Monday, August 15, 2016

Ambassador to Human Trafficking and NGO's

Ambassador Coppedge with NGO leaders from Taiwan.
Ambassador Coppedge during round table discussion.
When I visited Thailand in Feb, I got to see the issue of trafficking first hand.  I sat in a group of American women and was taught about the reasons and how people are trying to make a difference.  We had a few survivors amongst us - women in our group who had been sold and bought.  Women struggling through the survival phase of this nightmare.  I got to visit safe houses and meet the girls who made the choice to leave the bondage.  I held their hands, hugged them and prayed with them.  Then I went to one of the bars and saw them women, literally locked behind glass, until a man came in to purchase their bodies.  On this trip I met the people on the front lines and the people needing a savior.  But what else is going on beyond the NGO's (Non-Government Organizations  These are non-profit organizations that work mainly with volunteer staff. ) to help these women?

While filling in for a different position at work, I helped with some arrangements for Ambassador Coppedge's visit to Taiwan.  Typically, I glance at the names of the Congressmen or officials coming and dive into the preparations for the visit.  This time "Ambassador for Human Trafficking" jumped off the paper at me.  I had no idea there was such a position.  I began to wonder what she does and what the worldwide benefit is.  I knew I had a busy few weeks still ahead with little wiggle room at work, but this issue is important to me.  Ambassador Coppedge's visit was to open up discussion with Taiwan leaders and NGO's regarding the issue of trafficking here in Taiwan.    The TIP Report had just been released.  To catch-up on the importance of the TIP Report, you can read my last blog post here. What an opportunity to learn more.  I found two talks that peeked my interest and fit my schedule.  One was a brown bag lunch at AIT geared towards young interns or new officers who will be running across this issue in their future careers.  The other was a NGO roundtable discussion, co-hosted by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation.

First, a little background on Ambassador Coopedge.  For 15 years Ambassador Coopedge served as Assistant United States Attorney in Georgia.  After her first case involving human trafficking, her boss realized that this was an issue in their state and that something needed to be done.  In the next 15 years, she prosecuted 45 human traffickers.    These cases brought perpetuators to justice and assisted more than 90 victims of sex and labor trafficking.  In every case, Ms. Coopedge worked hand in hand with NGO's to communicate with the victim.

The biggest thing I walked away with was how NGO's must work hand in hand with the law.  This problem can't be solved with only the police and lawyers fighting against the crime of human trafficking and NGO's can't save the world.  Each group addresses different issues and solves different problems, but the must work together.  The law brings justice, the NGO's bring healing and a future for the victim.

NGO's are on the front lines.  They identify the victims and often make first contact.  Very soon the NGO needs to make contact with the police.  The longer they wait, the less likely it is that the perpetrator will be caught.  It is not the job of the NGO to do the questioning of the victim.  The more times the victim has to tell their story, the more reluctant they will become and facts will change.  It is important that the NGO's work to train the police and prosecutors on how to communicate with the victim.  Human trafficking brings its own arena of communication problems.  Victims live in fear.  Their identity may have been stolen, they may have been abused by someone they trusted.  Policemen and prosecutors are catching-up in learning how to communicate with victims of this type of crime.

Do government intervention and new laws help reduce the crime human trafficking?  Yes, ultimately the government must be on board and active in recognizing and fighting human trafficking.  Here in Taiwan, when the government become involved with laws, the court and police, trafficking went down.

A difficulty that NGO's must often face is convincing the victims to prosecute their perpetrator.  In the U.S, we have a visas called the Tvisa and the Uvisa (Trafficking Victim) to help encourage foreign victims within our country to pursue justice.  These visas allow the victims to remain in the United States to help law officials pursue investigation and prosecution.  A conviction does not have to happen to receive this visa.

The majority of cases dealt with the in the U.S. are the trafficking of our own Americans within our boarders.  It is much more difficult to detect the domestic worker who has been brought in on a legal visa and is being hidden in a house to work for their sponsor.

These are the tidbits I learned and pieced together during the round table discussion.  The questions were in Chinese with an interpreter translating to the Ambassador.  The Ambassador replied in English with translation given to the audience.  There were moments when emotions took over.  These NGO workers are passionate about their calling.  I would have liked to hear the stories behind the passion and tears.  I've shared what I understood and I hope that as I learn more, that you are able to learn along side me.

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