Posted 8 months ago on March 19, 2013, 5:26 p.m. EST by gnomunny
from St Louis, MO
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
Here's a fun little interactive for you. Note: on the left side of each page there's a gear. Click on it to refine your input. And read the accompanying blurbs on each page for some interesting, and disturbing, statistics (also check out the rest of the site):
Although the accuracy of the above interactive can be called into question (for example, it doesn’t specify whether your electronics are new, used, or free, or whether your veggies are store-bought or home-grown) the point is more, I think, to raise awareness to the scope of the problem. And, as one of our wiser posters pointed out to me, even if it is off by a wide margin, one slave is one too many.
Human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal industry in the world. Recent estimates put the annual value of human trafficking at USD $32 billion a year, but that number is hard to quantify. According to Wikipedia:
". . . it is argued that many of these statistics are inflated to aid advocacy of anti-trafficking NGOs and the anti-trafficking policies of governments. Due to the definition of trafficking as a process (not a singly defined act) and the fact that it is a dynamic phenomenon with constantly shifting patterns relating to economic circumstances, much of the statistical evaluation is flawed."
Regardless, the facts are sobering. From the sweatshops of Bangladesh, the jungles of Indonesia, the sleazy motels in America's heartland, to the mansions and estates of London and New York, approximately one out of every three hundred people on the planet, an estimated 27 million people, are living in some form of human bondage (although the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates a more conservative 21 million). Equally troubling, according to some sources, less than 1% can be identified. The US State Dept, in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that 600,000 to 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. About 70% are female, half are children, and 18,000 of these poor souls arrive here in the United States. Also, 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. And even those countries are not immune. We often talk of cheap labor in the supply chains of our products, but rarely does the subject of modern-day slavery enter the dialog.
Not surprisingly, BigAg is a major culprit. From The Guardian article 'We've Got to Stamp Out Modern Slavery:' "Expansionist agriculture and empires have always depended on slave labour, as Latin authors of the Roman empire complained centuries ago. Today, we live in an era when the dominant powers don't officially "do" empire, so economic control takes a new privatised form in the TNC (transnational corporations). Modern slavery has evolved to match. The straightforward ownership of chattel slavery is gone, replaced instead by an outsourced, subcontracted kind of control over people, which can be terminated when they have served their purpose. The transnationals universally abhor any idea of slavery or forced labour and yet it is found in their supply chains. Slaves and exploited migrants, often driven into migration by the squeeze on family agriculture, are what make the economics of today's agribusiness work."
And America is not immune. Besides those trafficked across the borders, victims here are usually the poor, the homeless, the undocumented. The problem is exacerbated, of course, by the sharp downturn in the economy, as increasing numbers of people find themselves in desperate financial straits. Although historically, the focus has largely been the sex trade, with the sex worker portrayed as culprit rather than victim, the problem is far more widespread. In 1999, Abel Cuello pled guilty to buying smuggled workers from Mexico and holding them captive. And in 2005, three Guatemalans were arrested in Fort Myers, Florida for holding a 13 year old Guatemalan girl as a slave.
Then in November 2006, Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife, Elnora, both doctors from Milwaukee, Wis, were each sentenced to four years in prison for forcing a woman to work as their domestic servant, illegally harboring her for 19 years in their residence. The Calimlims were convicted of using threats of serious harm and physical restraint against their victim, whom they had brought to the United States from the Philippines when she was 19. According to a Justice Department summary of the case, the victim testified that for 19 years she was hidden in the Calimlim home, forbidden from going outside, and told that she would be arrested, imprisoned and deported if she was discovered. The Calimlims' son was also convicted.
The Florida-based 'Coalition of Immokalee Workers' has successfully prosecuted numerous cases over the past 15 years, freeing more than 1,200 Florida farm workers from forced labor and captivity in the process. In the September 2010 case, US vs. Global Horizons, eight people were charged with what prosecutors called the largest human trafficking case in US history. Global Horizons CEO Mordechai Orian and others were accused of operating a forced labor ring covering 13 states, in which six hundred guest-workers from Thailand were held against their will. It was a "classic case of bait-and-switch," according to FBI Special Agent Tom Simon. "They were telling the Thai workers one thing to lure them here. Then when they got here, their passports were taken away and they were held in forced servitude working in these farms." Of the eight people indicted, four pled guilty and then, in July 2012, the DOJ dropped the charges against CEO Orian and another Global Horizons executive.
But what's most troubling, I think, are the children. According to the ILO, there are 215 million five to 17-year-olds trapped in child labor worldwide. In Mali, for example, boys as young as eight are digging shafts for gold mines and working in tunnels 100 feet underground. They are among the 2 million children worldwide employed by small-scale mines. Another 30 million children, most of them girls, are employed as domestic servants, working long hours for very low (or no) pay and facing physical, and sometimes sexual abuse. And there's a good chance that the metals in your mobile phone include products mined by children working under the control of warlords in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. India is one of the worst offenders, with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 children a year affected. An estimated half a million children work in Delhi alone, three-quarters of them below the age of 14. Many are trafficked there by India's army of slave traders, stolen, tricked or sold by their parents for as little as 1,000 rupees, a tad over USD $18 at current exchange rates.
Recently, our esteemed President declared January 'National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month.' A typical response from our elected clowns in DC, a slavery prevention month. Hey, here's an idea: why not actually do something about it? For starters, how about making sure our own government contractors like Halliburton and Dyncorp don't engage in it. And for all the rhetoric from our esteemed leaders, the fact is Congress spends more on the war on drugs in ONE week than they have fighting human trafficking in the past TEN years (source: imwithlincoln.com). In 2009, we spent twice as much printing the Congressional Record as we do fighting slavery domestically (source: ibid.). Ridiculous.
On this 150th anniversary of Lincoln's landmark proclamation, one need only take a cursory peek behind the curtain to see that slavery and servitude are everywhere still. You like to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa on these cold winter days? Chances are the beans were picked by a seven year old boy on the Ivory Coast. Talking on your new cellphone? Halloween decorations? Chinese laborers working in deplorable conditions. Does your make-up contain mica? Like to dine out occasionally at the local Chinese restaurant?
What can be done about it? In the The Guardian article entitled 'We've Got to Stamp Out Modern Slavery,' Felicity Lawrence states: "How should we respond to news of slavery re-emerging today? Stamping it out needs as big an overhaul of prevailing power structures as previously. And yet, it was on small tokens of concern that a political movement against slavery was originally built. It's time we made our revulsion clear again."
If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to try the interactive at the beginning of this post. It'll only take a few minutes of your time. Also check out the blue links thruout this post. And it should go without saying, spread the word. It might give a friend or relative something to think about before they fly out the door this year after Thanksgiving dinner to join the herd at WalMart to buy the latest iWhateverthefuck.
Do your part to help break the chains.