Editor’s note: This blog post was written by Benjamin Skinner, a longtime friend of Free the Slaves who won the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace prize for his book A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. To learn more about Mr. Skinner’s work as an investigative journalist and abolitionist, check out his website here.
Sex Slaves-UK, which premiered this past Sunday, May 22, at 9pm EST, documents the efforts of the British police to root out sex trafficking networks. Human bondage is a problem as old as recorded history, and England is where the organized fight against it began.
There, in the late eighteenth century, the first international human rights movement took shape when Wilberforce, Clarkson, Equiano and others pressed to abolish the slave trade, an effort magisterially portrayed in Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains. Those vanguard abolitionists inspired their brothers and sisters across the pond, including Douglass, Garrison, Truth, and Tubman. That American struggle culminated in the Civil War—the sesquicentennial of which we mark this spring—the Thirteenth Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Not to be outdone, in the late nineteenth century, British journalists reclaimed the abolitionist mantle by first crusading against sex slavery in urban England, then by uncovering the extent of Belgium’s slave empire in the Congo Free State. E.D. Morel, who conducted the Congo investigations, triggered the third abolitionist movement, also magnificently described by Hochschild in King Leopold’s Ghost.
Now, at the start of what Kevin Bales—President of Free The Slaves, the American wing of Wilberforce and Clarkson’s organization—has dubbed The Fourth and Final Abolitionist Movement. Britons are once again trying to slay the 5,000-year-old snake. As I explain in The Huffington Post, the modern British effort is a far cry from its eighteenth century forebears, but it certainly makes for engrossing television. Sex Slaves-UK is worth a watch.
(post script: As long as I’m given the opportunity to gratuitously plug Hochschild, his latest, To End All Wars, out this month, is typically brilliant.)
Last year, Ben Skinner was featured on CNN’s Larry King Live, along with Dan Rather, Mira Sorvino and Julia Ormond. The topic was modern-day slavery. Watch a clip here.
- StoptheTraffik: Children found enslaved on Worcester, U.K. farm: “Following a police raid on a farm in Worcestershire last week, 7 Romanian children between the ages of 9 and 15 were found picking spring onions. These children were working daily from 7.30am until dusk, without food or water, in freezing weather dressed only in thin summer clothing.“…It’s much too early for the authorities to start back-patting one another though.There have been several occasions in the past where trafficked children, forced to beg and steal on the streets, have been ‘rescued’, reunited with parents, only to find themselves returned to slave labor shortly afterwards – trapped in a vicious cycle. Why? Because some parents may be complicit in the trafficking operation.”
- Miami Herald: Exclusive investigation: Guards cash in on smuggling Haitian children: “It took the young smuggler less than five minutes to ferry the children into the Dominican Republic, an easy, well-timed and completely illegal maneuver that repeats again and again on what is supposed to be the most surveilled border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.’It’s a game,’ said Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, readily acknowledging to The Herald that smuggling is an economic driver between both countries. ‘A lot of people are trafficking. They make money. Everyone along the frontier is benefiting. It’s the sole source of revenues. And everyone accepts it like that.’”
- AP: US official: Trafficking victims subject to detention and deportation: “growing numbers of countries are guilty of unfairly treating victims of human trafficking by detaining and deporting them at the first opportunity. Luis CdeBaca is Washington’s envoy on human trafficking issues. He says that while countries are increasingly signing on to conventions targeting human traffickers, the victims are subject to unfair treatment. Anti-trafficking activist Marika van Doorninck says that countries often use anti-trafficking policies to develop anti-migration laws.”
- Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greece’s Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas’ speech at yesterday’s “EU Policy and the National Action Plan for Combating Human Trafficking” conference:
“Today’s meeting is timely because in 6 days, on 18 October, countries will be marking EU Anti-Trafficking Day. Decades after the abolition of slavery, we are faced with modern-day, globalized human trafficking… Our country’s goal is to be among the leading players in the international campaign for confronting modern forms of slavery. Our goal is not simply to meet our commitments under the new European legislation and international conventions. Our goal is to be a frontrunner and—why not?—a model.”
- Women’s Radio: In Syria, Iraqi Refugee Daughters Risk Being Sold:
“Um Ali is scared. She says male relatives want to kill her and sell her daughters into marriages that are really sex-trafficking arrangements that put young women to work in brothels overseas.
She lives in hiding and relocates often. Her pulse accelerates every time an international text message pops into her cell phone.
“The world is small,” wrote her brother in a recent threat.
Um Ali is one of over a million refugees who have sought shelter in Syria since U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003. She left with her husband and children during a wave of militia violence against Iraqis working–”collaborating”–with Americans in 2006.”
- Croydon Guardian, U.K.: Blood Money: Sex advert newspapers face prosecution:
“Editors and publishers are likely to find themselves in front of a judge if they refuse to stop running sex ads which are later found to be linked to human trafficking.
Leading the initiative is vice squad Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, working with the Crown Prosecution Service.
He said police were willing to charge editors and publishers with aiding and abetting sex trafficking and money laundering.”