It's been a while since I've posted, but I'm stoked to take this opportunity to introduce you to a dear friend, Phil Gazley. For over a decade, Phil has been a powerhouse advocate for victims of human trafficking and refugees, training law enforcement, social service agencies, and churches in the U.S. and throughout the world. I asked him to write a guest blog post to help our Love146 community examine the vulnerabilities that refugee communities face in light of the threat of human trafficking. As a child of refugee parents myself, this really hits home. How about you? If you are a member of a refugee community, live near one, or know arecent refugee, I especially encourage you to read Phil's words of guidance. And without futher adieu...
We have been expressing for many years that human trafficking is mostly a tragic reality in vulnerable communities-both for labor trafficking and sex trafficking. The number of people being victimized here in the United States for forced labor and commercial sex are about the same. While some effective protocols for assisting international and domestic victims have been established, there is a population that falls in between these categories that have been somewhat forgotten in the anti-trafficking prevention process. I am referring to refugees, asylum seekers and asylees.
This is a population in the U.S. that has come here from traumatic circumstances and most find their home to be the place of light that “Lady Liberty” intended. Most receive a generous welcome and although starting a new life in a new land is challenging, most become productive citizens in the long term.
Many refugees in the U.S. have been in refugee camps for ten years or longer prior to their arrival in their new homeland. A small but significant number fall prey to human traffickers. It is therefore gut wrenching to discover that refugees who have already been forced to flee their homes in tragic circumstances are coming to the United States only to be re-victimized as modern day slaves.
Many assume this community has been made aware of the dangers related to fake job offers, fake relationships and the potential for force to be used in coercing a victim. As someone that has worked in both refugee resettlement and anti- trafficking efforts over the last ten years, it has been my experience that prevention efforts have not taken place among these populations. If prevention efforts have taken place, it has been minimal and not well publicized.
I personally know of two cases here in the US where refugees have been trafficked. It would not surprise me to hear that there are more. We are in desperate need of a significant, culturally sensitive prevention effort among refugees, asylum seekers and asylees across the United States. If you would wish to engage in human trafficking prevention and awareness with these populations, here are ten thoughts:
+Make sure that any materials used are reviewed and approved by an anti-trafficking specialist and a refugee resettlement agency prior to engaging the community.
+Only do this in partnership with local refugee resettlement agencies. If the resettlement agency is unable to partner, contact the State Refugee Coordinator’s office for some guidance and possible alternative partnerships. These can be found at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/partners/state_coordina.htm
+Pay professional translators that speak the dialect of the population you are working with and be sure that you can trust them.
+Design materials for the specific population you are addressing. For example, a presentation to the Somali community will have a significantly different dynamic than communicating to the Burmese community. For information on cultural dynamics and sensitivities ask your local refugee resettlement office or contact me at email@example.com. Don’t exaggerate the problem! We want to put this on people’s radar, not create fear.
+Apartment complexes with community rooms, libraries and local faith communities can be good places to hold an event.
+Make sure people are clear on whom they should contact if they suspect anything. The relevant refugee agency might make their case managers available for this in addition to giving out hotline numbers. Check with the resettlement agency before you state they can assist.
+Give people a way of connecting for questions and follow up at the end of each event
+Consider doing it in a “train the trainer” context where you are creating an environment for on going peer led education.
+Serve culturally relevant food and drinks!
To find your nearest refugee resettlement office click on http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/ and then click on voluntary agencies.
(With special thanks to Susan Anderson at Lutheran Family Services and my friends at LCHT for help in this).
You can contact Phil Gazley at 303-261-2948 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Gazley is the Social Justice Ministries Coordinator for the Youth With a Mission Network of City Initiatives. Phil was previously a Pastor in the UK and an area director with YWAM in Canada. Since 2000 Phil has specialized in issues relating to human trafficking and refugee resettlement. With anti-trafficking work, Phil is a trainer of law enforcement and social service providers and is currently assisting in prevention research with the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. He also provides practical tools for involvement for YWAM communities around the world. With refugee resettlement, Phil trains churches, community groups and YWAM communities in the cultural mentoring of refugee families. Phil is a frequent speaker in many settings and nations. He is a board member and advisor for a number of organizations and is also on the leadership team for city ministry in YWAM North America. He is married to Caren and they have 2 teenage children. They live in California.