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A World Apart

“Camp boss” is just a metaphor for a beefed-up thug, hired by the construction company to patrol the muddy pathways running patterns in the makeshift clatter of a labor camp on the outskirts of Dubai. There’s a going ratio of one toilet per one hundred men, so they’ve tried to solve the constant backing-up of the sewage system, flooding their dirt-alleys, by paving them with rocks big enough to be used as stepping stones, thrown into the gooey mud with only a little jump in between.

The camp boss is like a parody of an evil Hollywood villain, with steroids used to grow muscles but shrink his heart and soul. He’s the one who collects the workers passports for “safeholding” once they arrive. Most of the men here are from Bangladesh, a nation poor even in the eyes of the rest of southeast Asia.

Having a cigarette on the labor camp yard, the workers can spot the glitz and glamour of the fashionable Dubai skyline; they’re aware that the physical foundation of all that show-off luxury, is created by them and their peers.

It’s hard to knwo what they’re thinking about. Maybe they’re worried about the reduced paycheck they’ve got no other choice than to accept, that prevents them from sending any money back home for a long time. Maybe they’re worried about their wifes and daughters or maybe they’re just too exhausted to worry about anything at all.

The US State Department worries though. They’ve rated Bangladesh with a “tier 2″ marking, and a “watch list” warning. Their report states: “Bangladeshi children and adults also are trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation.”

So the men migrate to anywhere where there’s the promise of a job, opportunities often pimped-up by countless  recruitment agencies cropping up everywhere within the country, as this is the most lucrative field of business available; to send a man overseas is a service the agencies legally can charge up to 1,300 dollar for, but still that sum usually averages 6,000 dollar. The low-skilled workers can see their contractual salaries plummet accordingly, as their signed documents of 150 USD a month doesn’t amount to much when you’re an illiterate on a temporary work Visa in a foreign country.

And back in good old Bangladesh, it’s business as usual, the small rural village of Pattwakalli is the dictionary definition of a place where there’s “fuck-all to do”. From the mainstreet to the brothel district it’s physically no further than the narrow stretch of littered back alley taking you there, and yet they’re a world apart.

Although the hundred or so inhabitants living here should be a substantial percentage of the Pattwakalli population, the people here aren’t included in any official numbers. This is a society of its own, with the sex industry as the core market but with all the ground services of stores and handy-men sprung up inside the lucrative but ostracized area.

This is people, women and children mostly, out of sight and out of mind, with prostitution in some cases handed down as an inherited curse from generation to generation, and with new blood pouring in by force, or with desperate women fleeing the abusive relationship of their arranged marriage, or just with the tradition of families selling off their youngest daughters to omnipotent brothel madams and traffickers.

So here they are, family and friends and lovers, with the men watching the skeleton foundation of an all inclusive golf resort in Dubai taking form outside their fenced in labor camp, and the women watching the inside of a corrugated tin roof in some rural nowhere, as another stranger huffs and puffs on top of her.

Juha Nilsson, For USA Pink

Image 2: http://www.hindustantimes.com/photos-news/Photos-DayInPictures/dayinpicturesaug1/Article4-906320.aspx

Behind closed walls

Dianara was one of the difficult ones. As her former owner said: “We had to ride her in.” His words resonate against his matter-of-fact expression, like he’s just trying to explain standard operational procedure. “You know, like you do with wild horses.”

She crawls out a leg at a time from the compartment hidden behind the plastered wall just knocked in by the Israeli taskforce. The mood is strange, agitated, and cops curse at girls now pouring out from everywhere, as bodies emerge from tiny niches in the walls. It’s like Pandora’s Box unleashed.

The three storey building is like a childhood fanatsy of hidden doors and secret tunnels warped into the adult reality of hide-and-seek with the police. Hydraulic mechanisms managed by remote controls ties this nifty system of hideaway niches and underground escape tunnels together.

The cops uncover another hide-out, just above the stairs, and since they can’t find the remote for it, they slam a piece of the wall in with a sledgehammer, their flashlights tangle and dance with particles of concrete dust whirling in its beams.

Three more girls extend their double-jointed limbs out of a space in the wall roughly the size of a small trunk. One of the girls wards off the helping hand offered by one of the officers. A conduct that doesn’t go down well with the special unit, as one of them pulls her down by the leg, ordering her to shut up and behave.

