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May 14, 2014

Kidnapping of Nigerian Girls Reminder of Persistence of Slavery
    by Robert Kropp

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility call the kidnapping a tragic reminder of the prevalence of human trafficking. -- It's been a month since more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram, a rebel group designated as a terrorist organization by the US government in last November. Although the kidnapping prompted international condemnation, the girls have yet to be rescued.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), whose members have been on the forefront in engaging with corporations on issues relating to human trafficking, issued a statement this week, “calling for the mobilization of all necessary resources and expertise to help locate and free the missing girls.”

“This incident is a tragic reminder to us all that forced sexual exploitation and trafficking are ongoing human rights violations that occur every day and across the globe,” said Sister Kathleen Coll of CHE Trinity Health, an ICCR member. “It is imperative that these school girls be found immediately and returned home safely. But it is also imperative that we remain ever vigilant to the unseen risks of slavery, and that we develop strategies that all stakeholders, including companies, can employ to expose and eliminate them.”

The numbers reported by ICCR constitute a reminder that the relationship of the human species to civilized behavior is marginal. As many as 30 million people are enslaved worldwide, the organization states, and in the United States alone 100,000 girls are trafficked into commercial sex operations every year.

For years, Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), another ICCR member, has taken a leading in engaging with companies in the hospitality industry over human trafficking at major international sporting events. Julie Tanner of CBIS said, “It is heartbreaking that the exploitation of persons for sexual purposes and forced labor has become the third largest illegal ‘business’ after drug and arms trafficking, and is estimated by the ILO to generate $32 billion dollars annually.”

David Schilling, ICCR's Senior Program Director for Human Rights and Resources, said, “Our hearts go out to the captured girls and their families and we pray for their quick and safe return. Meanwhile, we must all remember that abolishing trafficking and slavery is everyone’s responsibility and that we all have a role to play in ending these egregious crimes.”

As a recent example off ICCR's advocacy on behalf of human rights, the organization sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry this week, requesting that the State Department downgrade Thailand to the of the worst offenders of human rights.

“The Government of Thailand does not meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, nor is it taking real steps to meet those standards,” ICCR stated.

“A report by Reuters in December 2013 exposed Thai government officials profiting from human trafficking when it uncovered they had sold Rohingya refugees to human traffickers,” ICCR continued. “The United States should make very clear its concern about the systematic abuse of migrant workers in Thailand, who produce products destined for the US market. If Thailand is allowed to continue its practice of undertaking cosmetic efforts at addressing the issue of human trafficking while ignoring or even encouraging the root causes of the problem, it will continue to get worse.”

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