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    Fall-off in convictions of traffickers irks Bangladeshi activists

    Many cases were withdrawn or both the parties settled out-of-court to avoid lengthy and expensive legal procedures

    From UCANews:

    Two Rohingya fishermen seen on a boat at the Bay of Bengal, in Cox’s Bazar district in this file photo. The coastal district across Myanmar is Bangladesh’s main human trafficking hotspot. ( photo)

    Bangladesh activists have expressed dismay over low prosecution and conviction rates of human traffickers and blamed it on erroneous case filing, inadequate victim identification and lack of support for victims.

    A total of 302 alleged traffickers were prosecuted in 2016, compared to 481 in 2015. Only three traffickers were convicted in 2016, down from four in 2015 and 15 in 2014, according to a study released on July 30.

    The study found many cases were withdrawn or both the parties settled out-of-court to avoid lengthy and expensive legal procedures, difficulties related to appearing in distant courts and a lack of security for victims and witnesses.

    The study was jointly carried out by 17 international and national agencies engaged in anti-trafficking campaigns and fighting for the rights of migrants. This included the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

    Since 2012, about 150,000 people were smuggled out of the country, an estimated 1,500 died on their way and 2,733 people were rescued, according to a report in the Daily Star newspaper on July 30. Some 3,500 cases had been filed against alleged traffickers since the introduction of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012.

    However, only 30 have been convicted so far.

    James Gomes, regional director of Caritas in the port city of Chittagong, considers shortcomings in the country’s criminal justice system to be greatest impediment to punishing offenders.

    He said many cases faltered because they were lodged at a district level, while the traffickers and victims were from areas far away. “The process is lengthy and expensive, so the victims, who are mostly poor rural people, find an ‘out-of-court solution’ the best option,” Gomes told

    Often traffickers had political and financial clout, so victims compromised as they feared for their safety. There could also be financial inducements offered to victims not to give evidence in court, Gomes said.

    Laws needed to be amended and ‘fast-track’ courts introduced to speed up prosecution, he added.

    Abu Morshed Chowdhury is an anti-trafficking campaigner from Cox’s Bazar district near Bangladesh, a people-smuggling hotspot on the Bay of Bengal. He told that there were major anti-human trafficking efforts amid the so-called ‘Asian boatpeople crisis’ of 2015.

    However, he said enforcement and prosecution had subsequently slackened, allowing traffickers greater scope to ply their trade.

    Read original article at UCANews


    Pampanga court dismisses sex trafficking case vs Japanese tourist

    The judge says the court had no other recourse but to exonerate Michihiro Suzumura, as the information dated July 28 by Assistant City Prosecutor Mark Oliver Sison fails to establish the existence of probable cause against Suzumura in violating Republic Act 9208

    By Jun A. Malig, Rappler

    September 28, 2017


    ANGELES CITY, Philippines – The regional trial court here dismissed 5 cases filed against a Japanese tourist who was arrested for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl in a hotel in the tourist district of Balibago village last July 21.

    Judge Maria Angelica Paras-Quiambao of the Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 59 also ordered the commander of Police Station 4 here to release Michihiro Suzumura, 43, from detention in her order dated September 5, 2017.

    The judge said the court had no other recourse but to exonerate Suzumura, as the information dated July 28 by Assistant City Prosecutor Mark Oliver Sison failed to establish the existence of probable cause against the Japanese tourist in violating Republic Act 9208 (The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003).

    Judge Quiambao said that on August 7, the court directed Sison to submit additional evidence to establish the acts committed by Suzumura as alleged in the assistant city prosecutor’s information dated July 28.

    “Should there be no additional pieces of evidence available, Assistant City Prosecutor Sison was directed to file an amended information which will conform with the evidence submitted, within five days from receipt of said Order,” the judge added.

    Sison initially failed to comply with the court’s directive but on August 17, he was given a 5-day extension – until August 22 – to submit what the court required from him.

    “The order dated August 7, 2017 bears warning on the dismissal of the case as to accused Michihiro Suzumura should Angeles City Prosecutor Sison fail to comply therewith… To this day, Assistant City Prosecutor Sison has not taken action on the said Order,” Judge Quimbao said in her order dismissing the case against the Japanese man.

