National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
On 31 December, 2012 Barack Obama declared January the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In his proclamation, President Obama explains that “trafficking networks operate both domestically and trans-nationally, and although abuses disproportionately affect women and girls, the victims of this ongoing global tragedy are men, women, and children of all ages. Around the world, we are monitoring the progress of governments in combating trafficking while supporting programs aimed at its eradication”.
Mexico was the first country in the world to join back in April 2010. Spain followed Mexico’s example and joined the Campaign in June 2010, becoming the first European country to join. In April 2012, Portugal joined the list of countries supporting the campaign. It was launched by Teresa Morais, Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Equality, Manuel Albano, Portuguese National Rapporteur for Human Trafficking, and Pierre Lapaque, Chief of the UNODC Organized Crime Unit. Word about Blue Heart has spanned the globe and many organizations are getting involved. A student organization at the University of South Florida called N.I.T.E. (Necessary Improvements to Transform the Environment) participated in the campaign in February 2012 to support two fellow students that had survived human trafficking In Kenya, a group of artists have come together to develop a play to raise awareness about human trafficking.
The play is called “A Blue Heart, Joy’s Story” and it follows the life of Joy, a young girl who goes to live with her aunt after her parents’ unfortunate demise and gets involved in a gripping saga. The play was developed by Fern Poetry and the Africa Sanaelimu Art Ensemble. The play was also based on research done by KARDS (Koinonia Advisory Research and Development Services) in 2009 on the proliferation of human trafficking in East Africa. In April 2009, the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) and its Blue Blindfold Campaign entered into a strategic partnership with the UNODC and the Blue Heart Campaign to promote each other’s campaigns, aiming specifically to present a clear public image of their complementary relationship while clarifying their two very distinct functions. Even the world of fashion has gotten involved with the Campaign through Beulah London, a luxury fashion label. Beulah London has set up an ethical clothing company by employing rescued sex trafficking victims in India. It supports two projects in India, Freeset and Openhand, where the women receive a salary, health insurance and child care in exchange for their work. They also receive textile training to develop their skills. For every dress, scarf or bag sold, a proportion of the profits goes to the Blue Heart Campaign.
Increased enforcement efforts in Europe
In 2011 the European Union adopted the legislation Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. It aims to make legislation and penalties more effective, ensuring successful prevention and prosecution on trafficking as well as enhanced protection of, and assistance to, victims. In December 2011, the European Commission appointed Myria Vassilliadou as Anti-Trafficking Coordinator with a view to improving coordination and coherence between EU institutions and agencies as well as with Member States and international actors. The establishment of the coordinator also aims to provide for an overall strategic and policy orientation in the field of trafficking in human beings. By bringing together prevention, law enforcement, and victim protection, she will ensure that all appropriate means for EU action against trafficking are adequately used and mobilized. The European Police Office (Europol) assists EU Member States in their fight against serious and organized crime. Trafficking in human beings is one of Europol’s mandated crime areas. It its 2011 report ‘Trafficking in Human Beings in the European Union,’ Europol concludes that “the positive steps taken by many Member States and the EU to prevent and combat trafficking in Europe have ensured that the current level of response in tackling this crime has never been higher. Lengthy prison sentences for convicted traffickers are now routine in some countries, the levels of awareness amongst law enforcement and the judiciary have been raised, victim protection and support is prioritized and national action plans provide clear examples of Member State strategy and intent.
The investigation of labor exploitation is now firmly on the agenda of many countries and again indicates the willingness of countries to recognize, adapt to and combat new forms of trafficking. However, based on current reporting, intelligence, trends and patterns, it is unlikely that there will be any immediate reduction in the levels of trafficking of human beings in Europe. This crime will continue to have a major impact on the EU”.