Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
October 28, 2008
Developing a Consensus on Aftercare Services for Victims of Human Trafficking
The U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) sponsored a symposium of experienced victim service providers to discuss how best to protect and assist victims of human trafficking after they are identified and rescued. This group of experts represented ten organizations recognized for quality victim care. The product of this collaboration will be the report, Developing a Consensus on Aftercare Services for Victims of Human Trafficking, to be posted on the G/TIP website later this year. A summary of the report’s findings is outlined below.
Shelter Safety Measures
Safety is the first priority of aftercare programs. Safety involves physical security measures and a thorough understanding of—and commitment to—safety measures from all shelter staff and clients. Centro Integral de Atencion a las Mujeres, CIAM CANCUN A.C. (CIAM CANCUN) provides safe shelter to female victims of trafficking in Mexico. The shelter’s safety measures include: 24 hour-a-day staff; HiFi technology; bulletproof windows; entrance safety measures; and a professionally trained team of female security guards. Visitors are not allowed at the shelter; victims are accompanied by a security team in a safe vehicle to meet with guests at a visiting home. CIAM CANCUN produced an orientation videotape, which introduces victims to all aspects of the shelter and highlights the importance of maintaining shelter security. It is shown to all new clients prior to entering the shelter.
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) provides physically and psychologically safe housing to trafficking victims in the United States. The shelter also serves as a drop-in center, where all CAST clients can receive legal assistance, attend life skills workshops, and participate in therapeutic activities. CAST emphasizes personal safety and shelter security with all clients and staff members. The CAST Social Services Manual: A Guidebook to Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking in Los Angeles provides comprehensive guidelines on all areas of victim assistance, and includes forms for safety screening, a safety protocol, and a no-harm contract for clients.
Program Policies and Procedures
Victim, staff, and community safety are at the core of all elements of aftercare services. To mitigate potential safety risks, staff members must have a clear understanding of the program’s rules, roles and regulations before providing services to victims of human trafficking. Comprehensive policies and procedures for secure facilities that assist female victims of human trafficking are included in Guidelines for the Operation of Care Facilities for Victims of Trafficking and Violence Against Women and Girls. Developed by Planete Enfants, this manual is intended to build capacity in shelter facilities through the establishment of policies, guidelines, training, personnel and material requirements.
Legal and Victim Services Case Planning
A case plan is an informed strategy that directs a victim’s course of assistance and is an integral component used to evaluate a victim’s progress. The International Justice Mission (IJM) assists victims of slavery and sex trafficking in Asia, Africa, Latin America and South America, working within each
country’s legal system to facilitate victim rescue, prosecute perpetrators, and provide aftercare services to victims. IJM’s work with victims requires thorough, accurate documentation. Each victim has two case plans: a legal case plan and a victim services case plan. IJM has found that obtaining a victim’s legal documentation is a critical component of each victim’s case plan. Often, traffickers take victims’ legal documents to make them more defenseless and afraid of justice officials. Restoring those legal documents is an important step in victim safety, rehabilitation, and future reintegration.
Psychological First Aid
Victims of human trafficking undergo profound, and often prolonged, traumatic events at the hands of others. They often experience overwhelming psychological effects as a direct consequence of trafficking incidents. Psychological first aid (PFA), also referred to as “crisis intervention,” is the process of helping people who have experienced a sudden, disturbing or shocking event cope with emotional distress. PFA can be administered by trained professionals or laypersons.
Trauma-informed Treatment for Young Victims
Trafficking may not be the first time that a victim has experienced violence or exploitation. Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) provides aftercare services to young women (ages 12-21) who have been internally trafficked or sexually exploited in the United States. When GEMS first began providing services, it became apparent that the victims had been sexually or physically abused prior to becoming victims of trafficking or sexual exploitation. The prior victimization made the young women more susceptible to recruitment into the sex industry; victims often left home to escape abuse only to undergo worse abuse on the streets. GEMS’ services help victims think critically about the local, national, and international social forces (such as poverty, race, gender, class, prior victimization) that create a “perfect storm” of risk factors for trafficking. Victims’ practical and physical needs are met first, which builds a foundation of trust so victims can then successfully receive holistic, strengths-based and trauma-informed treatment. GEMS partners with allied professionals in the community to provide comprehensive services that address victims’ needs—including those that stem from prior victimization.
Comprehensive Medical Care
Some trafficking victims develop medical issues as a direct result of trafficking. Victims of labor trafficking may develop chronic physical illnesses and disabilities. Victims of sex trafficking have a greatly increased risk of contracting infections and diseases. Depending on the type and severity of the medical issue, a victim may not be able to address psychological issues until his/her medical needs have been addressed. The Indian-based NGO, Prajwala, performs rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration, and community-based prevention programs for adult and child victims of sex trafficking in India. Trained caretakers offer appropriate care and support for victims with HIV/AIDS, including providing antiretroviral drugs, treating opportunistic infections and providing psychosocial support. HIV-positive victims are also fed a special diet to meet their nutritional needs.
Mentoring (also referred to as “peer support” or a “buddy system”) within the context of case planning can act as a transformational relationship, in which positive role models create a compassionate catalyst for change. When those positive role models are victims of trafficking who are successfully rebuilding their lives, the catalyst for change can extend beyond other victims to the entire community or nation. World Vision is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to helping children, families and communities reach their full potential by tackling poverty and injustice, including labor and sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. World Vision works collaboratively with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in Laos on the Voices of Victims Network, which trains former victims of trafficking to mentor potential migrants on safe migration. The network extends from village committees to schools to migration hubs in Laos and Thailand. The project also trains and mentors Lao government workers at local, provincial and national levels to support anti-trafficking measures.
