Human Trafficking – WIF Atrocities Spotlight

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Worst Countries

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Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the most despicable crimes that one person can commit against another, and it is sadly way too common. The FBI says that it is the third biggest criminal activity. Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, which is modern day slavery, and according to the United Nations, about 20 percent of victims are children. It’s also a global problem and countries in every region of the world are affected by it; this includes first world countries.

 Often, people who are desperate for work or food can either be tricked or even kidnapped into slavery. Then, through force or coercion, they are made slaves who work for little or no pay. This work includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and prostitution, to name just a few.

The most comprehensive study on human trafficking is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), which is published every year by the American Department of Justice. The reports go back to 2001 and they have a three tier rating system. The worst countries are Tier 3, which are “Countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Currently, every single one of these countries are Tier 3, and have a history of being Tier 3.

10. Algeria

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, and because of its location, it’s a hotbed for human trafficking. It’s a North African country and is the gateway to Europe for migrants from Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria. It’s common for people to voluntarily enter Algeria so they can take a boat to Europe. However, many times after entering Algeria their journey to Europe is thwarted; usually they run out of money, or their money is stolen. Being in a foreign country with no money means that these people are sometimes left with no choice but to work as sex workers, laborers, domestic servants, or they are forced to beg until they collect enough money to pay traffickers to get them to Europe.

Another possibility is that they are brought into Algeria by traffickers, and then owe a debt that needs to be paid before they can continue on to Europe. The problem is that it’s very hard to get out of debt because they don’t make a legal wage, while interest on the debt always makes the debt larger. Or the employer could give them a place to live and food to eat, and that adds to the debt, essentially making them slaves.

For years, Algeria denied that they had a human trafficking problem, despite being a Tier 2 or 3 country on the Department of Justice’s Trafficking In Persons report (TOP) since 2004. It wasn’t until 2015 that they acknowledged the problem, and in December of that year, the Algerian government rolled out a plan on how to deal with human trafficking. However, in the year that followed, no one was convicted of human trafficking related crimes.

9. Venezuela

Since 2002, Venezuela has drifted between Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3 on the TIP report, which is like hovering between a D- versus an F. However, things got really bad in 2015 when the Venezuelan economy had a downturn. When it did, the rates of human trafficking tripled.

Among the people who are trafficked out of the country, 55 percent are adults, 26 percent are young girls, and 19 percent are young boys. Often, they are lured into trafficking by the promise of high paying jobs. Instead, they are sent to countries in the Caribbean, where they are forced into the sex trade or domestic servitude.

The main reason that Venezuela is constantly on the bottom of the list when it comes to worst countries for human trafficking is because they do very little to combat it. They have strict laws surrounding it, but it’s rare if anyone is prosecuted under the laws. Since 2013, only three people have been convicted under the human trafficking laws in Venezuela. Unless the government cracks down on human trafficking, it will continue to be a plague on the country.

8. Sudan and South Sudan

Two civil wars between Muslims, who live in northern Sudan, and Christians and Animists, who live in the south, led to South Sudan gaining its independence in 2011. When South Sudan seceded, they were debt free and it was a middle income country because they exported oil. However, within just five years, thanks to corruption, South Sudan is now impoverished and the 16th poorest country in the world. Sudan is a little better off, but it’s still the 52nd poorest country. Both countries also have a horrible problem with human trafficking.

Both countries are source and destination countries for human trafficking, and Sudan is also a transit country. People are brought into countries by Sudanese and South Sudanese employers, especially those who own restaurants, construction companies, and hotels. They lure people from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the promise of work and then enslave them.

A big market in both countries is child slaves. Children, as young as 10, are used for a whole series of jobs, including construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, and begging. Girls are also subject to sex work in restaurants, hotels, and brothels.

7. Belarus

Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe that is landlocked between Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia. It is different than many of the other countries on this list, because in a lot of countries, human trafficking is usually controlled by organized crime syndicates. However, in Belarus, it is state-sponsored.

