instant action" to the U.S. report, saying it is "not only most damaging to Malaysia's international image but raises grave questions about Malaysia's human rights commitment."

FIA Busts Gang of Iranian Human Traffickers
By Javed Aziz Khan
April 30, 2009
PESHAWAR: The Federal Investgation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday claimed to have busted an international gang of human traffickers involved in smuggling over 5,000 jobless youth abroad.

The ringleader identified as Maula Bakhsh Baloch, an Iranian national, was held from Peshawar International Airport along with his Iranian accomplice, Dil Murad Baloch, when they were on their way to Karachi via a domestic flight.

"He is probably the leading human trafficker of the country who has smuggled thousands of people - 4,500 to 5,000 of whom were later deported by different countries -- to Iran and from there to Muscat, Turkey, Egypt and European countries and onward," FIA Inspector Shahid Ilyas told The News.

The FIA officer, who was visibly excited over the 'catch', said that a case was registered against the two accused under Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention and Countering of Human Trafficking Ordinance.

The accused persons were produced before a local court, which remanded them into FIA custody for two days. Maula Bakhsh Baloch was reportedly also wanted to Iran and Afghanistan in innumerable cases of human trafficking.

"The two Iranian nationals visited areas of Swabi, Mardan and Nowshera to get advance from those willing to go to Muscat, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus or even Europe. They were asked to reach a market in Karachi from where they would be boarded in buses to leave for Kalatoo village on Pak-Iran border," Shahid disclosed, adding the Kalatoo village has around 50 houses, but two buses leave for the town from Karachi everyday to transport hundreds of people coming from across the country to go abroad illegally.

It is learnt that those wishing to go abroad are smuggled normally in containers supposed to transport food, oil and other items to Iran. In one such ugly incident in Quetta last month, 45 Afghans were suffocated to death in a container that was being smuggled to Iran.

The human traffickers had abandoned the container after they failed to cross them over to Iran. From Iran, it is learnt, they are sent to Muscat, Oman and Gulf countries. Those wishing to go to Cyprus, Egypt and other European countries are boarded on buses to cross the Iran-Turkey border.

The FIA had launched an operation to stop human trafficking through sea, while Operation Fox Hunt was kicked off to counter the crime through land route in 2005. The agency officials are of the opinion Maula Bakhsh, an Iranian Baloch in his 40s, has links with local traffickers through his subagents. "We are after the local agents and will nab them soon," Inspector Shahid claimed, saying the problem they are facing is that human trafficking is not normally considered a social crime.
Stop Modern Slavery | P.O. Box 73064 | Washington, DC 20056
To report a tip about human trafficking, please
contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at[masked]-7888.

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