This isn’t the scene you would expect to find between the newly rescued and their rescuees. Being kept in a coffin compartment for hours at the time, you’d expect the girls to jump with joy. But there’s a cultural core of contempt and distrust running all through the hierarchy of Israeli law-enforcement, explaining the weird and wary encounter. The brothel will more than likely not be closed. The girls will more than likely be deported.

The Superintendant of the Tel Aviv policeforce couldn’t state his point of view any clearer than with the note of conduct he pinned to the billboard of the squad-room: “Everyone is a liar. Believe no-one.” He claims they don’t have the mandate to close the clubs down.

Dianara is one of the girls rescued in the raid. Her story is far from unique. She comes from a small formerly russian country, lured to Moscow with the promise of easy money and a bright and shining future. Once there she was kept in a three room apartment with eight other girls, surveilled by five men who took turns sleeping.

In Moscow, the initial stage of negotiations took place, as a representative of the Israeli importer flies in to evaluate “the stock”. A girl usually goes for between 5000-8000 USD. Dianara induced a price in the higher sphere, 7000 dollar. A couple of thousand for a forged Visa and then there’s the cost of the flight from Moscow to Cairo, roughly about 4000, another number stapled to the bill of debt the girls have collected before even entering into Israel.

Dianara was put to work from 9 PM until dawn. She went for 90 dollars by the hour for regular sex, maybe a slight adjustment upwards for anal. A lesbian act would set the paying customer back anywhere from 150 to 200. An orgie would come a little cheaper, give or take 125 USD. Dianara earned about 12 bucks a day.

There’s a discount for soldiers.

Prostitution is not only legal in Israel, the state also collects around 25 million in taxes from this boom industry turning over billions each year.

Pandering is illegal though.

Dianara and the eight other girls from the Moscow-apartment were forced under gunpoint to hide in the trunk of a cross-country Jeep. The men inEgypt were expert smugglers, beduins, familiar with every sand-lizard in the Sinai desert. They get 200 USD a body. If their cargo gets confiscated at the border, the smugglers recieves a hefty fine by the importers. And the state of Israel loses tax revenues.

Dianara’s former owner estimates that there’s a constant influx of 200-300 new arrivals a week. You lose one… hmm, well.

After the police-raid Dianara was put in state custody, waiting to testify against her former owner. She was discovered to suffer from some sort of a lung condition when examined by the state appointed doctor. But it was left untreated. Anyway, she was meant for deportation as soon as her day in court had passed.

In the beginning, Dianara put up a fight against her oppressors. But with time, they managed to “ride her in”. She said, “I was weary, so weary. I did whatever they wanted me to.”

She was put on a respitory as her lung condition proved malignent. She had her day in court. The next day she was deported. The day after that, she was dead.

Juha Nilsson, for USA Pink

US RAP ISRAELI KNUCKLES ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING ISSUES

The US State Department recently released their annual spotlight report on measurements taken by nations worldwide in order to prevent any type of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, forced labor and forced military recruitment.

For US closest allies in the volatile middle eastern area, Israel, it wasn’t a pretty read, and it seems there’s not much new under the sun if you compare the latest update to the one released in 2009. But on the other hand, everything lies in the eye of the beholder.

With a “tier 2″ rating, there’s as The Jerusalem Post puts it, “room for improvement”. But what is at times a harsh portrait of Israeli state of affairs when it comes to buckle down and address this issue with the attention it deserves, it simply trickles out into empty rhetoric when the US human trafficking report concludes: “The Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so.”

A sentence that could have been copy-pasted from the annual report of 2009, making you in the right to question exactly what those “efforts” boils down to. Israel being a destination country for migrant workers, refugees and eastern ladies of the night, the conditions applied to their existence still pretty much mimics those of previous years.

Southeast Asians and Chinese labourers arrive bound by the short lease of a temporary contract and heavy in-debt to employment agents and recruitment agencies; in their native country as well as in Israel, with fees just for getting there ranging between 4,000 to 20,000 USD. A hefty sum even for a western run-of-the-mill worker, but astronomical for a person where minimum wage is a step up on the poverty ladder. The only plausible solution for that equation is to put someone neck-deep in-debt at the other end of the equals sign.

