Our Goal: To End Modern-Day Slavery, Part II

Posted by Mark Lagon
October 14, 2008
Trafficking in Persons Protest in India

About the Author: Ambassador Mark P. Lagon is Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Read Ambassador Lagon's previous entry.

After Sri Lanka, I flew to Pakistan under the backdrop of political transition (I was there between the election and inauguration of the new President) and the threat of terrorism within that country (manifested in a bombing at the Marriott hotel just days after I left). I was impressed with the will of the Government of Pakistan (GOP) to address trafficking in persons (TIP) in spite of this context. I was impressed by how seriously the Federal Investigation Agency took transnational trafficking from a law enforcement perspective. In particular, while throughout South Asia prosecutions for TIP crimes all too rarely move forward, the GOP is following through with prosecutions and punishments of traffickers.

Also, I was struck by the confident, frank dialogue of this major South Asian democracy on TIP and its eagerness to have specific and direct exchanges about fighting human trafficking. They welcomed our constructive criticism in private and in public (such as at the forum co-hosted by the Ministry of Interior, in which I took part). It represented a refreshing tone of partnership on the sub-continent.

I also met with the NGO Trocaire, which educated me on the serious issue of bonded labor. While a modicum of bonded laborers have obtained freedom and restitution, there has not been a single prosecution under the 1992 law banning bonded labor. My team and I called for more serious law enforcement efforts against bonded labor. Observers associate bonded labor on the scale of millions with India, but bonded labor exists aplenty in Pakistan, tied up in powerful ancient landlord relationships in need of long-term reform. Caste remains a source of bonded labor as in India, although elites and the public don’t frequently admit it in a Muslim society. In addition, I noted that even with the strong law enforcement there needs to be practical steps to increase protections for victims of human trafficking.

My final stop was Jordan. In 1996, in support of the Middle East Peace Process and to bolster Jordanian economic stability and prosperity, the United States established Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs) with free trade access for Jordanian exports containing Israeli content to the United States. Foreign workers comprise the bulk of the labor force in the QIZs. In 2006, reports of abuses and possible TIP conditions led the Government of Jordan (GOJ) to investigate and address problems. The GOJ is focusing on labor conditions in the QIZs, beefing up the number of labor inspectors newly trained to spot TIP. I was impressed with the GOJ’s efforts to seriously address these problems, which they consider deeply unfortunate. I was also encouraged by the Government’s plan to develop a shelter and a comprehensive anti-TIP law and am hopeful for action soon.

In lengthy meetings with GOJ officials, I urged for more prosecutions and punishments of convicted human traffickers. Specifically, I see a need for improved follow-through with prosecutions and for convictions with serious sentences for labor exploiters. I also urged the GOJ to guard against migrant workers who can be exploited as domestic servants and forced to work in harsh conditions. I pressed my interlocutors not to throw up their hands and say that private homes cannot be inspected, leaving this form of human trafficking hidden and ignored. The Jordanians expressed a willingness to take steps on this difficult problem.

As we struggle with this problem at home as well, we understand that eliminating trafficking in persons is complicated and difficult. In these four countries, partly as a result of our engagement, I believe we raised the level of awareness to this problem and strengthened the willingness to tackle the multi-dimensional threat that human trafficking poses.



Florida, USA
October 17, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

@ Ambassador Mark Lagon -- thank you for your brave efforts to eliminate this horrific problem. It is a problem that is hard to comprehend and one that very often is not noticed or addressed. Sadly, it is a problem here in the United States as well as around the world. The first time I became aware of it here, in the U.S., I was deeply saddened. Evil knows no borders. As we struggle economically this problem will only grow worse. You are right to bring attention to it. Hopefully, it will become a major issue that each and every nation will strive to eradicate.

Tennessee, USA
October 21, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Establish Unions for all the various elements of the Slave trade by the people being used...and enforce it.

If you beleive in Free Trade, whats the problem? We use the Hispanic population openly here in America rather than pay a fair days pay for a fair days work...by Americans.