    Rappler sent text messages to Sison’s mobile phones to get his comments but he has not responded as of filing.

    Sison filed 5 criminal cases (no. 02318 to 02322) against Suzumura for trafficking in persons with no bail recommended. The Japanese was charged along with 4 Filipino females, including a 17-year-old, and 3 John Does – all suspected of pimping minors.

    In one of the pieces of information prepared by Sison against Suzumura and his co-accused on July 28, it said that one of the femal suspects approached a 14-year-old girl last July 14, offering her a job.

    At around 1:00 p.m. on July 21, the suspect called the victim and brought her to 1st Avenue Hotel in Balibago, Angeles City.

    In the hotel, the victim-complainant alleged Suzumura paid P500 to the suspected female pimp, then had sex with the young girl and gave her P1,000. But the older sister of the victim, who was waiting outside the room, got angry after learning about what had happened to her sibling and decided to seek the authority’s help for the arrest of the Japanese tourist.

    While Suzumura was being questioned at the Police Station 4, Sison said the former’s phone received several text messages offering him minors for sex. This prompted policemen to form a team and plan an operation that resulted in the arrest of 3 suspected female pimps.

    The police report said two of the apprehended suspected pimps were aged 18 while the third one was 21 years old.

    When the court directed the Local Civil Registrar of Angeles City on August 8 to submit copies of the birth certificates of the two suspected 18-year-old pimps, it was found out that one of them was a minor and was brought to the social welfare and development office.

    The court also cited its observation that 3 minor complainants – aged 13, 15, and 17 – stated that they were recruited by the 3 female suspects to work as prostitutes to foreign tourists to earn money. But though they were brought to the 1st Avenue Hotel by the suspects, they neither met Suzumura nor had sex with him.

    While the judge dismissed the cases against Michihiro Suzumura, the cases against his co-accused – May Ann Abudo, Jessica Dimarucut, and a minor female described as child-in-conflict-with-the-law – remains pending with the court.

    Arraignment and pre-trial sessions are set for October 17 and 26. –


    Migrant life in Qatar: Ladies in Waiting

    DOHA, Qatar– It starts at about 8:30 am. The women will scoop up their hair into hairnets, deftly tucking in stray wisps; then they will snap on blue gloves. What follows is a flurry of activity.

    Bowls, whisks, spatulas and baking sheets will be lined up. The repeated tat-tat-tat as eggs are whisked to repetitive beat then mixed with flour with the help of a whirring mixer. What comes out is soft squishy dough ready to be rolled up into small balls on cookie sheets lined with wax paper.
    It won’t be long before the scent of freshly baking bread will waft into the other rooms. People will be lured away from their desks to enjoy the smells and take a bite or two.

    This is the baking class that takes place every morning at the Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Resource Center a training center and shelter for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) run by the Philippine embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO). The baking class is comprised of about 30 female OFWs who are all in some kind of in limbo.

    “These are women who have pending court or police cases; some are waiting for their unpaid wages to be released; some runaway from their employer. It’s a mix of situations,” explained Des Dicang, labor attaché for the Philippine embassy and POLO.

    Their circumstances and the kafala sponsorship system prohibit them from working for another employer or seeking employment while their cases and travel documents are being processed. In the meantime, there is nothing much to do but wait – and bake. The baking classes offer a way to turn idle time into a productive pastime.

    Other lessons offered by the Philippine embassy include cosmetology and computer classes, but the baking class taught by chef Gerry Atencio seems to be the most popular.

    Read more


    Win! The UN acts to end slavery in conflict

    From Freedom United:

    We’re delighted to join our partners in their win! The UN is taking action to secure justice for victims of modern slavery in conflict.

    Finally, after impressive efforts in the pursuit of justice, especially by our partner Yazda and Nadia Murad, strengthened by more than three years campaigning and 287,451 actions from Freedom United supporters, the UN Security Council has passed resolution 2379. This paves the way for securing justice for victims of modern slavery and crimes against humanity, perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq.

