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SMITH CHAIRS HEARING ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN A TROUBLED ECONOMY

Chairman Smith speaks with Julia Ormond about efforts to combat labor trafficking.

WASHINGTON —“Labor Trafficking in Troubled Economic Times: Protecting American Jobs and Migrant Human Rights” was the title of a hearing held this Monday by Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-04) that focused on illegal and unethical business practices that may favor migrant labor over domestic labor and contribute to human trafficking and forced labor.

British actress Julia Ormond, a longtime advocate against trafficking, lent her voice to the cause, joining officials from the U.S. State Department and Labor Department to testify before the commission.

“Today our attention turns to labor trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery exacerbated by the global economic downturn, said Smith, author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).  “As with all forms of trafficking, we must never lose sight of the victim – the truly human face of people caught up unwittingly in this multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening statement.

Smith, who is the co-chairman of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, said human trafficking was modern day slavery. Ormond, well known for her performances opposite such co-stars as Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford, is also widely known for her work on trafficking and founding the non-profit foundation on human trafficking called Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET).

“What keeps me up at night – what haunts me – are the victim’s stories,” Ormond said. “I will never forget the story of the girl who crawled out of an eight floor window for fear of her life in sex slavery. But I can equally never forget the child enslaved in the fishing industry who jumped ship into the Thai sea to float on a barrel for two days and a night before being rescued because that was his safest option, or the child who was chained, whipped and scarred for life while maybe working on our carpets.” Click here to read Ormond’s statement.

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission estimates on the total number of trafficking victims in the world start at 12.5 million and might be as high as 27 million.

“The victims are fishermen trapped on boats, their passports confiscated, forced to work twenty-hour days,” CdeBaca said. “They are women drawn away from their homes with the promise of good work, only to find themselves trapped as domestic servants with no pay and no way to escape.  They are men brought overseas by unscrupulous recruiters who put them to work in fields and factories and force them to pay back the recruiters’ fees.” Click here to read the ambassador’s testimony.

Also testifying were Gabriela Lemus, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Labor and Representative to the Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons; Nancy A. Donaldson, Washington Director, International Labor Organization; and Neha Misra, J.D., Senior Specialist Migration and Human Trafficking, Solidarity Center. 

To access the hearing video, please click here.

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