More than 250 people heard government and industry representatives and a trafficking survivor met at a September forum sponsored by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is a coalition of 300 faith- and values-based shareholder groups who use their investments to influence corporate policies promoting justice and sustainability.
Human trafficking happens at the intersection of official jurisdiction for human rights, labor standards, transnational organized crime, gender and ethnicity concerns, said Luis CdeBaca, the ambassador-at-large in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. “Right at the center where they overlap, you create a zone of impunity, where no one” is in charge,” he said. “You can get someone into an exploitative situation in 36 hours.”
“It’s a high-profit, low-risk business. The penalties for human trafficking are lower than for drug trafficking,” Susan Stern, chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Initiatives said. “We need to switch the paradigm and make it high-risk, low-profit.”
CdeBaca said law enforcement officials may overlook telltale signs of trafficking in the mistaken expectation that victims will come forward on their own. Inspectors at a factory could identify traffickers and victims by asking workers if they have access to their passports and if the boss routinely selects “girlfriends” from among the workers on the factory floor, he said.
Stern said her group recommended the government increase visibility of the issue, measure the resources required to eradicate modern day slavery in the United States and overseas, and create a global fund to combat the issue, akin to successful initiatives against AIDS and tuberculosis. Stern said faith leaders can help identify victims and match them with services.
Panelists said individuals, corporations and organizations must look closely at sources of the goods and services they buy. Slavery exists throughout the supply chain. “Goods get cheaper because wages get cheaper. As churches and synagogues, we have a responsibility to look where things come from,” Stern said.
Learn more at Beth Griffin’s Pilot Catholic News article: Panel: More action needed to address ‘abysmal’ practice of trafficking.