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Sunday, April 20, 2014

‘Human trafficking is 2nd largest criminal industry in world’

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, according to U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco, and she is asking communities around Micronesia to help curb this rising menace.

“After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world and it is the fastest growing,” Limtiaco told members of the Rotary Club of Saipan at its meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.

Unlike illegal drugs and the illegal arms trade, human trafficking has a reusable commodity that criminal individuals or organizations can reuse time and again, she said.

“When we talk about human trafficking, what is the product? Human beings. So what happens from a business perspective is you have traffickers who say ‘wait a minute, here’s a very profitable way for me to conduct an enterprise here… I have a product that I can use over and over again. I can take the victim, the human being, and reuse, resell my product over and over again [and] I make a lot of money, I certainly don’t have to expend the amount of resources that I do compared to just trafficking drugs.’ And that is a great business venture for the trafficker,” explained Limtiaco.

She told Rotarians to keep in mind that human trafficking is a huge industry and—like all criminal activities—greed and money is its bottom line.

Hot spots

Some of the places of business that human trafficking can be prevalent include massage parlors or therapeutic massage establishments, brothels, strip clubs, karaoke clubs, gentlemen clubs, or escort services.

With regards to labor trafficking, she said common jobs that they see this happening include people who are brought in as domestic help, nannies, maids, people working in sweatshop factories, janitorial-like positions or jobs, construction sites, farms, restaurants, and those who are recruited to do panhandling.

On the latter, Limtiaco said, criminal minds often go the extreme to make their victims become more effective panhandlers.

“What has been found are perfectly healthy individuals who are intentionally maimed, harmed, or injured in some way so they can appear to be more sympathetic to the public. So they are intentionally blinded or have some limb cut off so they can entice more people to give money.”

Fighting back

In an effort to combat human trafficking Limtiaco said her office has created Strategies for Justice.

“This is an initiative that began in our district in Guam and the Northern Marianas and the rationale behind this is community stakeholders coming together, talking about our very diverse communities, talking about our limited resources, our unique and remote location, and financial constraints. Because of this we also recognize the need to look beyond our borders and understand other island-nations who are our neighbors who also have similar challenges and that we need to work together to combat human trafficking.”

Limtiaco said there have been steps and efforts taken to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate with other Pacific island nations in the form of training, sharing investigative resources, and creating victim services to help prevent human trafficking in the region.

“This is how we come together so we can truly have what we consider a Pacific regional response to combat human trafficking. Please know this is a very real initiative and program and there have been steps taken not only to conduct these types of training opportunities or projects and programs between Guam and the Northern Marianas but we have traveled out to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and American Samoa, working with all of our partners.”

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