Smart practices that enhance resilience of migrants, Summary Report - June 2016

Smart practices that enhance resilience of migrants, Summary Report - June 2016

The first findings of the Smart Practices that Enhance the Resilience of Migrants Report commissioned by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reveal that migrants’ resilience to potential risks and shocks is a key factor in shaping their life outcomes.

“People who migrate can make a hugely positive contribution, socially, culturally, economically, when they settle in their new homes. The extent to which people will thrive in their new homes is determined by key factors such as their access to essential services along their journey, family and community links, and education and job opportunities in their new homes,” said Mr Garry Conille, IFRC Under-Secretary General for Programme and Operations.

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A Call to Action from Darfur Women Action Group

A Call to Action from Darfur Women Action Group

Thirteen years into Darfur’s catastrophe, civilian casualties increase each day while the world remains silent. Violence, rape, arrest and torture have devastated the lives of the innocent civilians in Darfur. Countless men, women, and children lose their lives while the living endure unimaginable suffering and have nowhere to turn. 

In spite of the alarming rate at which the violence continues to be perpetrated, world leaders have faced the situation in Darfur with silence. Those who have spoken up have not moved beyond words of condemnation. 2015 was a very difficult year for our people in Darfur and we were hopeful that 2016 might be different. Unfortunately, attacks continue at an alarming rate and the international community is, once again, failing Darfur.

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Fighting Colorado's Quietly-Booming Human Trafficking Trade

Story by Cassie Schoon, Volunteer, Denver, Colorado

Picturesque, rugged Jefferson County is known for many things, like cutting-edge science education at the Colorado School of Mines, the iconic Coors Brewing Company and charming, tucked-away mountain towns like Evergreen and Genesee. But Denver County's western neighbor is also home to a sinister and surprising distinction: the county serves as a regional hub for underage sex trafficking. Although Kristen Harness first became interested in advocating for victims of sexual exploitation on a mission trip to the Red Light District of Pattaya, Thailand, she came home to Colorado to find that the presence of an underage sex trade was not a problem unique to Southeast Asia's developing economies.

“Like a lot of people, the first place I was exposed to trafficking was overseas, I didn't even realize that it was happening here, at the same time, in the US, specifically in Colorado,” she said. “Over the years, I realized, I don't have to move to India or Thailand [to fight trafficking], there's a plenty of work to be done here in Colorado. Denver is ranked no. 4 out of the top six cities in the United States in terms of the revenue that sex traffickers bring in annually.”

Upon her return to the US, Harness worked with several local non-profits and missions with a goal of preventing trafficking and helping the victims of forced sex work. She eventually established her own organization, Extended Hands of Hope, to resettle young women who were trafficked. The organization offers resources like a state-licensed shelter, medical support and mental health services to teenage girls leaving the sex trade.

According to Harness, victims of sex trafficking are too often placed in either the juvenile detention center or the foster care system, neither of which are well-equipped to address the needs of this vulnerable population.

“Our main focus is immediate housing, as an alternative to jail or detention centers, then addressing those mental health issues,” she said. “70 to 90 percent of these children come from a history of sexual or violent abuse, so on top of the abuse they've experienced with trafficking, you can imagine the severity of their trauma.”

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, is the second-fastest growing form of criminal activity in the US, with the illegal drug trade taking the top spot. An estimated 105,000 American children are exploited through prostitution or pornography each year and most children who enter the sex trade do so between the ages of 11 and 13. Due to its location at the junction of I-70 and I-25, the Denver Metro region is particularly well-situated as a “source state,” from which young people are taken and transported across state lines for prostitution and exploitation purposes. About 60 high-risk juveniles have been identified in Jefferson County alone, a majority of them children who were born and raised in the region.

According to Harness, the biggest obstacles in fighting human trafficking are a combination of ignorance of what constitutes trafficking, and the stigma culturally associated with sex workers.

“We like to point fingers at the quote-unquote prostitutes, instead of asking, why is that 15-year-old girl selling her body,” Harness said. “A lot of people believe these women want to [engage in sex trade], and they don't know, or they don't care, or they want to hear, that somebody is actually behind the scenes, controlling her actions. She may look on the outside like she wants to, but it's because she knows what's going to happen to her if she doesn't.

“Mostly, I want to make people aware that this is happening. I want to say, hey, did you know this is going on? Did you know that Jefferson County has some of the highest [numbers of] cases? My goal has always been raising that awareness,” she said.

Harness offers suggestions for those who want to join in the fight against trafficking, including knowing what to watch for, how to report activity, and how to become involved with organizations like hers who support Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims in the area. In addition to services provided by organizations like Extended Hands of Hope, trafficked individuals can also take advantage of services offered by the Red Cross to all displaced persons, including Restoring Family Links and, in cases of international trafficking, the protection of applicable International Humanitarian Laws.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement focuses on assisting people made vulnerable by migration, and human trafficking and exploitation in particular, whatever their legal status. The commitment includes not only material help, but also advocacy to combat discrimination against migrants and promote respect for human dignity. To find out more about these efforts, click here.

For more stories from the American Red Cross Colorado Region, please click here.

Humanitarian Action across Borders: Part 2

Part 2 of the Restoring Family Links Blog's coverage of last week's migration conference, Humanitarian Action across Borders: Migration in the Americas, focuses on two of the panels, Critical Advocacy Issues in Migration; and Challenges and Alternatives to Detention.

The first panel highlights the advocacy work of organizations and individuals to ensure that migrants receive the protections to which they are entitled; and to promote policy that better meets the needs of migrant populations. The panel includes Meredith Linsky from the American Bar Association, Aryah Somers from Kids in Needs of Defense, Ashley Feasley from US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Wendy Cervantes from First Focus.

The second panel, Challenges and Alternatives to Detention, highlighted the work of the government to enforce immigration policy while simultaneously ensuring the rights of migrants and their access to services to which they are entitled. The panel also included two representatives from organizations working to better detention practices and promote alternatives to detention, especially for vulnerable migrants such as women and families. Panelists include Jennifer Podkul from Women's Refugee Committee, George M. Talton from US Customs and Border Patrol, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait from US Customs and Immigration Enforcement, and Joanne Lin from the American Civil Liberties Union.