There are several ways the Belarus government can enslave people. One is through a 2015 presidential decree that makes unemployed people pay a fee to the state or they are forced to do community service. If you’re unemployed, there is a good chance you can’t pay the fee, so this leads to community service, meaning unemployed people are forced to work for the government without being paid.

Another presidential decree ordered that workers in the wood processing industry would be given bonuses every month. However, if they resigned, then they would have to pay back the bonuses. If they don’t repay the bonuses, the courts can force them to continue to work in the industry while being watched by law enforcement.

A third decree that is troubling to the DOJ and the UN is that alcoholics and drug addicts can be detained for 12 to 18 months in something called “medical labor centers.” At these centers, people are forced to work, and if they don’t, they can be locked into solitary confinement.

Other laws in Belarus that show the systematic use of human trafficking is that high school and university students are forced to work on farms without pay. Parents who had their paternal rights taken away are subject to compulsory labor, and the government keeps 70 percent of their wages. Finally, government workers and private businesses are forced to work occasionally on Saturdays and then donate all their earnings on those days to state projects. If they don’t, they can face fines, or lose their business licenses or government contracts.

Due to the conditions in Belarus, people try to leave the country, making it a source country for human traffickers, while others are lured there with the promise of work and then they are subjected to forced labor.

6. North Korea

North Korea has one of the most unique human trafficking situations in the world. One reason is that it is almost exclusively a source country for people to be trafficked out of. That’s because of how terrible the conditions are in the country, which includes forced labor camps that house 80,000 to 120,000 people – many of whom have not been charged with a crime. This means that North Koreans fleeing the country can be highly susceptible to human traffickers.

Another way that North Korea is unique in the human trafficking industry is that they also deploy 110,000 to 120,000 forced laborers to 20 to 40 other countries. This apparently makes the Kim Jong-Un regime anywhere from $150 million to $2.3 billion a year. However, the workers only receive 10 percent of their pay after they return to North Korea, usually after a three year stint.

One of these countries that rent slaves is Qatar, who are preparing their country for World Cup 2022.

5. Russia

By surface area, Russia is the biggest country in the world, and is home to 140 million people. It is also the only G8 country that is a Tier 3 country when it comes to human trafficking.

It’s believed that anywhere from 5 to 12 million migrants are working in Russia in conditions that are close to slavery, if not outright slavery. This includes working in underground garment factories, being public transport drivers, and working in construction and agriculture. Also, women and children are forced into prostitution.

How it usually works in Russia is that wages are withheld, or come extremely late. This makes the migrants incur a debt that is impossible to get out of. Employers will also take away migrant workers’ passports, so they can’t leave.

One reason that human trafficking in Russia is such a problem is because of corruption within the Russian government. There are allegations that Russian officials facilitate the entry of migrants into the country for exploitation, and other officials receive bribes to not investigate human trafficking crimes.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Russian government is also directly involved in human trafficking. In the last entry, we talked about how North Korea deploys workers to other countries for slave labor. One of those countries that “lease” North Korean slaves is Russia. In a state-to-state agreement, 20,000 North Korean workers every year are sent to Russia to work in different industries, especially logging.

Since the Russian government is benefiting from human trafficking, don’t expect Russia to move up any tiers on the TIP report any time soon.

4. Syria

Something that helps human trafficking flourish is instability in a country, which makes Syria one of the worst places for human trafficking. Of course, the source of their instability is the most devastating war of the 21st century, so far.

The civil war got its start in March 2011, after 15 boys between the ages of 10 and 15 were brutally tortured, one to the point of death, for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring. This led to protests, and to quash the protests, President Bashar al-Assad’s government ordered hundreds of protesters to be killed and imprisoned. This led to defections in the army, and the defectors organized rebellion forces to bring down the Assad government. The war, which is still ongoing, displaced half of Syria’s population, which is 12 million people. Four million were able to flee the country, but 7.6 million are still displaced inside Syria.

