A Trafficking in Persons Update

It’s been four years since Tim, Amy and I went overseas to observe and serve those working to end sex trafficking. So many things have happened in our own lives since then, but our heart remains the same, we will do what we can to help end modern slavery and never shut our eyes to what is happening.

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After spending hours reading many reports and articles, trying to decide what information to pass on to you has been difficult. I’ve decided to provide some brief global information and then focus on the countries we originally spent most of our time, Brazil and Thailand. Although critics are quick to point out the biased political and financial implications on the ranking systems in the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports, it’s a great place to start. But, don’t you worry about that. Reading a whole lot of statistics about people in bondage can be depressing and let’s be honest, a bit dry, so at the end of the blog, I’ve included three things you can do.

As you read the summaries below, try to remember that through all the numbers, these are individuals living in horrendous conditions. People trapped in a hell they can’t get out of; they are mothers, daughters, sons, husbands, cousins, grandparents and so on. So, buckle up. Let’s see what’s been going in the world.

The UN defines trafficking in persons as:

“…The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – What is Human Trafficking?

Trafficking types include:, sexual exploitation and forced labour (being the most prominent), forced beggars, sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others (UN Global report on trafficking in persons, 2016).

Some global info:

  • The 2016 Global Slavery Index puts global modern slavery numbers at 45.8 million – more than Australia’s population of 24.91 million.
  • Although 79% of all victims trafficked are women and children, in the last 10 years the percentage of males identified as being trafficked has increased (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 2016).
  • 28% of all trafficked victims detected globally are children. 20% of these are girls. (UNODC, 2016).
  • Sexual exploitation accounts for 54% of all trafficking cases detected globally (UNODC, 2016)
  • 96% of all victims of sexual slavery/sex trafficking worldwide are women and girls (UNODC, 2016)

“Local communities are the most affected by this abhorrent crime and are also the first line of defence against human trafficking.“

– Michael R. Pompeo, US Secretary of State

Brazil Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, By US Department of State:


  • The Government of Brazil does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Concerns around officials being involved in or receiving bribes from trafficking rings remain a concern.
  • Consistent with previous reports, Brazil is a source, transit and destination country for people subject to force labour and sex trafficking. Child sex tourism remains a serious problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas in Brazil’s northeast. Child sex tourists are typically from Europe and the United States.
  • Contrary to international law, child sex trafficking it is only considered a crime if there is proof of force, fraud or coercion. This leads to many young people being exploited in the commercial sex industry without protection.
  • There have been increases in convictions of traffickers, however most serve their sentences under house arrest or are only incarcerated at night-time.
  • Despite the significant number of child sex tourists visiting Brazil, there were no reports of investigations, prosecutions or convictions for child sex tourism in 2017.

 Thailand Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, By US Department of State:

  • The Government of Thailand does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, the government has increased its efforts since the 2017 report. The government convicted 12 officials complicit in trafficking crimes, although corruptions still remains a major problem.
  • The government has made efforts to increase training for staff despite serious gaps in services. Sadly, authorities are more likely to send boy victims to juvenile detention than to centres offering victim services.
  • The trafficking of Rohingya refugees and migrants into Thailand is a particular problem at this time.
  • Children from Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia are victims of sex trafficking in brothels; massage parlours, bars, karaoke lounges, hotels and private residences.
  • Men and boys from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia are subject to forced labour within the fishing industry. Many spend several years a sea, work 18-20 hours a days, seven days a week and are subject to physical violence, forced drugging and can be killed if they become ill or try to escape.
  • In 2017, there were credible reports that corrupt officials protected brothels, other commercial sex venues from raids and inspections. Some officials also profit from bribes and direct involvement in the exploitation of migrants.

Compared to countries like Brazil and Thailand, my own home nation of Australia performs much better. However, I thought it would be worthwhile to include some of the observations made in the report. Human trafficking does exist in my country and we can do more to protect the most vulnerable. Particularly concerning is the way the authorities fail to screen and identify ‘boat people’ and asylum seekers as victims of trafficking. There are estimated to be over 4300 modern slaves living in Australia (Global Slavery Index, 2016).

