Live Talk Transcript: Slavery in Our Times

In her Turning Point essay this week, Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson writes that human trafficking is a problem not just for other communities or other people. It exists on our own doorstep, and our lack of action shames us all. Thompson now works with the Helen Bamber Foundation, a U.K. charity that helps abuse victims.

Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN: Dr Michael Korzinski and Lucy Kralj are pleased to take part in this webchat today. Please feel free to visit us on our website at www.helenbamber.org after the chat today.

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Seattle, WA: What country is the biggest provider of human trafficking? And what country is the biggest recipient?
Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN:
Globally, it is estimate that 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across borders annually. This is a combination of trafficking for the purposes of labour and sexual exploitation. Women from Eastern Europe, and other former Soviet Bloc countries, Albania, Bulgaria, SE Asia, Thailand, and West Africa are known to be trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation. It has been documented in regions where there is a high degree of civil unrest or other forms of conflict are prime targets for traffickers. Destination countries include the United States and Western European countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

An estimated 500,000 women and girls are trafficked each year into Western Europe alone. . However it is difficult to verify these numbers. Obviously these are only the statistics of women that are identified. There are many others who remain in captivity, disappeared and unaccounted for.

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El Paso, Tx: Where do the women sold into slavery come from, and how do they wind up getting caught in the system?
Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN:
Many of the women with whom we are working have been identified during police raids on the brothels in which they are forced to work. The women are often themselves arrested and imprisoned for immigration offences (i.e. working without valid VISA despite having been trafficked in to the country). They are then referred either from within jails or on termination of their sentence.

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Hot Springs, Ark: why is just the u.s. helping? isnt this the U.N.'s reponsibility? where are they???
Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN:
The UN Global initiative to fight people trafficking was recently launched at the Vienna Forum highlighting the paucity of action internationally. The initiative aims to mobilize state and non-state actors to eradicate human trafficking by: 1)reducing both vulnerability of potential victims and the demand for exploitation in all forms; 2) ensuring adequate protection and support to those who do fall victim and 3) supporting the efficient prosecution of criminals involved whilst respecting the fundamental human rights of all persons. There are numerous country specific initiatives and pan-European initiatives also for example Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking Human Beings. This sets out a range of measures to tackle the crime of people trafficking. It is the first international treaty setting out minimum standards for the protection and support of victims. Although the UK has signed the convention it has yet to ratify.

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Jackee Hodges, Bountiful UT:  What can I get my kids' classes (they're in junior high) to do to help? This would make a good class project I think, and help teach them that the world is full on injustice and that they should try to help.
Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN:
This is a fantastic question, thank you. It is essential to raise awareness across the generations. When young people came through Journey installation , they were generally inspired to take action and were horrified by the cruelties injustices to which these women are routinely subjected by both traffickers and state agents in the form of government policy. One class took the initiative to create their own play, performed in their school based upon what they had learned in Journey. Another group raised money for the clinical programmes at the Helen Bamber Foundation. Many young people and their teachers fed back that they would be implementing modules on human trafficking within school curriculums. All people, particularly children and young people began to speak to friends, family, teachers, church groups, police and community institutions about action that could be taken. People were inspired and compelled to speak to anyone who would listen, and even to those who would not. Please contact us for more information

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Hannah Barol, NY:  Hasn't this been a problem throughout human history? So -- not to be cynical -- but what should we think we can stop it, now or ever?
Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN:
Yes, slavery has been a problem for as long as history can account. This does not mean that we should roll over in defeat and do nothing to counter this horrific problem. Wilberforce succeeded in the abolition of the slave trade after many generations of more subtle campaigning. We have an obligation to take action and the existence of the slave trade throughout history does not legitimize its perpetuation. All things excellent are difficult as they are rare (Korzinski, 2008)

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Washington, D.C.: Why is it so hard to get convictions of the human traffickers?
Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN:
Traffickers are generally part of highly sophisticated criminal networks operating on national and international levels. Women in captivity have been profoundly traumatized, terrorized, and terrified throughout experiences every bit as sophisticated as those endured by survivors of state sponsored torture. The women are forced into submission with the perennial threat that should they escape or give evidence they or their loved ones will be subjected to retribution or death. The nature of the trauma also has an impact on memory and recall which often renders the gathering of evidence extremely complex and in need of extremely sensitive and expert handling. Furthermore, ,the women live with such acute shame about their experiences that giving testimony can tretraumatise. This is why the care and protection of the women MUST come first, if we are ever to hope to gather evidence required to identify and bring down the criminal networks.

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Des Moines Iowa: i appreciate what emma thompson is trying to do, but how much good, really, are celebrity activists? does she wonder about that?
Michael Korzinski, PhD and Lucy Kralj, RGN:
Good point. However, the installation Journey was only made possible through the creativity and collaboration between |Emma and a client of the Helen Bamber Foundation. Elena had exited the trafficking situation and was working as a legal secretary. No one in the office new that she had been trafficked. One day the women in the office were speaking about trafficked women as whores and prostitutes. Elena felt as if she had been raped again. She stood there in silence. What she wanted more than anything was for these women to know for just 5 minutes what the experience of being trafficked was really like. Maybe then she thought they would not be so cruel. The people out there need to know that we are human beings and not animals. Emma was able to translate one woman's story representative of countless others into an experience which speaks to thousands.

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Arlyn Tobias Gajilan: On behalf of NEWSWEEK, I'd like to thank Michael Korzinski and Lucy Kralj of the Helen Bamber Foundation for joining us today. We hope you'll join us for a future Live Talk.

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