People fleeing from dangers, like a civil war, create ideal conditions for human trafficking because traffickers are parasites that thrive on desperation. It makes victims easy to lure into slavery. Imagine if your home was destroyed by a missile, and the only thing you had were the clothes on your back? Not even the government can help you, because they could have been the ones that fired the missile at your home. What choice do you have when someone comes up to you and says that they can help?

Unfortunately, this is a reality for many Syrians who were forced to flee their homes. Once in the custody of the traffickers, the people, especially women and girls, are shipped out to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where they are forced into prostitution, labor, and domestic servitude.

What makes the human trafficking situation so much worse in Syria is that it is also a destination country. During the civil war, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was able to seize two areas of the war torn country. Women and children are trafficked into these two areas. The woman and girls are forced into marriages with ISIL fighters, where they become domestic slaves and face abuse and sexual violence. Boys as young as 6-years-old are used in warfare. Sometimes they are sent to school and taught how to use weapons or they are trained to be suicide bombers. Others are used as human shields and executioners; ISIL has been known to get Syrian children to behead Syrian soldiers.

Besides ISIL, other armed groups, like Ahrar Al-Sham, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and Kurdish forces control different areas of the country, and they also traffick in women and children. Needless to say, the situation in Syria is horrifying. Until there is peace, human trafficking in the country will be impossible to stop.

3. Yemen

As we mentioned in the opening, based on the DOJ’s TIP report, the worst offenders of human trafficking are considered Tier 3. However, there is another category called “special cases.” They’re “special” because the countries are so unstable that it’s hard to get any real figures to understand the true scope of the human trafficking problem.

The first of those countries is Yemen, which is an Arab country found at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. For the past five decades, there have been several civil wars in Yemen. In 2011, the country became more tumultuous after President Ali Abdallah Saleh stepped down after being injured in a rocket attack. The hope was that his resignation would end the civil unrest, but it didn’t work and in March 2015, civil war broke out between forces that are loyal to the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, which is internationally recognized, and forces that are loyal to the Houthi rebel movement. Added to the mix is that ISIL and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an Al-Qaeda franchise, both control areas of the country.

Before the civil war, Libya had a terrible track record for human trafficking as a destination and transit country for migrants from the Horn of Africa. It was also known as a sex tourist area for people from the Gulf. Child labor was also fairly common, as there were 1.7 million children under the age of 14 who were subject to forced labor.

Experts believe a lot of those activities are still going on, but they have no official data because of how unstable the country is. What they do know is that, due to the conflict, over 3 million people have been displaced, and much like in the case of Syria, human traffickers prey upon those displaced people.

Children are particularly hard hit in Yemen. Boys are forced to be laborers, work in shops, or beg, while both boys and girls are shipped to Saudi Arabia, where they are forced to work as prostitutes. Boys, sometimes as young as 10, are also used as soldiers by government forces (yes, the same one that is internationally backed), the Houthi rebel forces, and the AQAP.

2. Libya

The second special case is Libya, which is found in northern Africa between Algeria and Egypt. Libya is an oil rich country that was controlled by dictator Muammar Gaddafi before a civil war led to Gaddafi being ousted and killed in 2011. However, even before his downfall, Libya was a magnet for human traffickers because of its position between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, and because Gaddafi’s regime profited from trafficking.

However, after Gaddafi’s ousting, no real government has taken its place and different areas of the country are controlled by different armed groups. This includes ISIL and Al-Qaeda, and has led to an explosion of human trafficking. It’s the second biggest industry in Libya, just behind oil.

Many people are detained on their way from Africa to Europe and held for ransom. During detainment, people are held in overcrowded centers where they’re tortured, arbitrarily murdered, and sexually assaulted. The conditions are so horrendous that before women head to Libya, they take contraceptives to avoid getting pregnant by rapists. Sometimes these detention centers are state-sponsored, while others are controlled by militias.