“Soft Skills” Training
For victims to successfully reintegrate into any community, they must possess basic life and work skills that will increase their ability to thrive independently, which in turn decreases their risk of re-trafficking. Hagar International (Hagar) provides physical, psychological, and social support in secure residential facilities to women and children who have been trafficked in Cambodia. Hagar’s Career Pathways Program offers “soft skills” training for the first three months, where victims receive guidance on successfully entering a work environment (including self motivation, work ethics, developing competency, interview preparation, career counseling, and literacy training). During this time, victims also visit local businesses so they can choose a vocation. Victims then go through the Career Pathways Program’s “hard skills training,” six-month courses during which victims choose to specialize in hair and beauty, sewing or cooking. Apprenticeship opportunities are facilitated for students completing the course so they can receive further “on the job” training to increase their skill levels and confidence.
One of the largest risk factors of human trafficking is poverty. Traffickers often conscript victims by promising to provide honest work and a decent living. Often, victims reintegrate into a community where the same poverty factors that led to trafficking still exist. Micro-credit programs extend small loans or other financial services (such as savings accounts, training, networking, and peer support) from cooperative groups, not moneylenders. Loans are made to help impoverished people get training or start self-employment projects that generate income, enabling them to care for themselves and their families. Free the Slaves (FTS) is an international organization that partners with local aftercare service providers to meet the needs of victims of labor and sex trafficking. FTS’s comprehensive document Rebuilding Lives: An Introduction to Promising Practices in the Rehabilitation of Freed Slaves offers guidelines for aftercare services and reintegration, including information about providing micro-credit loans.
Victims of trafficking have many needs that cross a variety of specialties, from safe shelter to medical, legal, and psychological assistance. Interagency cooperation and collaboration (with NGOs, International Organizations, and/or governmental agencies) are imperative to meet these diverse needs, and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) among all parties can formalize cooperative agreements and outline expectations of each party. Caritas Lebanon-Migrants Center (Caritas) and the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) provide safe shelter and aftercare services to trafficking victims in Lebanon. They entered into a cooperative relationship with the General Directorate of the General Security, which has authority over foreigners’ legal status in Lebanon, to access and screen detainees for trafficking victimization. The General Directorate provides security to the shelter and pursues criminal justice action against traffickers; Caritas and ICMC provide safe shelter, victim assistance, and help with repatriation. Each party formalized its role and commitment to cooperation in an MOU.
Comprehensive Repatriation Services
In coordination with partners worldwide, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides a range of repatriation services such as conducting a needs assessment, securing travel documents, making travel arrangements, and accompanying minors while in transit. For example, IOM manages a Global Assistance Fund (GAF) that provides repatriation services on a case-by-case basis to stranded trafficked persons who cannot be assisted through other means.
Guidelines for Safe Return
Informed and prepared reception services can be essential to a victim’s safety. Some organized trafficking rings know when and how victims will return and intercept victims before they can reach safe shelter. The IOM Mission to the Kyrgyz Republic operates two shelters for victims of trafficking, which provide psychological, legal and medical aid and assistance with return and repatriation. Safe return is a main goal of staff members, who meet, accompany, and transport a victim upon return. The Manual on Care, Rehabilitation, Recovery and Reintegration of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings for the Kyrgyz Republic provides an overview of return, rehabilitation, and reintegration services offered in the Kyrgyz Republic. It also includes helpful annexes with sample guidelines, rules, and written agreements for shelter residents and staff. The Kyrgyz manual is based on The IOM Handbook on Direct Assistance for Victims of Trafficking, which provides in-depth information about reception services and associated considerations.
Comprehensive Guidelines for Reintegration
Reintegration is the ultimate goal of aftercare services and indicates that the victim possesses the tools necessary to live a safe, sustainable life free from trafficking or exploitation. Free the Slaves (FTS), while working with boys who were trafficked internally in India into the rug industry, realized that just as it was important to prepare the victim for reintegration into the community, it was important to prepare the community for the victim’s reintegration. If a victim repatriates to his home community, FTS assesses the victim’s family’s economic situation and safety risk factors (such as violence, substance abuse, and the family’s role in trafficking). FTS works with the community to prevent potential stigma being placed on the victim; to help victims return with skills and resources that will help the entire community; and to empower communities to claim their governmental rights to schools, clinics, jobs, and road building. Many villages in India have created vigilance committees that watch for traffickers, record missing children, and keep in touch with government officials and NGOs. Rebuilding Lives: An Introduction to Promising Practices in the Rehabilitation of Freed Slaves offers comprehensive guidelines for reintegration.
Survivor Advisory Caucus
Aftercare programs help victims of trafficking rebuild their lives. Likewise, victims of trafficking can help aftercare programs expand and improve their influence and standing in the community. Victims have diverse personal experiences with different forms of trafficking and exploitation, and can best speak to what their unique needs are and how they can be met. The Los-Angeles based NGO Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) provides physically and psychologically safe housing to trafficking victims in the United States. CAST realized that to become most effective in its outreach, education and policy efforts, victims had to be an integral part of the process. In 2004, CAST created the first of-its-kind Survivor Advisory Caucus to ensure that public policy efforts are victim-centered and to provide an opportunity for victims’ voices to be heard. The Survivor Advisory Caucus is a leadership development program whose members speak publicly to raise awareness on important policy issues impacting victims. Caucus members have testified at California state legislative hearings advocating for statutory victim protections, and have appeared in radio and television public service announcements. The New-York based NGO GEMS has also integrated the testimony of victims in all its public policy outreach efforts. Survivor activism through GEMS helped secure passage by the New York State legislature this year of a major piece of legislation to protect minor victims of sex trafficking.