Australia Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, By US Department of State:

  • The Government of Australia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Australia is a primary destination country for women and girls trafficked for sex and for women and men subject to forced labour.
  • Problem areas occur with identifying victims. Due to inconsistencies in screening, some potential victims were detained, fined or penalised for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
  • Identified trafficked victims are supported with accommodation, living expenses, legal advice, health services, job training and counselling.
  • The government did not report screening for trafficking indicators among individuals smuggled via sea or among refugees and asylum-seekers held in offshore detention centres. Immigration authorities forcibly deported some asylum-seekers who may have been vulnerable to trafficking after returning to their home countries. The government did not ensure social service professionals were present during any initial screening interviews.
  • Some women are held in captivity, subject to physical or sexual violence and intimidated, required to work off debt bondage or subjected to deceived working arrangements in legal or illegal brothels. Traffickers evade authorities by allowing victims to hold onto their passports and frequently move their place of work.
  • Forced labour is present in agriculture, cleaning; construction, hospitality industries with overseas visa students being particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

Researching and reading the reports and individuals stories for a blog like this is disheartening and draining at times, but there are also many stories of governments and NGOs attempting to make better laws and provide better services. Once again, I am reminded that strong and connected communities are the best way to combat human trafficking. Change takes intentionality and time. It takes time to change culture, influence decision-makers and educate people about what is happening in their own cities.

So, what can you do?

  1. Becoming educated about something is a good place to start, so well done to you for reading this whole blog. You can’t do something if you don’t know it needs doing. Human trafficking is a large, complex issue, so if it’s something that’s on your heart, find out which area you are most passionate about. Is it child prostitution in Brazil? Forced male labour in the Thai fishing industry? Does prevention, intervention, rehabilitation, prosecution or policy light a fire in your heart? If so, become more educated about that particular issue and the work already being done in that field.
  2. Support organisations that are doing great work already. Getting behind credible organisations is an easy way to get involved, you can do this with your finances or by donating your time. A word of caution to investigate organisations properly and be aware of how voluntourism could be impacting those involved.
  3. Shop ethically and support companies that care about their workers and the conditions of those in their supply chains. In Australia, using apps like ShopEthical and reviewing the Baptist World Aid 2018 Ethical Fashion Guide are the easiest ways to do this, because they have done the research for you. Similarly, back in 2016, I wrote about one simple change you can make today to stop supporting modern slavery practices in the tea supply chain. You can read it here.

Love Jess xxoo

Further Reading:

United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016 https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf

US Department of State – Trafficking in Persons Report 2018  https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/282798.pdf

Global Slavery Index https://www.globalslaveryindex.org

Walk Free Foundation https://www.walkfreefoundation.org/understand/

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/ProtocolTraffickingInPersons.aspx

International Labour Organisation – Global Child Labour tends 2012-2016 http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf

Save the Children – Research and Reports – https://www.savethechildren.org.au/Our-Stories?categories=Research%20and%20Reports&currentSort=

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20 million dreams

What would you do if you won 20 million dollars? Oddly, it was this question that started us on our journey to resign from our jobs and head overseas. It’s funny what God can use to prompt you.

The question of $20M came up again in our household recently. The idea of winning that much money actually makes me sick. Who on earth would need that excessive amount when there are children dying in war, families being ripped apart by false promises of a better life and drought crippling whole nations?

However, if for some reason I did win $20 million, I would call together a group of like-minded individuals and dream away the week with ideas about how to invest into people. We would turn those dreams into reality, not by rushing into things, but wisely researching and establishing meaningful and sustainable businesses and programs. I would call Sarah Starrenburg, Adam James, all of our siblings and their wives/partners, Will and Laura (by Skype of course), Ben and Amy, Rian and Sally, The Hannaway Clan, Mike and Karen (more Skype time) and… ok, ok, that’s already a lot of people!