Besides the horrid detention centers, like many other countries on this list, men are forced to become laborers, women and girls are forced into the sex trade, and boys are recruited by militia groups. Unfortunately, until Libya starts to get some stability, their nightmarish human trafficking problem will only get worse.

1. Somalia

If you were hoping that “special cases” were just temporary designations for a country because something horrible and unforeseeable happened that would dramatically increase the amount of human trafficking, like a natural disaster, war, or genocide, and the label would go away once that issue was dealt with… well, the African country of Somalia should demystify any notions of that. In 2016, Somalia was labeled a special case for a 14thconsecutive year.

Somalia is at the tip of the Horn of Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world. A lot of problems in the country stem back to 1991, when President Mohamed Siad Barre, who assumed power in 1969 after a military coup, was ousted. After that, the country fell into anarchy. Different areas of the country were controlled by warlords who ruled over clans. Since then, there have been attempts at peace, but the war is still ongoing 26 years later. A new government was finally elected in 2012, after 21 years without a central government, and they have been slowly moving towards stability. However, the government doesn’t have much control over the six states that make up the country. Also, Al-Shabaab (a terrorist organization) controls some rural areas of the country.

Of course, since Somalia had the same amount of laws as the world of The Walking Dead for over two decades, human trafficking has been pretty rampant there. It’s hard to verify any of the trafficking problems, but it’s believed that men, women, and children are used for forced labor, domestic servitude, and the sex trade. Things are so bleak in the country that sometimes parents are forced to give their children up to traffickers.

Child soldiers are also quite common, as the Somali government uses them, as do two states. To be fair, the Somali government doesn’t issue birth certificates, so it’s hard to verify ages. However, Al-Shabaab has been known to recruit neglected children and use them as soldiers, assassins, suicide bombers, to plant roadside bombs and other explosives, and finally, as human shields during incursions.


Human Trafficking

WIF Spotlight

Pirates of the Seven Seas – Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth

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Pirates Facts

Pirates have fascinated the masses for hundreds of years. Romanticized in fiction, the image of a pirate has crystallized into a bearded, peg-legged man, with a funny hat and possibly a parrot on his shoulder. The pirate was almost relegated to a quaint decades-old obsession until Disney revived the swashbucklers by rebooting a Disneyland ride into a multi-billion dollar movie franchise. The films star Johnny Depp, pretending to be Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, or as Roger Ebert once wrote, “channeling a drunken drag queen, with his eyeliner and the way he minces ashore and slurs his dialogue ever so insouciantly.”

 So with that in mind, we will charge and plunder our way through 10 surprising pirate myths, facts, and misconceptions.

10. Pirates Were Part of the Normal Economy

In the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, the pirates were literal immortal ghosts that had no need for the world of mankind. There is a myth that pirates were outcasts and pariahs but like any criminal now or in the past they needed to sell their booty. While pirates did get some gold and diamonds, that was far from their only plunder. Most of what pirates stole and looted was anything that ships had, like water, food, soap, timber, salted fish, and supplies for the New World colonies. The most coveted of all prizes was medicine.

With all these goods pirates needed a place to sell them, and there were plenty of ports, pirate and otherwise that encouraged pirate trade. Often pirates were sanctioned by their home countries, like the English Privateer, and their “letter of marque” gave them the legal right to capture ships from enemy nations. With this they could legally sell their booty to their homeports. Privateering, which was similar to today’s version of military contractors, “spurred the growth of Atlantic cities from Charleston to Dunkirk.” Non-nation criminal pirates had no shortage of middlemen and smugglers who would take their tons of stolen salted fish off their hands and integrate it into the local economy.

