14 January 2010

Crossroads: Terrorists Using Criminal Methods to Expand

As of this morning, there are reports stating that looters in Haiti have been shooting at aid workers. The largest earthquake to hit in 200 years has caused chaos and havoc in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. A U.N. spokeperson said, "...there was only so much they could do: Looters prowled through shops, then blended into crowds of desperate refugees lugging salvaged possessions."

After learning of the scale of this devastating natural disaster, my deepest concern was the vulnerability of children and the criminal opportunity for human trafficking. Haiti is not a stranger to such activity, as "The Government of Haiti estimates there are 90,000-120,000 children in coercive labor conditions as restaveks, [and] UNICEF estimates the number is much higher — between 250,000 and 300,000." Reports estimate also that 2,500-3,000 Haitian children are trafficked annually into the Dominican Republic alone.

Human trafficking mostly occurs in a) urban areas to b) poverty-stricken, c) poorly-educated populations, but also happens in more d) deadly events that create e) vulnerable situations like f) economic hardship or g) loss of critical infrastructure.

The US Embassy report, Trafficking in Persons: The U.S. and International Response (Updated July 7, 2006), notes, "There have been unconfirmed reports that child trafficking has increased in countries devastated by natural disasters such as the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Presumably, traffickers have exploited the separation of many children from their families, amid the general confusion in the aftermath of such disasters."

Just as much concern should be geographic bridges like Turkey that serve as trafficking travel routes between Asia and Europe, and eventually the US. For example, the 1999 earthquake experienced in Turkey most likely generated trafficking in person activity due to the scenario and the fact that at the time it was not criminalised as such in the Turkish legislation. Although human trafficking is our focus here, we should understand that criminal organizations typically venture into drug and organ trafficking along with money laundering as well. As of 1999, "Turkey [was] a major trafficking centre, particularly for drugs coming from Afghanistan, Iranand Central Asia. It is also a centre for refining opium."

Then-Ambassador of the US Department of State and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, John R. Miller (the position is held now by Luis CdeBaca) offers some actions to reduce human trafficking:
"We encourage those working in the region to warn potential victims of human trafficking schemes. We encourage those providing shelter and care to register and protect those people in their facilities, particularly children. Women and children should not be placed in isolated areas of shelters or camps. We encourage those hiring new or temporary employees for relief work to educate new hires about human trafficking and outline a zero-tolerance policy for employees involved in human trafficking."

Precisely, this post serves also to generate awareness about increasingly dangerous trafficking activity of al-Qaeda and the persons and organizations who supply material support to al-Qaeda, such as the three men arrested in Ghana discussed in the article. Generally, "...al-Qaeda and its affiliates are becoming more and more involved in the global drug trade to help fund their operations...They have to pay for their operations somehow."

Al-Qaeda, as of now, predominantly engages in drug trafficking via established routes of activity, but we must be on the watch for them to become associated more with smuggling human beings; perhaps throughout Pakistan and India. The DEA has collected testimony stating that "al-Qaeda could protect cocaine shipments and could assist in potential kidnappings of foreign nationals to raise money...[since] al-Qaeda kidnapped Belgian citizens and collected a big ransom."

Why not think that Sri Lanka and Haiti can become regularly scheduled, opportunistic occasions for generating funds and/or materials. Above all, the connection of criminal activity with terrorist operations should show an expansion of Al Qaeda’s illegal activities around the globe. It has already begun in Ghana.

1 comment:

  1. It was analyzed here on 14 January: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,584223,00.html.

    Sadly, the cycle will continue because of the atmosphere in Haiti.