Smith Encourages Russian Legislators to Implement Laws to Protect Victims of Trafficking
Citing a 2002 case in New Jersey as an example of the many instances where Russian women have been trafficked to the U.S., Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) today encouraged deputies of the Duma to build on their laws to combat human trafficking by adding more protections for victims during a meeting in the Great Hall of the Moscow Duma.
"Russia has made progress toward stopping the flow of trafficked personsmostly women and childrenin and out of their country by criminalizing human trafficking. Trafficking prosecutions have gone up, but more work remains to be done and the greatest gap in their approach remains their ability to protect trafficking victims. To correct this, Russia needs to strengthen their laws to provide relief, shelter and a new life to the victims of trafficking," said Smith, author of the United States' first anti-trafficking law, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (P.L. 106-386) and its subsequent reauthorizations. These laws form the crux of U.S. policy to address human trafficking on both the national and international level.
Smithpointing to a 2002 case in his home state of New Jerseytold the Duma deputies during the meeting that in many instances, the traffickers send their victims to the U.S.
"As we saw in my own state of New Jersey, these abuses against Russian women do not just happen overseas. They are taking place right in our own backyard as well. Women are being lured out of Russia through fraud and the promise of high-quality jobs in America. That dream turns into a nightmare when they are entrapped, coerced, stripped of their humanity and forced into the U.S. sex industry," Smith said, pointing out that his law led to the conviction of three people in that 2002 case where at least 30 Russian women were victimized by a trafficking ring based in New Jersey.
Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for various purposes, but with an emphasis on the trafficking of women and girls for purposes of sexual exploitation. Specifically, Russian women continue to be trafficked to nations in the Middle East and Western Europe, Canada, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. for sexual exploitation.
Smith met with close to twenty deputies of the Duma and he presented his experiences in drafting, enacting and implementing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act and its reauthorizations. Smith also offered guidance and answered the Russian lawmakers' questions on how to most effectively enhance their anti-trafficking legislation, which currently incorporates many major elements from Smith's original trafficking law, but without the provisions that provide additional protections for the victims.
"We discussed how Russia can strengthen their law by applying the lessons learned since the first U.S. law was put on the books. The members of the Duma I met with understand that the transnational scope of this dreadful crime requires a comprehensive solution, which has to include additional protections for victims of modern-day slavery," Smith said after the meeting.
While in Moscow, Smith also met with officials from the MiraMed Institute, the first American non-governmental organization to conduct programs focusing on prevention of sexual trafficking of girls and women in the Russian Federation. He also visited the Angel Coalition Trafficking Victim Assistance Center (TVAC), which coordinates Russian and international rescue and repatriation of trafficking victims; operates toll-free Russian and international help lines; receives trafficking victims in Moscow and safely transfers them to regional safe houses; and oversees safe house referral, financial, and programmatic operations.
"Victims assistance programs and shelters provide essential support, rehabilitation and recovery services for victims of trafficking. They are a vital part of any comprehensive plan to end human trafficking and it is imperative that the U.S. and other nations continue to support their efforts," Smith said.
Smith will depart Russia and travel to the Ukraine where he will join other members of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and participate in the 16th Annual Session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. Smith, the Ranking Republican member of the Helsinki Commission, intends to offer a series of anti-trafficking amendments during the Parliamentary sessions.
Following the closing of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Smith will travel to Bosnia where he will be honored for his efforts to fight genocide, promote tolerance and help the families of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre.
Smith is set to return to the U.S. on July 10th.