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SACRAMENTO-The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Crimes Against Children Unit and its state and local law enforcement partners are pleased to announce the recovery of six children who were being victimized as prostitutes in the Chico, Redding, Sacramento, and Vallejo areas.
The number of minors recovered locally is one of the highest in the nation, making this local achievement one of Operation Cross Country VI’s top success stories.
The Sacramento Division of the FBI and multiple local and state law enforcement participated in the operation from June 19 through June 23, 2012. In addition to six juveniles recovered in Sacramento, multi-agency teams also arrested six pimps during the three-day operation. The local efforts account for nearly eight percent of the children rescued during Operation Cross Country VI.
In addition to the FBI Sacramento Division, the following agencies participated in last week’s local operation:
- Butte County District Attorney
- California Highway Patrol
- California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
- Chico Police Department
- Redding Police Department
- Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department
- Sacramento Police Department
- Vallejo Police Department
Operation Cross Country is a multi-day, national enforcement action targeting the domestic sex trafficking of children. The operation is coordinated by the Innocence Lost initiative and is a partnership between the FBI, state and local law enforcement partners, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Since the first Operation Cross County in June 2008, multi-agency teams in the Sacramento Division’s area of responsibility have recovered 23 children and arrested 18 pimps.
Nationwide, 226 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in 57 cities participated in Operation Cross County VI, resulting in the rescue of 79 children and arrests of 104 pimps. There are 47 task forces and working groups throughout the country addressing the issue of child sex trafficking.
Up to 27 million people are living in slavery around the world, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton estimated as the US unveiled its annual report into human trafficking.
But the report showed that as governments become more aware of the issue, instigating tough new laws and programs to help victims, progress is being made in wiping out what it called the “scourge of trafficking.”
“The end of legal slavery in the United States and in other countries around the world has not, unfortunately, meant the end of slavery,” said Clinton.
“Today it is estimated as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, what we sometimes call trafficking in persons,” she said at the unveiling of the report at the State Department.
“Those victims of modern slavery are women and men, girls and boys, and their stories remind us of the kind of inhumane treatment we are capable of as human beings,” said Clinton.
“Whatever their background, they are the living, breathing reminders that the work to eradicate slavery remains unfinished.”
As America prepares to mark the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the emancipation of US slaves, people must reflect on “how much further we have to go to free all these 27 million victims,” Clinton added.
Out of the 185 countries included in the 2012 report, only 33 complied fully with laws in place to end human trafficking, putting them at the top of a four-tier ranking system.
But five countries had moved up from the bottom blacklist known as tier 3, including Myanmar and Venezuela, to be included among the 42 countries now on what is known as a tier 2 watchlist.
Myanmar was removed from the blacklist because the government “took a number of unprecedented steps to address forced labor and the conscription of child soldiers; these steps amount to a credible commitment to undertake anti-trafficking reforms over the coming year,” the report said.
Syria however fell onto the blacklist for the first time, in a move which could cut off any US aid and make it harder to get US backing for funds from organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“The government of Syria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination oftrafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2012 Trafficking in Persons report said.
Among the 16 other countries on the blacklist were Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Kenya slipped down onto the watchlist for the first time in five years, while Nigeria lost its place on tier 1, moving down a notch as the report highlighted that women and children were forced into labor and sex trafficking.
But Clinton hailed the fact that a total of 29 countries had been upgraded to a higher ranking, “which means that their governments are taking the right steps.”
They included Bangladesh, which was bumped up to tier two for making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards, including passing “a comprehensive anti-trafficking law” in December.
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, director of the office to combat trafficking in persons, said while the number of people officially identified as victims of trafficking and slavery had gone up by 28 percent since last year to 42,291, the numbers of prosecutions in 2012 had also increased by 10 percent to 3,969.
So while countries “still have a little ways to go” there was “the beginnings, I think, of a real trend,” he said.
This year’s report focuses on how to better protect the victims, and urges governments to meet the challenge head-on.
“Traffickers are criminals. Governments — which alone have the power to punish criminals and provide legal recourse to survivors — cannot waver in their efforts to confront modern slavery,” the report says.
But it also argues that human trafficking takes many guises and it is not just about moving people across borders to trap them in prostitution.
“The United States government, and increasingly, the international community, view ‘trafficking in persons’ as the term through which all forms of modern slavery are criminalized,” it says.
“The essence of the trafficking experience is the denial of freedom, including the freedom to choose where and how you live, the freedom to work or choose not to work, the freedom from threats, and the freedom of bodily integrity,” the report says.
Area Jewish congregations are focusing on human trafficking in the region as they prepare for the Passover season, the annual commemoration of the ancient Hebrews’ exodus from Egyptian bondage.