9. Wore Jewelry to Improve Their Eyesight

Those brave souls who step off the sturdy earth onto a rickety boat to righteously sail the rough seas have always been a superstitious bunch. Bananas famously are taboo on the open sea and are thought to bring doom upon all those on the boat. Real sailors will quickly throw a banana overboard ASAP. Sailors are just as superstitious with their good luck talismans.

Famously bad luck on land, black cats are a seen as signs of good luck at sea with sailors having a black cat on board. There are even those who have their wives have a black cat at home to get a double dose of good fortune. Pirates were no exception to superstitions of the seas. According to the Journal of the American Optometric Association, pirates heavily pierced their ears in hopes that it would improve their eyesight.

8. Pirate Ships Were Democratic

Pirates in the movies are often portrayed as mafias with a head criminal ruling their ship with an iron fist. In real life, pirate ships had surprisingly democratic micro-societies. During the golden age of piracy, over 100 years before democracy took hold in America, sailors on legitimate sailing ships were little more than slaves. The captain controlled everything and in the British Navy, it was even worse. Sailors lived under terrible conditions; conditions so bad that the only way to get new crew members was to pressgang or kidnap innocent people from whatever harbor the ship entered.

This kind of life paled in comparison to pirate ships, where democracy thrived. Not only did pirates share the wealth of their plunder but they voted on everything. They held elections on where to sail, where to strike, what to do with prisoners, and even whether or not to impeach and replace their captain.

7. Pirate Health Insurance

Sailing hundreds of years ago was tough. Piracy, which involved violent resistance and sparse prey, was even tougher. If they weren’t dealing with malnutrition or scurvy pirates had to deal with the normal hazards of the seven seas like storms and new tropical diseases. As outlaws, they also didn’t have a military organization or state to fall back on. Since the pirates were in it together they also banded together forming collectives with health care. If there was an injury on board a ship or while seizing a vessel pirates could depend on each other for monetary support.

In the Caribbean, a pirate group operated that called themselves The Brethren orBrethren of the Coast (they appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean series). One of the most famous pirate captains of this group was Henry Morgan. Morgan offered the following compensation for injury: a right arm was worth 600 pieces of eight, a left arm 500, a right leg 500, a left leg 400, and an eye 100 pieces of eight. In 1600 one piece of eight was about a modern £50 note, so the pay out for a right arm was 600 pieces of eight, the equivalent of £30,000. Even crazed scourge of the sea Blackbeard cared enough for his crew to seize three French surgeons to provide medical care.

6. Pirates Raided Only Ships… Or Not

Merriam-Webster says the definition of a pirate is someone who engages in piracy, or an act of robbery on the high seas. Water thefts, according to the dictionary. But the true mavericks they were, pirates didn’t limit themselves to just looting and pillaging on the high seas. No, when they had the means pirates would attack targets on land, too.

There have been a number of invasions by pirates. One pirate warlord, Edward Mansvelt, controlled a 1,000-men strong pirate army that landed and attacked the Spanish in what became known as the Sack of Campeche in 1663 (now a city in Mexico). Pirate Lord Henry Morgan led another Pirate army 50 miles inland to attack Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in central Cuba). If the prize was high enough pirates had no problem leaving their ships to pillage the land lubbers.

5. Pirates Are Not Forever

The pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean were doomed to an immortal purgatory sailing the seven seas forever, but real pirates had a less permanent legacy. Piracy was often seen as a way to increase their standing in mainstream society. Spend a few years in a high-risk occupation and then take your plunder and improve you and your family’s position in life.

That was certainly the case with Woodes Rogers (he’s the dapper gent on the right in the above painting). He sailed around the world, paid for from all the ships he plundered along the way. He even had enough time to rescue Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish sailor that Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is based on. After he came back home he hung up his pirate standard and became the Governor of the Bahamas. His past didn’t stop him from trying to stamp out local pirates. Not all pirates became politicians, but many parlayed their ill-gotten gains into an easy life back in normal society.

