Humphrey alum Kirill Boychenko (2011-2012) is working tirelessly to document human trafficking in Russia and the U.S. Currently, he has an ever-expanding list of organizations and experts in the area with no intention of ending soon. He aims to gather as much information and meet as many people as possible to learn about successful counter trafficking strategies, funding sources, and the overall structure of the human trafficking network in the United States, and to bring these practices back home to Russia. During his time in Washington, D.C., Kirill spoke with over 60 different representatives in the Washington Metropolitan Area: these representatives came from governmental organizations, international organizations, NGOs, donor agencies, task forces, coalitions, associations, educational establishments, and people working in the field pro bono.
Kirill’s dedication to eradicating human trafficking began while working at an NGO crisis center that received funding to benefit trafficked women. Kirill’s role included establishing the center organizationally, hosting a hotline, and consulting survivors with legal issues relating to their specific situations.
While completing law school, Kirill wrote his thesis on human trafficking. He then moved to Moscow to become a Counter-Trafficking Focal Point with the International Organization for Migration. There, he worked with law enforcement officers, judges, public prosecutors, NGOs, lawyers, and others to help combat human trafficking. Some of his responsibilities included working with a rehabilitation center to provide assistance to over 420 human trafficking victims, and working with other agencies to create shelters for trafficking survivors.
Kirill completed his Ph.D. in human trafficking while implementing human trafficking projects in Russia for about 5 years. Lack of access to shelters, lack of financing to keep centers open, and under appreciation of human trafficking prevention were major obstacles that he faced. He described one particular event, where he flew 9 hours to at that time the sole existing shelter for trafficking survivors in Russia, realizing that if it would take him 9 hours just to fly there, it is practically impossible to send victims there. These obstacles eventually shaped Kirill’s goals and research during his Humphrey Fellowship.
Last August, Kirill began his 10 months as a Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota. As a Fellow, he learned from many organizations and joined the Minnesota State Wide Human Trafficking Task Force. Last November, he also volunteered with a non-governmental organization Breaking Free, which is assisting survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and spent time observing and supporting firm lawyers working at the Criminal Expungement Clinic and the Brian Coyle Community Legal Clinic with the U.S. law firm Dorsey & Whitney through their pro bono program.
Kirill’s Humphrey Fellowship experience taught him how to implement human trafficking task forces and the effect of powerful awareness materials like the Slavery Footprint. He was also able to identify some challenges faced in the U.S., like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which provides support to foreign victims but does not focus enough on domestic trafficking issues. Kirill speaks fondly of the Humphrey Fellowship Program, stating that it helps fellows look at their own work from a different angle, and to leverage the information and work that has already been collected. Much of this is attributed to working with organizations that have similar goals but different approaches to addressing human rights issues.
Kirill extended his Humphrey Fellowship until December to spend time working in Washington, D.C. and Boston, MA, his current location. In D.C., he jumped into the Human Rights network by working with an NGO called the International Labor Rights Forum. His work focused on child labor and forced labor—a different angle of human trafficking. Now working in a relatively new sector, Kirill noted that there are so many resources on human trafficking for sexual exploitation, but there is not nearly as much on forced labor. In Boston he is working at the Harvard Kennedy School as a Fellow with the Carr Center Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery.
Amidst all these vast experiences, Kirill aims to continue expanding his knowledge base and eventually apply learned strategies in Russia. He states, “In Russia, we should not look at human trafficking only as Russian citizens going abroad— we should worry also about people coming to Russia and becoming slaves.”
In 2010, a UN report stated that Russia is the #2 country for receiving migrants. Coming from other USSR constituent republics, these migrants are ready and desperate for any type of work. They want to send money to families in their home countries, and are willing to do many things to get that money sent. Human trafficking is not solely a migration issue, however. This is an issue of gender inequality, human rights, and organized crime as well. Kirill hopes to help establish more rehabilitation centers, and increase awareness and advocacy for the prevention of human trafficking. Russia continues to lack a strong legal base for work on these issues, and although there are criminal code articles, no national, law-based plan of action exists to address human trafficking. Discussing his plans for the future, Kirill remarked, “Sometimes you don’t see the whole issue because you focus on one thing. The [Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship] Program helps you, and gives a chance to widen your perspective.”
Wising a wonderful holiday season and a great new year to you and yours!
~From all of us in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at the University of Minnesota Law School