In smaller bite-size portions.. 

Early last week, on June 19th, the U.S. Department of State released the Trafficking in Persons Report of 2013. The purpose of this annual report is to present what is essentially a grading system on how well various governments are approaching the crime of Human Trafficking and the difficulties that come with victim identification and service provision. In response to this report’s release, The Gray Haven Project interns have taken it upon themselves to present a summary and personal reflection on various sections from this report. We know that this report is extremely lengthy and that not many people will actually read the report, so we broke it down into smaller sections in an effort to make it a little more palatable for you..

If you would like to read the entire report or watch the introduction by Secretary of State John Kerry it can be found here: 

Without further ado, let's begin.. 

Victim Identification: The First Step in Stopping Modern Slavery Part 1 of 2

The Palermo Protocol, the protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, was established in 2000 to guide government action in combating the trafficking in persons. Since then, more than 150 countries have become parties to the protocol, and more than 140 have criminalized sex and labor trafficking. The protocol establishes the “three P paradigm” of Prevention, Protection and Prosecution. However, weak identification efforts undercut the Palermo Protocol and hinder the victim-centered 3P approach that has become the international standard.

Risk factors for victimization and Challenges of Identification

It is important to expand the definition of trafficking to include labor trafficking and male victims, which are becoming increasingly common.

Victim identification is a tremendous challenge which stems from the very nature of the crime. Traffickers constantly adapt their tactics to evade detection and operate in zones of impunity. They prey on excluded populations such as marginalized ethnic minorities, undocumented immigrants, the indigenous, the poor, persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, governments have a responsibility to identify any and all victims of this crime.

Another aspect of government responsibility

When adequate anti-trafficking laws are enforced, identification of a person as a victim must begin with a process that respects their rights, provides them protection, and enables them to access services to begin to recover from the trauma inflicted by traffickers.

However, when authorities misidentify or fail to identify victims, the victims lose access to justice and could be subjected to additional harm, trauma and even punishment such as arrest, detention, deportation or prosecution. These failures reinforce what traffickers around the world use to commonly threaten their victims: if they seek help, law enforcement will incarcerate or deport them.

The success of victim identification will often depend on who the trafficking victim first encounters, whether it is a police officer, immigration agent, or labor inspector.

The government needs to provide formal anti-trafficking training to ensure that law enforcement, prosecutors, the judicial system, first responders, and other government officials have a common understanding of the elements of trafficking crimes, the evidence necessary for a conviction and factors for special consideration such as trauma and dependency. Training efforts should be based on policies and procedures that provide trainees with clear guidance for action: what to do when encountering an individual who may be the victim of human trafficking or a situation characterized by indicators of trafficking. This should include specialized anti-trafficking units with broad authority to investigate and arrest as needed, as well as educated localized officers trained on how to identify crimes in their territory. In order to motivate officials, results-based expectations are essential to their success.

Collaboration Across Government: A Cross-cutting approach

Further, it is essential that a strong collaboration is formed among agencies with overlapping areas of responsibility, and with social services agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations (IOs) that provide assistance to victims.

An interagency collaboration is most effective when there is strong political will behind the issue, as well as an awareness of less frequently identified populations such as male victims, forced labor victims, and victims of trafficking within a country. Each relevant agency should assess where victims could be encountered, and adapt appropriate protocols and procedures to deal with such a situation.

For example, when dealing with trafficking situations, labor inspectors are more effective when given the authority to make arrests on the spot and when no advanced notice  is given to employers when inspections are coming.

Taiwan is perfect example of what effective interagency collaboration to fight trafficking nationwide looks like. They require systematic screening and information sessions in countries of origin and screening upon arrival in destination countries as well. If  a victim is identified, potential victims are offered services in a shelter and a day-long reflection period to decide to come forward as trafficking victims. When a victim is confirmed by the authorities, they are offered shelter and comprehensive services, which include help getting a job and long-term immigration status.

Another key collaboration is with the education system. Teachers, school counselors, and administrators, and social workers are sometimes the first to spot children in unstable situations.

Enhancing Government Efforts through Partnerships

Several types of partnerships help to enhance governmental efforts. While governments are ultimately responsible for identifying victims, protecting their rights, and providing support and services to survivors, NGOs and IOs are experts in victim protection and providing direct services. These organizations provide a variety of services in partnership with government agencies, from a national hotline, to offering a safe place for victims to begin recovery.

Partnerships can also be with individual survivors who can provide much-needed information that leads to better understanding of many of the crime’s complexities. Several anti-trafficking NGOs have adopted mechanisms to ensure that survivors have regular opportunities to provide input into the organization’s operation and oversight. Many female survivors have become activists and advocates.

Another key component of advocacy partnerships is how the government works with the public. Public awareness campaigns alone are not a comprehensive anti-trafficking strategy, but increased awareness can prevent some people from becoming victims and build community support for government action to address it. Countless survivors in many countries have been discovered because an interested person recognize their circumstances and contacted authorities.

To continue reading, here is Part 2...