Games put spot­light on hu­man traf­fick­ing

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - COMMENT - ROBIN BARANYAI

One of the darker se­cu­rity chal­lenges of the Olympic Games and other mas­sive sport­ing events is the risk of in­creased hu­man traf­fick­ing. Host cities of­ten an­tic­i­pate a surge in sex tourism and, with it, an in­flux of women and girls traf­ficked into forced pros­ti­tu­tion.

Last year in Hous­ton, for ex­am­ple, nu­mer­ous highly pub­li­cized ar­rests were made for traf­fick­ing in con­junc­tion with the Su­per Bowl.

Re­sources to com­bat traf­fick­ing are needed long af­ter the sta­di­ums are emp­tied and the tourists go home.

Hu­man traf­fick­ing is a de­press­ingly per­sis­tent prob­lem af­fect­ing ev­ery cor­ner of the world. De­spite our aware­ness, the prob­lem is grow­ing.

The In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mates 21 mil­lion peo­ple are trapped in what amounts to mod­ern slav­ery. About 55 per cent are women and girls, although it’s dif­fi­cult to pre­cisely quan­tify the scope of a crim­i­nal en­ter­prise pred­i­cated on se­crecy.

The mi­grant cri­sis has ex­ac­er­bated the prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co-op­er­a­tion in Europe. OSCE sec­re­tary gen­eral Thomas Greminger notes, “When large num­bers of peo­ple are flee­ing con­flict or hu­man­i­tar­ian emer­gen­cies, they be­come easy prey for traf­fick­ers.”

Without ac­cess to ad­e­quate ac­com­mo­da­tions and sup­port ser­vices, mi­grants are vul­ner­a­ble to false prom­ises of em­ploy­ment.

While labour ex­ploita­tion is the most com­mon form of hu­man traf­fick­ing, an es­ti­mated 4.5 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide are traf­ficked for sex.

Here in Canada, the ma­jor­ity of hu­man traf­fick­ing cases in­volve sex­ual ex­ploita­tion. Indige­nous women and chil­dren are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble, ac­cord­ing to a global study on sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren in travel and tourism by child-pro­tec­tion net­work ECPAT In­ter­na­tional. The 2016 study iden­ti­fies oil rigs and min­ing sites as hot spots where vic­tims are of­ten trans­ported for ex­ploita­tion.

On­tario is Canada’s hub for hu­man traf­fick­ing, home to more than two-thirds of re­ported cases, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Com­mu­nity and So­cial Ser­vices. The ma­jor­ity of sur­vivors are Cana­dian cit­i­zens or per­ma­nent res­i­dents. Indige­nous women and chil­dren are fre­quent vic­tims, yet they of­ten are not rec­og­nized as such by those who could help.

A poor un­der­stand­ing of Abo­rig­i­nal traf­fick­ing has con­trib­uted to fail­ures among po­lice, so­cial work­ers, health-care pro­fes­sion­als and other front­line work­ers to iden­tify Indige­nous women and chil­dren as vic­tims of traf­fick­ing, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pre­pared by the On­tario Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion (ONWA) on sex traf­fick­ing in On­tario.

“Indige­nous women ex­pe­ri­ence the on­go­ing legacy of col­o­niza­tion,” says ONWA ad­viser Court­ney Skye. “In some cases, for women, that has trans­lated into a vul­ner­a­bil­ity for ex­ploita­tion and traf­fick­ing.”

Last fall, the prov­ince an­nounced fund­ing for 45 projects to com­bat hu­man traf­fick­ing and sup­port sur­vivors. In com­mu­ni­ties across On­tario, part­ners and agen­cies will de­liver ser­vices rang­ing from pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion to trauma coun­selling, job train­ing and sur­vivor rein­te­gra­tion.

Skye says the prov­ince is tak­ing pos­i­tive steps. She notes the Anti-Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Act (2017) was de­vel­oped with ad­vice from the ONWA and other or­ga­ni­za­tions reflecting Indige­nous per­spec­tives.

The leg­is­la­tion en­ables peo­ple who have been traf­ficked, or are at risk of be­ing traf­ficked, to ap­ply for a re­strain­ing or­der to pro­tect them­selves or their chil­dren. It also em­pow­ers sur­vivors to sue their traf­fick­ers for com­pen­sa­tion.

No­body should profit from hu­man slav­ery.

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