Virginia, USA
October 18, 2008

Donald in Virginia writes:

18 october 08


People who have used other people in the trade business should be punished. No man or woman should have to endure slaverly. It has been going on for hundreds of years, people do not have the right to own people. They do not have the right to torture, and use them in a slave capacity. People are not bought and sold like cattle. People are human beings! It doesn't matter race, color, religion, God created everyone equal!!!

We cannot change the past but we can change the future! Every human being on earth deserves, to be treated like a person, who has civil rights! If there are people still in this world today holding other people as slaves, "Shame Shame Shame on you!!!" God has a plan for you!

I would take this opportunity to spell it out for those who are holding other people as slaves!!! Release them....allow them to be free!!!! Then and only then would God have mercy on your soul!!! The important thing and the right thing to do is let the people be free!!!!

One day your freedom might be questioned, your freedom removed, your freedom abolished!!! Think about that before you hold anyone as slaves!!!

God Bless and lets hope and pray that if anyone is in this positon they are released and freed from the situation!

October 20, 2008

John in Greece writes:

Modern Slavery? It's very easy to say: "it's bad, let's punish the bad guys, we hate this situation". However, as Eric in NM would probably say: Concrete ideas anyone?

He is RIGHT!

Can we offer a constructive solution?

I think that this time, I feel like to be the guy that will take the question seriously on its face, no matter if I will be misunderstood once again. (Chuckle!)

After all, these great Eric's, Joe's and all the other contributors' comments on "Drug fighting", some days ago, (you all guys) made me think?

I am still sure that global issues as Modern-Slavery (human trafficking), Terrorism, Drugs, Religion Freedom, "Gun Emporium" and "Nuclear Safety" are issues that "prerequisite" a Global effort.

My "concrete": Let's "globalize" all these issues. Neither America can pay all the bills, or what all the other countries do not pay, nor other nations can anymore perform like acting "locally", attempting to persuade us that they do the best they can!

Let's make a "GLOBAL-Fed" law enforcement system, concerning -- at least -- these issues. (I do not mean the "Hitler way")

But, WHAT THE OTHER COUNTRIES DO? It's (not!) the first time I can see (as the music says) the G8s act as G1 waiting for the ONLY "star" (USA) to fall in order for them to become a G7...

"Stars" do not fall, though! Even falling (if someone has a delusion), they become more than 7 new ones.

"It's all nation's task to employ the leverage necessary to convince organized crime to work on the side of civilization (which they depend on for existance), or be relegated to the status of terrorists themselves and be dealt with as such as a threat to civilization, hunted down and rooted out."

Notes: (I found them interesting):

and then only then Donald:

New Mexico, USA
October 20, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

What we have here is a effort to create a new "norm" for societies that have status quo mindsets that allow one person to have control over another, whether that be through an old "caste" system in the largest democracy on Earth or the teachings in madrassas that women are worth half that of a man.

You litterally have to cause society to restructure itself on a more equitable basis in terms of individual human rights. Slavery and human trafficking are but symtoms of a social norm that is no longer viable for nations who seek democratic lifestyles of the peaceful and prosperous.

And in this aspect I agree with Madam Rice that this will be the work of generations as part of the societal changes that are essential to winning the war on terrorism.

For in this instance, the struggle for a nation like Pakistan, fighting terrorists involves just such a change in society's mindset that disavows the methodology of targeting innocents. And that effect will have impact on how people in society treat each other in general as a free society emerges from the cobwebs of past wrongthinkingness.

And result in a greater understanding that a healthy society is one in which all are equal under the law.

At least, one would hope.

New Mexico, USA
October 27, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Here's a milestone on the road to freedom:


A West African court has found Niger's government guilty of failing to protect a woman from slavery in a landmark case for the region.

The court found in favour of Hadijatou Mani, who says she was sold aged 12 and made to work for 10 years.

A judge ordered the government - which says it has done all it can to eradicate slavery - to pay Ms Mani 10m CFA francs (?12,430; $19,750).

Despite being outlawed, slavery also persists in other West African states.

"I am very thankful for this decision. It was very difficult to challenge my former master and to speak out when people see you as nothing more than a slave," Ms Mani said.

"With the compensation I will be able to build a house, raise animals and farm land to support my family. I will also be able to send my children to school so they can have the education I was never allowed."


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