This is money borrowed and owed at so many instances that the primary goal of sending money home isn’t done at all for the first three, four years. Israeli employers of this low-skilled labour force still resorts to methods of confiscated passports, restriction of movement and non-payment of wages.

History doesn’t repeat itself, it just never goes out of style. It moves to different areas, it moves underground or to where the fields of exploitation still lies unregulated. Go back to the turn of the 19th century and the influx of hunger-stricken Europeans crowding the border of the promised land, hoping for life, liberty and justice for all, but finding themselves at the losing end of the booming industrial era.

Quite literally, their blood and sweat was used to smear the cogwheels of Big Business.

The herds of hobos turning to the roads, hopping between one campfire to the next in search of a way to gain som bread, and more often than not paying their last cent to an employment agent, at that day and age simply known as a “shark” since its primary source of vitamins was other peoples fear, hunger and desperation.

Looking at the State Departments report on Israel, it’s pretty evident not much has changed for those who’s got little else to offer than their bare hands. And although the report states a number of serious flaws in Israeli dealings with human trafficking, any criticism can be comfortably filtered through the loophole of getting a B+ in effort.

By Juha Nilsson, for USA Pink

(Image 1: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/world/north-america/hillary-clinton-impressed-confidence-bihars-karate-girl-316)

(Image 2: http://www.aworldtowin.net/frontline/IsraelPrivatisesOccupation.html)

Welcome to the jungle- the era of human trafficking

She’s no more than fourteen years old and she’s nothing but a mere statistic in the cold numbers game of human trafficking. Her deer-like eyes batter like she’s been caught in the headlights of a slowmotion nightmare.

The girl doesn’t want to give up her real name to the two western journalists, only presenting herself with the bogus alias assigned to her by her “camp-dad”, or maybe by the house madam of the wooden-shack brothel located further down the muddy meanstreet.

 

She goes by the stage name of Rosario.

The journalists stand out like two soar thumbs with their flair of western civilization amid the wary citizens of a gold rush boomtown haphazardly erected in the heartland of the Peruvian Amazon.

The town is one of makeshift ramshackles, wooden huts set-up in a haste, remodeled containers functioning as grocery stores or, more commonly, as thriving liquor stores. It’s located at the edge of a dug-out sand pit; an anomaly surrounded by thick jungle greenery.

The area is called Madre De Dios, and the paradox of the name would almost be funny if it wasn’t for the ramifications the true nature of life on God’s Mother’s land had on its inhabitants.

No news is good news in these parts, especially since the Peruvian government started to grumble about illegal gold mining camps dotting up like a string of  jungle-gutted pearls, as more and more people are tuning in to the grapevine of striking rich. The look and feel of the temporary settlements would take anyone down memory lane to the era of the wild, wild west, but out here, it’s a dish delivered stripped of all romance.

Lawless territory, that’s how one of the journalist’s later on describes it as. Klondyke in the Amazon. Human trafficking is the most brutal expression of market mechanisms, but it’s still a logical one, at the breaking point where humanity exposes its jugular to cut-throat capitalism, with abuse and modern day slavery in its aftermath. There are no winners here, just a cannibalistic feeding frenzy among the most desperate rungs of society.

The fourteen year old girl speaks nothing of her predicament to the journalists, well aware of the watchful eyes from camp inhabitants, that couldn’t be more hostile had they been branded on her flesh. And as she turns her back to the visitors, they proceed to cover the story they’re there for: the unregulated destruction of the green lung of the Amazon, as gold miners use excavation methods leaving rivers and the once upon a time fertile soil saturated with untreated mercury.

In this Deadwood-type of town, the girl known as Rosario walks away with her madam to clock in for the nighshift. What’s her story then? Has she been kidnapped here, like so many other victims of human trafficking, put to work serving a regular stream of repeat clients, but not seeing any money as she’s still paying off the debt owed to her benefactors for providing her with this opportunity.

 

If she has any hope left, it has to be to one day earn her real name back.

There’s a million ways to make a contribution. Choose one.

Juha Nilsson, for USA Pink.  

(Image 1 from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/8284407/Gold-rush-in-the-Amazon.html)
(Image 2 from: http://newshopper.sulekha.com/peru-dirty-gold_photo_1857787.htm)

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