4. Pirate Tropes

Our word for pirate didn’t have a standardized spelling until well into the 18th century. In historical archives ocean raiders, or what we call pirates, were spelled as “pirrot,” “pyrate,” or “pyrat,” which is probably where parrots became an associated pirate trope. Other fictional tropes were that pirates buried treasure, a fiction created by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island.

The 1950s Disney movie of the same name also created what we now know as pirate talk. For the film, Robert Newton, the pirate star of Treasure Island used an exaggerated version of his southwestern England hometown West Country dialect. Pirates also didn’t have peg legs, and the skull and crossbones flag was just one of many pirate flags used in pirate history.

3. Cannonballs are Spheres of Death

In the age of sail, the preferred means of attack was the cannon. Modern pirate movies have their share of implausible Michael Bay explosions. They also show how each cannon hit causes thousands of serrated pieces of wood to fly into the fleshy, exposed skin of sailors and pirates alike. Yet compared to their fictional Hollywood movie stars, the pirates of old had one less thing to worry about.

As proven by Mythbusters the wooden shrapnel didn’t have enough velocity to penetrate the exposed skin, or for their test, dead pigs. They did discover, however, the gunpowder explosion of a cannon gave the metal cannonballs enough force to rip through the bodies of at least four people, as demonstrated by the unfortunate pigs that took their place.

2. Pirates Aren’t a Relatively Recent, Caribbean Thing

For as long as there has been wealth there have been people that will take that wealth. Robbery and banditry have to be one of the oldest jobs in history, although not the oldest job. That would be ladies of the night. In the same vein of thought, as long as there have been ships there have been people who are willing to take whatever is on that ship. Starting 1200 BC the Egyptians feared a mysterious group of people only known as the “Sea Peoples” that swept over the known world like black death, destroying everything they touched.

Later, in 75 BC, Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates while traveling to Rhodes. Upon hearing their ransom demand, Caesar got insulted and told them to double the asking price for his life. The pirates got their money but after he was released Caesar returned with a fleet of ships and captured and crucified every one of his pirate captors. In the Mediterranean, during the 15th and 16th centuries, there were two groups of pirates that were mirror images of each. The Barbary corsairs were Muslims who raided Christian commerce while the Knights of Saint John were Christian pirates who raided Islamic ships, “mirror image[s] of maritime predation, two businesslike fleets of plunderers set against each other.” The official hymn of the United States Marine Corps even has a line, “to the shores of Tripoli” that’s about the Battle of Dernain 1805, where US Marines attacked a pirate stronghold during the First Barbary War. While the west is more familiar with the Pirates of the New World, Pirates are found throughout history and all over the world.

1. Pirates Still Exist

Pirate movies inevitably always focus on pirates with swords and sailing ships, but pirates still exist today. We don’t just mean the infamous Somali pirates that plagued the Horn of Africa a decade ago (although there was recently an attack after five years of no incidents). Pirates on the other side of the Atlantic have stepped up their attacks in places like Nigeria. Even outside of Africa there is piracy; or rather, piracy never went away. In the early 19th century famous Pirate Queen Madame Ching, or Ching Shih, ruled the waves with hundreds of ships, crewed by thousands of pirates. Not far from Madame Ching’s haunt is one of the busiest shipping straits in the world, the Strait of Malacca. Through this 550 mile-long sea lane, thousands of ships travel and are easy targets for modern day pirates.

Dozens of attacks and hijacking take place every year, although coordinated patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are trying to put a stop to it. Hitting a little closer to home is piracy on Falcon Lake, which straddles the American and Mexican border. The lake is a result of Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande which was built in the ’50s. After the Mexican side descended into the anarchy of the drug wars small boats full of pirates would prey on fishermen and pleasure boats, as well use the boats to smuggle drugs into the US. Piracy is not something that was stamped out hundreds of years ago. It still exists, to this day, even in America’s backyard.


Pirates of the Seven Seas

– Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth