Visit to the U.S.: United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons

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During December 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (SRT), Ms. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, visited four U.S. cities to meet with government and local officials, civil society and grassroots organizations. These meetings addressed the successful progress and challenges towards developing responses to human trafficking in the U.S. From these visits, the SRT is developing an in-depth report regarding U.S. practices against human trafficking. Freedom Network USA represented a strong attendance of members assisting with coordinating and moderating the SRT’s visits to Washington, D.C. and New York City. Within these meetings, Freedom Network USA members voiced concerns regarding human trafficking in the U.S., which were received with encouragement and acknowledgement from the SRT.

“This was an important opportunity to discuss the challenges the U.S. faces in comprehensively addressing human trafficking,“ said Freedom Network USA Executive Director Jean Bruggeman. “Freedom Network USA was honored to be asked to coordinate the meeting in D.C., as well as have a hand in other meetings around the country.”

In the D.C. meeting on December 6, discussion focused on several points of concern including the lack of comprehensive strategy in addressing labor trafficking, decriminalizing sex work and funding for services and support for survivors of human trafficking. During the meeting, each attendee presented points to the SRT within a four-minute period. From there, discussions expanded to include trafficking and immigration policies and criminalization of youths in the sex industry.

On December 9 and 10, the SRT held meetings in New York City. City Bar Justice Center and Freedom Network USA member Suzanne Tomatore assisted in coordinating this meeting with trafficking and human rights advocates, lawyers and sex workers. “Highlights of the meeting included a robust discussion of inequities in the criminal justice system,” said Tomatore. “It addressed reform that is needed to ensure that people are not treated differently based on their race, gender identity, or state, city or neighborhood they live or work in.”

Following her meetings in New York City and D.C., the SRT traveled to San Francisco, Houston and back to D.C. for a final press conference to report on her trip held today. During today’s press conference, Giammarinaro called for efforts to address the imbalance in attention to labor and sex trafficking, increase the commitment to prevention and to expand access to services for survivors. Her recommendations include increasing enforcement in industries with high likelihood of labor exploitation, protecting immigrants rights, and ending the practice of criminalizing and arresting sex workers. Bruggeman explains it is encouraging to hear that the SRT understood and acknowledged the concerns presented by Freedom Network USA. Based on these recommendations it is clear that these discussions and meetings have provided helpful insight for the SRT’s upcoming thematic report.

To learn more about developments on this topic, visit the US Human Rights Network and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Also, follow Freedom Network USA on Twitter and Facebook.