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A Data Project To Predict Human Trafficking Before It Occurs By Corporate Giants

Along with IBM and Western Union, participants include Europol, Europe's law enforcement agency is also included

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Human Trafficking
People protesting against human trafficking and slavery raise their fists during a demonstration in Mexico City. VOA

Computer giant IBM Corp., financial services company Western Union
Co. and European police launched a project Thursday to share financial data that they said may one day be able to predict human trafficking before it occurs.

The shared data hub will collect information on money moving around the world and compare it with known ways that traffickers move their illicit gains, highlighting red flags signaling potential trafficking, organizers said.

“We will build and aggregate that material, using IBM tools, into an understanding of hot spots and routes and trends,” said Neil Giles, a director at global anti-slavery group Stop the Traffik, which is participating in the project.

Human Trafficking
Ethnic Uighur Muslim boy stands inside a police van in Khlong Hoi Khong of southern Songkhla province, Thailand. He was in a group of 200 people rescued from a human trafficking camp. VOA

Data collection, digital tools and modern technology are the latest weapons in the fight against human trafficking, estimated to be a $150 billion-a-year global business, according to the International Labor Organization.

The U.N. has set a goal of 2030 for ending forced labor and modern slavery worldwide, with more than 40 million people estimated to be enslaved around the world.

Certain patterns and suspicious activity might trigger a block of a transaction or an investigation into possible forced labor or sex slavery, organizers said.

The project will utilize IBM’s internet cloud services as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning to compare data and to spot specific trafficking terms, said Sophia Tu, director of IBM Corporate Citizenship.

Human Trafficking
The project will utilize IBM’s internet cloud services

With a large volume of high-quality data, the hub one day may predict trafficking before it happens, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“You can’t do it today because we’re in the process of building out that amount of data and those capabilities, but it’s in the road map for what we want to do,” she said.

While law enforcement is teaming up with banks and data specialists to chase trafficking, experts have cautioned that it can be a cat-and-mouse game in which traffickers quickly move on to new tactics to elude capture.

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Also, less than 1 percent of the estimated $1.5 trillion-plus laundered by criminals worldwide each year through the financial system is frozen or confiscated, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Along with IBM and Western Union, participants include Europol, Europe’s law enforcement agency; telecommunications giant Liberty Global; and British banks Barclays and Lloyds, organizers said. (VOA)

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Saudi Arabia, Cuba on List of World’s Worst Fighters of Human Trafficking

The top U.S. diplomat said traffickers are currently victimizing nearly 25 million people worldwide

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human trafficking
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on the release of the 2019 Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report at the US State Department in Washington, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) VOA

Saudi Arabia and Cuba are now on a list of countries the United States considers derelict in their responsibilities to combat human trafficking, raising the risk of sanctions against those countries.

In its annual report on human trafficking, the State Department accused ally Saudi Arabia of widespread violations involving foreign laborers and denounced Cuba for allegedly engaging in trafficking through its program that exports doctors abroad.

“If you don’t stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday in Washington, shortly after the report’s release. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) assesses what countries are doing to combat what Pompeo describes as “one of the most heinous crimes on Earth.”

The top U.S. diplomat said traffickers are currently victimizing nearly 25 million people worldwide. The State Department designated Saudi Arabia and Cuba as Tier 3 countries, the report’s lowest possible ranking. China, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela have also been designated as such.

human trafficking
FILE – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. VOA

The U.S. said the Saudi kingdom has done little to help victims, choosing to, instead, jail, fine or deport them after accusing them of immigration violations or prostitution.Cuba, a long-time U.S. adversary, has threatened or coerced physicians to participate in its overseas medical program, the report said.

Some 8,300 Cuban medical workers who had been stationed in Brazil departed the country after President Jair Bolsonaro complained earlier this year the Cuban government keeps most of the wages paid to the workers, whom he described as “slave labor.

Tier 3 countries are subject to U.S. actions, including partial or total elimination of support from the International Monetary Fund or other international support organizations.

The U.S. president, however, can waive sanctions against Tier 3 countries with the hope it will encourage them act more aggressively against traffickers. Pompeo said the U.S. took actions last year against 22 Tier 3 countries.

human trafficking
The annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) assesses what countries are doing to combat what Pompeo describes as “one of the most heinous crimes on Earth.” Flickr

The State Department report, which assesses 187 countries, concluded many world governments have enacted laws to hold traffickers accountable since the 2000 adoption of the United Nation’s Palermo Protocol. The pact requires countries to codify human trafficking as a crime both within and between countries.

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But the report calls on countries to do more to ensure protections for victims within their borders. Greater protections requires “political courage” to investigate “official power structures,” for example, and to “ending impunity for crimes that have long been seen as accepted local and cultural practices.”

“Acknowledging human trafficking within the borders of a country is not easy,” the report declared. “Governments should be willing to admit its existence and rise to their responsibility to address it.” (VOA)