    On Facebook or Twitter?* Share the news!

    Yazda and Nadia Murad have sent us this message:

    “We thank each and every one of the many thousands of Freedom United supporters who joined this effort. Knowing we had your support gave us strength.”

    We launched our first campaign back in August 2014. We could not ignore the horrors experienced by the minority Yazidi population following the fall of Mosul in Iraq. Our campaign called for ISIS to be held accountable for modern slavery, including forced marriage and sexual slavery, in Iraq. Seeing the dire lack of protection for those in conflict zones, in December 2015, we launched a second campaign calling for the creation of a UN special representative to tackle slavery in conflict, collecting 185,010 signatures.

    Since then we’ve climbed lots of steps to reach our goal:

    • The first ever UN debate on slavery in conflict at the Security Council
    • We handed in 89,254 signatures to the President of the UN Security Council
    • We brought together 2,837 people on social media, reaching 1,374,341 to raise awareness and build support for the UN Security Council debate
    • Over 20 supporters joined us in New York and watched the UN Security Council unanimously pass resolution 2331 calling for member states to take action
    • Nadia Murad and our partner Yazda addressed the UN Security Council 

    Resolution 2379, tabled by the UK, was passed unanimously last Thursday. It calls on the UN Secretary-General to establish an Investigative Team, headed by a Special Adviser, to support efforts to hold ISIS to account in Iraq.

    Even when success is slow to achieve, our partners don’t give up and neither should we.


    Lighthouse Fights Human Trafficking in Japan

    Who we are

    Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims is an NPO that works to eliminate the issue of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, in Japan. We are committed to fighting for a society without human trafficking. Like a lighthouse that guides people who are lost in the dark to safe harbors, we hope to be the beacon of hope for survivors of human trafficking and to be their voice.

    What we do

    Based in Tokyo, Lighthouse aims to eliminate human trafficking in Japan by:

    Providing confidential consultation services for survivors of human trafficking via a toll-free multilingual hotline, email, LINE, and our smartphone app, “ne-ne.”

    Educate and train law enforcement and government officials to recognize human trafficking survivors and investigate cases.

    Organize awareness campaigns and seminars to help bring more attention to the issue of human trafficking and encourage change in society. More than 29,000 people have taken our seminars and they have been able to identify survivors and report to us.

    To educate more youth about human trafficking and their legal rights, in February 2015, we published a manga, Blue Heart, based on the experiences of survivors who have reached out to us in the past. Thousands of parents, teachers, social workers, librarians, and government officials have asked for copies. Blue Heart has been translated into Chinese by the Rotary Club of Taipei North.

    Lobbing the government to change legislation, as there are currently no laws against human trafficking in Japan. Our goal is to push for the establishment of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law in Japan by 2020.

    For more information, download our English pamphlet.

    Or visit the Lighthouse web site.


    Clerical abuse of children has to be addressed

    Arrest of priest shows everyone has to answer for their behavior no matter what station they hold in life

    From UCANews:

    Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos, a Filipino priest, has been arrested by authorities for allegedly escorting a minor to a hotel in a suburb of Manila. (Photo by Noli Yamsuan)

    The arrest of a Filipino Catholic priest accused of trafficking a 13-year-old minor is highly unusual.

    He has been charged with violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of the Philippines.

    Most cases of alleged clerical child abuse go unreported or are covered up in the Philippines. In other countries, the scandal of clerical child abuse has left thousands of child victims without redress, help, therapy, or a chance for justice.

    The Philippines’ Child Protection Law has a provision that is designed to criminalize such an act where a child is taken to a secluded place — say a vehicle or motel — by an adult not her relative for the purpose of sexual abuse. This provision of the law aims to prevent any act of rape and to bring the suspect to justice.

    The institutional church, that is, the hierarchy in many countries, has been shown to have failed in its obligation and duty to protect children and actively pursue clerical child abusers when the evidence was strong and clear.

    In the past, church institutions in various countries even facilitated payoffs to parents of child victims and tried to use its influence to have authorities drop charges against priests and religious. Other clergy were moved to other parishes when child abuse complaints were made.