I would:

  • Open a store in inner Brisbane stocking only ethical, eco-friendly and sustainable fashion and beauty products
  • Build a house for my family with spare rooms and living areas to provide a sanctuary for tired families, missionaries or anyone needing a Selah (with an extra car for them to use)
  • Do something in Africa around eye health
  • Establish ‘something’ with (not for) the homeless in our city
  • Do something to empower our beautiful Indigenous people
  • Create and empower already existing support-networks for refugees
  • Look at some of the worst areas for human trafficking and empower the locals to stop the cycle
  • Fund couples looking to adopt
  • Support foster children and families in some way
  • Bless local school Chaplains and youth workers
  • Get along side and support the many wonderful and best-practice not-for-profit organisations that are already up and running
  • Take my whole family over to Rio for the Olympics and work with a group like Exodus Cry or Save the Children
  • Fund all sorts of small business ideas and local enterprises

And that’s just me, in the last five minutes… I might need more than $20M 😉

The question of $20 million might sound fun and silly, but for the Greenwoods it seems to push us into action. It reveals what we are passionate about and what God is stirring. It is a little scary really because last time we lightheartedly pondered this question, God followed it up with a “Is money really all that’s stopping you?”

“Oh dear” I hear myself think. You may recall an earlier post about rest; the main idea was that we were in a season of rest until we could dream again. Oh dear… haha.

I personally love the season Tim and I are in. We have the space to process, hear, learn, grow and it’s thrilling and stretching all at the same time. Almost every day we are sharing ideas and discussing the deeper issues of life, love and identity. Amidst the sleepless nights, grumpy Mummy moments, baby talk, Lego building and housework, God is continuing to move. We feel a stirring again. However, I have to warn you, it’s not the typical type of ‘stirring’ we expect from Christians. Although we can have big and grand dreams, those are not the end game. For us, success is not measured by what other people see us doing. It’s the little choices, conversations and relationships that we invest into every day that matter. Our 20 million dollar dreams start with our every-day, ordinary lives and how we choose to live them.

Love Jess xxoo

Hangs in Da Nang by Tim

There was a good reason (in fact many reasons) that we ended up in Vietnam.

After some time in Ho Chi Mihn City we landed in the city of Da Nang. We went there to learn from the team at AOG World Relief, an NGO that was established in 1996. As soon as we met the Paul and Deb Hilton, the country co-ordinators, they gave us their time and welcomed us as part of the team. We felt right at home straight away and enjoyed our month-long visit there.

Here’s a blurb from their website describing who they are:

AOG World Relief Vietnam is a non-government organisation (NGO) that exists to partner with whole communities throughout Vietnam for the purpose of seeing them empowered to not only participate in, but also ultimately determine and sustain their own development. Through a process of Community Consultations, Training & relationship building with our team, communities identify their most felt needs and they themselves develop action plans which centre on mobilising their own assets and resources.

AOGWR do this incredible work throughout a number of regions in Vietnam. While we were there we were able to participate in different projects and opportunities the team were undertaking. Our previous time in Brazil and some of Thailand had mainly focused around observing intervention methods of sex-trafficking. Now it was time to get up close and personal with some great prevention practices.

Here’s a snap-shot of some of the parts of our time n Da Nang:

The beautiful city

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Visits to village communities to see some of their work

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Life skills in a school in one of the communities

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We met with different team members to learn how they operate both professionally and personally. Learning how families live in a cross cultural setting has been a great experience.

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We made lots of new friends

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While we were in Da Nang we were also able to explore the city and emerse ourselves in the culture. As we had one month there it was great to meet locals and see how Da Nang operates.

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In between all of that we got to have some nice coffee 🙂

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This was yet another incredible experience for our family and we gleaned many things from the wonderful people we did life with for a short time. Thanks Paul & Deb, Kelvin and Bek, Bruce and Marion and the whole amazing team at AOGWR! You guys are amazing and we learnt so much from each of you.

Tim & Jess