We think it’s important, when looking at a complex and difficult topic like human trafficking, to also look at the bright sparks – the things that are working, the change that is happening, the stories that bring hope.
Today, we’d like to share how victims have been helped in transit, specifically by Border Force.
Border Force has an essential role in the fight against human trafficking. They are at the frontline: they are the first line of defence against traffickers and the first chance to identify and rescue victims. Border Force are vital in ensuring that there is no easy route into NI and the UK wide for traffickers.
Border Force has been a key component in the response to human trafficking and are trained in recognising potential victims and traffickers. No More Traffik has enjoyed working with Border Agency UK at Belfast International Airport and is encouraged by the team’s response to trafficking there.
The Blue Campaign in America have released a number of stories of how they have helped to recover victims being transported across borders for the purpose of human exploitation. These stories demonstrate the significance of these authorities being present at a rare moment of vulnerability for traffickers: when travelling.
Maria, Rosa and Alicia
Three victims: Maria, Rosa and Alicia, along with 10 potential victims were recovered from a sex trafficking ring that operated across Georgia, Florida and North and South Carolina.
Maria, Rosa and Alicia originated from Mexico where they were enticed to travel to the US. They were told about the wonderful life they would have in the US and were persuaded by the promises of the American Dream. Excited about the opportunity to make a wealthy future for themselves they went with the men.
Once in America, all contact with their families were cut off. On the first night they were taken into a room and threatened and coerced into selling their bodies to customers. Maria, Rosa and Alicia were then split up and felt alone and lost. They were routinely coerced into sex acts throughout the South East for many paying customers every day.
Being alone in a foreign country without any outside ties under the exploitative hand of her trafficker, Rosa felt alone and resigned to her fate.
Alicia was routinely beaten by her trafficker, she lived in constant fear of the beatings that she received daily.
The trafficking ring took Maria’s children hostage in Mexico to ensure her compliance. Maria worked harder and complied to the traffickers’ every wish in the hopes of protecting her children.
Finally an investigation was started against the trafficking ring called “Operation Dark Night”. It was a coordinated effort of many authorities, one of which was the US Customs and Border Protection. This investigation ultimately resulted in Maria, Rosa, Alicia and 10 others being recovered and their freedom returned. Border Force, as well as assisting in their rescue, had a very important role in preventing the same kind of abuses occurring by monitoring the border.
A trafficker, Sunbola, living in Georgia, USA, travelled home to Nigeria in 2001 to entice a 17 year old girl called Bere back to the US to work as her nanny. She promised her a life more luxurious than the one she had. However, once working for her, Sunbola abused Bere – beating her for not cleaning as well as she wished, not responding fast enough to the crying baby and for talking back.
Luckily one day a friend of Sunbola’s, Helen, witnessed the abuse and helped her escape. In response Sunbola was not deterred and simply returned to Nigeria to lure a new victim, Jamabo, who was exposed to the same abuse. Eventually Jamabo managed to escape as well.
The case was then taken up by the authorities. However, it was complicated due to the fact that Sunbola escaped the country during the investigation. Sunbola was confronted when found and arrested at Houston airport by Border Force whilst attempting to re-enter the country. Sunbola was prosecuted and convicted on eight counts.
If it had not been for border force, Sunbola would have escaped conviction. Border force has an important role to play in restricting the movement of traffickers.
Border Force Across the World
Human traffickers have been reported to have targeted Nepalese villages, with some 15,000 girls being estimated to be trafficked each year. With displacement camps being set up after the earthquake, vulnerable and exposed individuals were targeted, specifically young women and girls, to be exploited on the Asian sex trade.
When four children were taken by traffickers for the purpose of being traded and exploited, the Indian Armed Border Force from Raxaul, an Indian-Napal border town successfully found and brought them to safety.
Many of other girls who are trafficked end up in the Gulf State and South Asia exploited in the sex trade. This is an example of how Border Force can rescue victims from a life of hardship and exploitation. They have a very important and unique role in the fight against trafficking. They are the first and last line of defence in each country against traffickers.
Thus, Border Force has an essential role to play in combatting human trafficking. These stories demonstrate the important role they are doing. We hope to see even more awareness amongst airline and airport staff, as well as port and transport staff, as we strengthen our response.