Because of the region’s freeway network and reliance on migrant labor, Sacramento is considered a hub of the illegal activity. Human traffickers typically target women and children, exploiting them for commercial sex or labor purposes, organizers say.
The National Council of Jewish Women, Sacramento, is presenting a free educational forum on human trafficking, from 7 to 9 p.m. April 23 at KOH Library and Cultural Center, 2300 Sierra Blvd. Featured speakers will include a human-trafficking expert, an FBI special agent and local providers of services to survivors.
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BY NOEL RANDEWICH, REUTERS JANUARY 2, 2012
A new California law will force retailers and manufacturers to disclose how they guard against slavery and human trafficking throughout their supply chains, ratcheting up scrutiny of some of the largest U.S. corporations.
Beginning today, about 3,200 major companies doing business or based in California, a list that includes Apple and Gap Inc., will be required to disclose steps they take, if any, to ensure their suppliers and partners do not use forced labour.
Companies risk getting sued by the state attorney general if they flout that law. But experts say the real pressure will come from the court of public opinion: consumers who care about ethical working conditions and take an interest in how their favourite brands get made.
Apple has already come under fire. Suicides at supplier Foxconn, which makes the iconic iPhone, raised questions about working conditions at plants in southern China.
Apple declined to comment on the new legislation.
The heightened scrutiny expected under the law, which applies to retailers and manufacturers in the state with more than $100 million in global sales, is already spurring companies to take a closer look at practices they follow, and in some cases improve them, lawyers say.
“It’s a law that makes sure that companies who are aware of the issues, but could be managing them better, come to the realization that this is the moment where they better get a better handle on them,” said Jon Sohn, a lawyer at McKenna, Long and Aldridge in Washington. “Anything that can harm your brand should be taken seriously.”
Child labour and slavery, broadly defined as forced labour, run rampant not just in emerging markets like Asia and Latin America, but also within developed economies such as the United States.
The U.S. Department of Labor says children and forced labourers produce 130 kinds of goods in 71 countries, numbers that have probably increased during the economic crisis.
More than 12 million people are victims of forced labour, the International Labor Organization says.
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, a group that helps human-trafficking victims in Los Angeles – often people working in restaurants and the beauty trade – cosponsored the legislation and wants consumers to reward companies that do the most to prevent forced labour.
“Companies following the policy and going beyond what is required should be congratulated,” said Stephanie Richard, the coalition’s policy director. “We encourage people to support companies that utilize this law to re-examine their supply chains.”
Justin Dillon, head of advocacy group slaveryfootprint. org, points to Apple and Gap as companies that have made major efforts to improve and communicate their policies following labour issues at their foreign suppliers .
The suicides at the plants associated with Apple cast a harsh spotlight on what critics dubbed a militaristic culture, pushing workers to the brink to meet unceasing demand for the company’s iPhones.
In response, Apple stepped up the number of supplier facilities it audits, to ensure they meet its code of conduct. Apple has also trained more workers in its supply chain about their rights under the Apple code of conduct.
Gap, whose apparel brands include The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, over the past decade has been accused of benefiting from sweatshops and child labour in Saipan and India.
Anxious to preserve its corporate image, Gap has yanked clothing allegedly manufactured by children from its stores and stepped up monitoring of factories in its supply chain to make sure migrant workers are not forced to hand over their passports to managers or are otherwise coerced.
“What the bill does is beg the question,” Dillon said. “That’s great that that’s what you’re doing, but what more are you going to do?”
Ahead of the new law, expected to largely affect the electronics and clothing industries, Silicon Valley companies including Intel and Agilent Technologies have posted documents on the Internet detailing their policies.
Intel said third-party audits of key suppliers cover slavery, but not human trafficking.
But it plans to specifically address human trafficking early next year.
A drive to slash costs has quickened in tandem with global trade and industry competition in past decades. Increasingly complex supply chains that criss-cross the world make it harder for executives to scrutinize all the companies that have a hand in producing their products.
Under the new law, companies are required to describe the extent to which they verify risks of human trafficking and conduct independent and surprise audits of their suppliers.
They also have to disclose whether they force suppliers to certify the materials they use comply with laws regarding human trafficking and slavery, and whether employees receive training to reduce the risk of slavery.
Keith Bishop, a partner at law firm Allen Matkins, said he advised companies directly affected by the new law, and then received a second wave of inquiries from many of those companies’ suppliers.
They wanted to know what measures to take to meet their customers’ requirements.
“The act, rather ingeniously, specifically regulates relatively few companies, but impacts a very large number of companies,” Bishop said.