By Amritha Alladi
Pacific Daily News
September 15, 2009
Delegates from all over the Pacific discussed the realities of human trafficking yesterday at the 7th Meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism, a conference bringing together women from several island-nations -- all of whom have felt the impact of U.S. military bases in their homelands.
Figures released by the Department of Justice show that 14,500 to 17,000 identified human trafficking cases are transported internationally to the United States, and the global figures are estimated to be about 600,000 to 800,000, according to Annie Fukushima, trafficking programs coordinator for Standing Against Global Exploitation.
During yesterday's pre-conference session, Fukushima said those numbers reflect only the known cases, and the real figures are most likely much higher.
Alexis Silverio, executive director for the Guahan Project, added that people who fall into human trafficking are usually promised education or a better life at the new destination, but once they've entered the strange environment, their only option is to stick with the only life they know-- a life of abuse.
He said the number of people being trafficked to or from Guam is unknown because several cases are pending investigation, and those cases haven't entered the court system yet. Guam's cases surface primarily in the massage parlors, he said, and in the back rooms of restaurants and mom-and-pop shops, so it's harder to detect.
One conference attendee, Sister Lou Pangelinan, said a presentation by Philippine representative Aida F. Santos-Maranan made her realize there already is a problem on Guam and that it could potentially worsen with the impending military buildup.
Santos-Maranan said an estimated 40,000 male laborers would be trafficked to Guam from the Philippines and Palau due to the military buildup, and there was "no doubt" the women would follow.
"We need to give a wake-up call to our island that this is happening right in our backyard," Pangelinan said. "We can't help the whole world, but we need to face the reality that it is here."
The conference continues through Saturday, with topics covering military violence against women and girls, the plight of mixed-race Amerasian children abandoned by U.S. military fathers, environmental contamination, cultural degradation and the distortion of local economies.