    In many cases, there was no action by church officials to protect the child and report the alleged abuser to authorities for the alleged crimes. There have been big changes in church procedures in dealing with child abuse cases by clergy nowadays, and a zero tolerance policy is in place, thanks to Pope Francis.

    Read more


    Nuns help promote disadvantaged women with housework skills

    As part of their training they are also taught the importance of honesty and respect for others

    From UCA News:

    For self-confident Sister Pascale Le Thi Triu, women who work as housemaids in the bustling southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City are equal to those who do other jobs.

    The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul nun believes they should not be treated as “lowly slaves.”

    Sister Triu, 73, ensures that women who complete a course in housework skills gain employment and are treated with respect.

    The courses are conducted by her congregation.

    On Aug. 6, there were 33 young women who graduated from the year-long course.

    Sister Triu, an organizer, said many began their new jobs on Aug. 16 and the rest would start work in early September, with expected monthly salaries of between 4.7-5.5 million dong (US$208-$243).

    This year, some 100 households have registered with the nuns to have housemaids, but the sisters have not been able to meet demand.

    The nuns never advertise. However, employers appreciated the housemaids who had previously undertaken the training and introduced others wanting such services.

    Sister Triu’s congregation launched the program in 2006 when they saw a growing requirement for housemaids in the economically booming Ho Chi Minh City, from both foreigners and working Vietnamese couples with children.

    The current labor market favors workers with vocational skills rather than degrees.

    Read more


    Pinoy, other foreign fishermen ‘kept like slaves’ in Taiwan

    From GMA News Online:

    TAIPEI, Taiwan – A group of foreign fishermen, including several Filipinos, were locked around the clock in tiny windowless rooms in Taiwan to stop them escaping while not at sea, prosecutors said in the island’s latest abuse case involving migrant workers.

    Fishing and boat company owners were among 19 people charged Monday in the southern city of Kaohsiung for illegally holding 81 foreign fishermen in buildings after they had berthed their boats.

    When they were at sea, the fishermen were sometimes made to work for 48 consecutive hours without rest for a monthly wage of US$300-$500, the prosecutors said — despite Taiwan’s labor laws which stipulate a maximum working day of eight hours and minimum wage of around $930.

    “The accused exploited the fishermen with illegal methods for their own profit,” prosecutors said in a statement, describing the fishermen as “slave labor in the sea”.

    The 19 face charges of human trafficking and offenses against personal liberty and could face a maximum seven-year jail term if convicted.

    Prosecutors also confiscated nearly Tw$3.69 million ($123,000) from the companies in back pay for the workers.

    The case came to light last year after a fisherman tipped off prosecutors with the help of a social worker, the statement said.

    Authorities later raided two places where fishermen from countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania and Vietnam were held and rescued them.

    Environmentalist group Greenpeace has said previously that foreign crew on Taiwanese vessels endure “horrendous” working conditions and physical abuse, as well as withheld payments and exploitation by recruitment agents.

    The case comes after an outcry over a police shooting of an unarmed Vietnamese migrant worker last month.

    According to rights groups, exploitation of migrant workers is frequently reported in Taiwan, where around 600,000 foreigners work as caregivers, fishermen, construction and factory workers.

    Chuang Shu-ching, a spokeswoman for Taiwan International Workers’ Association, said the government leaves the matter in the hands of for-profit private recruitment agencies, who mostly serve the interests of employers.

    Southeast Asians who make up the bulk of Taiwan’s migrant workers also face racial discrimination, she said.

    “Labor conditions for migrant workers haven’t improved in more than a decade and the same problems will continue if the system remains the same,” Chuang said, recommending the establishment of state recruitment agencies.

    In the shooting case, police have come under criticism for firing nine shots at the unarmed Vietnamese migrant worker.

    A security guard slightly wounded when he was attacked by the worker was sent to hospital in the first ambulance to arrive on the scene.

    The second ambulance came half an hour later for the worker, with rights groups saying his treatment was deliberately delayed.

    The migrant worker’s family and campaigners are calling for Taiwan’s top government watchdog, the Control Yuan, to investigate his case. — Agence France-Presse

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