Hollywood Actress, Bush Administration, Lawmakers, Victims, Join Forces to Eradicate Human Trafficki

WASHINGTON, JuneÂ15, 2006 (—At a standing room only hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, June 14,Âexpert witnesses and lawmakers promised to “turn up the heat” on the thugs and pimps that profit off the horrific $9 billion international trafficking in persons industry.

“The traffickers who use and abuse human beings as commodities to be bought and sold must be tracked down, their nefarious operations crushed, and the individuals who commit these heinous crimes sent to jail for a long, long time,” said Chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) who is the author of America’s landmark anti- trafficking laws that have created new penalties for traffickers and new protections for the victims, mostly women and children. “An estimated 17,000 foreign citizens are trafficked into the US each year with more than 600,000 bought, sold or smuggled across other international borders—all to be exploited through forced labor or commercial sex exploitation.

“With our new laws, tough criminal enforcement penalties, and victim counseling and shelter programs, our anti-trafficking efforts are working but we need to do more,” said Smith, chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations Subcommittee which convened the hearing.

Hollywood Actress Julia OrmondJulia Ormond, Hollywood screen star and UN Goodwill Ambassador to combat human trafficking and slavery, provided added impetus for Congress and world governments to do more to help the victims of trafficking.

“Trafficking is one of the most fantastically difficult problems that we face today,” said Ms. Ormond who has traveled to several countries meeting with trafficking victims and enforcement officials. “In my short time (as UN Goodwill Ambassador) I have been horrified by the extent of the problem, the searing depth of the experience of the victims, and the extraordinary level of profit to the traffickers.”

Ms. Ormond summarized the multifaceted approach to fighting trafficking known as the—the 3 “P"s,—prevention, protection and prosecution—and added one of her own: “prioritize.”

“Governments and member states need to rise to the challenge of making this issue a priority and work together, without shaming and blaming, to create the structure that recognizes the extremity of this issue,” Ormond said.

U.S. Ambassador John Miller, director of the State Department’s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons, testified that 41 countries have added new anti-trafficking laws to their books and more than 4,700 traffickers were convicted in just 2005. Ambassador Miller added, that “the movement to end modern slavery is gaining momentum” but said there was specific work to do to increase the effort “by some of the world’s largest countries.”

“On every continent, countries are failing to live up to their obligation to protect the weak, and bring criminals to justice,” Miller said.

Part of the hearing focused on the concerns connected with Germany hosting the World Cup this month. Prostitution, which is legal in Germany, has often been used as a shield by traffickers and pimps who abuse women and force them into commercial sex.

Masha Gnezdilova, a Russian citizen defrauded and held captive in a German prostitution ring in the late 1990’s told of her horrific story and related her story to Germany today.

“It seems like we Russian women are placed in impossible economic conditions and are not needed by our own country. In other countries, we are spit on as prostitutes when we are really victims. Ten years have passed since I was trafficked but the situation has still not changed,”

“Is the German government really not aware of what is happening in their country? Or are they happy to profit from our suffering?” she asked.

Irina Veselykh, also trafficked in Germany in the 1990’s said, “The people who involved me in that situation are still free and continue to traffic women under government cover. In those countries, the rights of immigrants in difficult situations are violated and their governments do not want to take responsibility for what is happening on their territory.”

  See related coverage:

U.S. Report Soft-Pedalling on Germany and Canada Sex-Trafficking say Anti-Trafficking Experts

German Government Blasted for Facilitating Massive Prostitution at World Cup in Berlin


Share this article