HASTINGS AND MCINTYRE ADDRESS GLOBAL LABOR TRAFFICKING CRISIS
U.S. Helsinki Commission Holds Hearing on U.S. and OSCE Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking for Forced Labor Purposes
(Washington, DC) Earlier today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) held a hearing entitled, “Combating Trafficking for Forced Labor Purposes in the OSCE Region.” Hastings was joined by Helsinki Commissioner Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC) in examining the scope and efficacy of the United States’ and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) efforts to combat trafficking for forced labor purposes, assessing the effectiveness of legal anti-trafficking tools to combat forced labor in selected member OSCE States as well as the adequacy of resources dedicated to identifying victims of trafficking for forced labor as compared with those directed at sexual trafficking.
During the hearing, Hastings and McIntyre highlighted their concern over the exploitation of any individual for forced labor purposes, while also noting that progress has been made in anti-trafficking efforts, not having accurate data available has stymied efforts to accurately portray the real scope of the problem. Furthermore, Hastings shared with attendees his experiences as a child of being a farm worker in South Central Florida and the hardships he faced at a very young age.
The hearing witnesses included, The Honorable Mark Lagon, U.S. Department of State Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State; Ms. Charlotte M. Ponticelli, Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor; Mr. Michael E. Feinberg, Acting Director for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Office of International Affairs (OIA), under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Ms. Eva Biaudet, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings; Mr. Roger Plant, Head, Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, International Labor Organisation; and Mr. Kevin Bales, President, Free the Slaves.
Congressman Hastings stressed, “Trafficking in persons for forced labor purposes is less understood than trafficking for sexual exploitation because it has largely remained a hidden form of exploitation. However, it is no less serious. Although the U.S., like many other OSCE states, continues to be challenged by limitations in the systems utilized for data gathering in human trafficking cases, we have seen progress in our anti-trafficking efforts. There is a growing consensus that more needs to be done to understand the scope and challenge of humans trafficked for forced servitude.
“Today’s hearing reminded me of my time working at a young age in the fields of South Central Florida and the hardships that I and others encountered. This is a sobering reminder that millions of people worldwide are exploited daily by terrible individuals. More must be done to raise awareness and combat this ever present crisis.”
Congressman McIntyre noted, “Forced labor for any purpose is not only morally wrong, but also should not be tolerated. We have a global crisis on our hands and the exploitation of innocent individuals who are physically or psychologically abused for the purpose of generating millions of dollars in illicit financial profits is absolutely despicable. And while the United States and OSCE have continued to work tirelessly to combat this terrible problem, more needs to be done to understand the scope and challenges of humans trafficked for forced labor purposes.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.