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Obama renews efforts to combat human trafficking, issues executive order

US President Barack Obama called for renewed efforts to combat human trafficking and announced a new executive order that clamps down on federal contractors involved in human trafficking. He made his remarks during the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York on Tuesday.

 

According to the executive order, federal contractors are prohibited from using misleading recruitment practices, charging employeerecruitment fees, and destroying or confiscating workers' passports.

 

The order also requires that contractors and subcontractors performing services out of the United States that exceed $500,000 to provide an employee awareness program, a process for employees to report trafficking violations without fear of retaliation, and recruitment and housing plans.

 

"[Human trafficking] ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity," Obama said. "It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime."

 

The president cited the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, as the catalyst for US anti-trafficking efforts. Obama highlighted measures aimed at fighting trafficking in the US and abroad: the inclusion of the United States in the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons report; the expansion of an interagency task force to include more federal partners, including the FBI; and the allotment of additional resources to identifying trafficking networks.

 

"But for all the progress that we've made," he continued, "the bitter truth is that trafficking also goes on right here, in the United States. It's the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker. The man, lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen. The teenage girl, beaten, forced to walk the streets."

 

As a result the president pledged to intensify anti-trafficking activities. He called for a new assessment of human trafficking in the United States, the strengthening of training, so investigators and law enforcement are better equipped to take action; he vowed to simplify procedures for "T" visas so that innocent victims from other countries are able to stay in the US while officials prosecute their traffickers.

 

Obama also called on individuals to play a part by educating themselves about the origins of their products via www.slaveryfootprint.org.

 

You can read Obama's full speech here.