February 19, 2014 Human Rights Session: Refugees in Malaysia

Flyer for Ms. Sreedharan's presentation.

In 2012, according to the UNHCR, almost 920,000 people applied for asylum or refugee status. These are people who are seeking safety from persecution in their home countries. They are often fleeing from threats of violence, rape, or torture. They may have used their entire life savings to escape their home country. They may be in severe need of medical attention and mental health resources. Yet despite making it to the relative safety of another country, their struggle may be far from over.

On Wednesday, February 19, Humphrey Fellow Liva Sreedharan will discuss how approximately 100,000 refugees in her home country of Malaysia go out of the frying pan and into the fire, escaping persecution in their home countries only to arrive in Malaysia, where they are perceived as illegal immigrants. Ms. Sreedharan will talk about the particular vulnerability of women refugees to abuse and exploitation, and how this ill-treatment is an assault not only on their human rights, but their identities as well.


Prisoners in Their Skin: The Story of Persons with Living with Albinism in East Africa

Do you use sunscreen? Do you go to tanning salons? Has anyone ever told you that you are ‘exotic’? Humphrey Fellow Alice Kimani will bring a new perspective to these seemingly innocuous questions when she presents “Prisoners in Their Skin: The Story of Persons with Living with Albinism in East Africa” on Wednesday, February 12 at the University of Minnesota Law School.

In her presentation, Ms. Kimani will discuss the social stigma surrounding persons living with albinism in East Africa, as well as the human rights concerns that have resulted. Not only do persons with albinism face societal discrimination in areas such as education and employment, but they have also become targets for human organ traffickers.

Ms. Kimani brings a wealth of experience and expertise from her extensive work on the issue of human trafficking.  Prior to her Humphrey Fellowship, she was the Regional Policy, Liaison and Reporting Officer for International Organization for Migration (IOM) Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya. She has also worked with IOM in Tanzania, and is an alumni of the Refugee Service Centre at University of Oxford.

The presentation will be on Wednesday, February 12, from 12:15-1:15 PM in Mondale Hall Room 15. Food will be provided.

Judge Philip Aguinaldo to Lecture on Anti Human Trafficking

Congratulations to Philip Aguinaldo (Philippines, 2012-13). He was recently invited by the Philippine Judicial Academy, the education arm of the Supreme Court of the Philippines to be the lecturer on Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy on July 5, 2013 in Manila, as well as a moderator and group facilitator for the same training on July 3rd and 5th. Judges, prosecutors, public attorneys, and court personnel will participate in the training.

Humphrey Fellows Spring Ahead!

On Friday, February 1, a group of the Humphrey Fellows from the Law and Public Affairs Schools at the University of Minnesota met to discuss upcoming Spring events. Of the topics discussed, advocacy against Human Trafficking was largely examined. The Fellows were eager to implement their knowledge and passion for human rights against Human Trafficking and discussed ways to share their own experiences as police officials and civil society representatives with organizations working against trafficking in Minnesota. Stay tuned for more outstanding Human Rights work from our Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program!

Humphrey Fellow Spotlight: Kirill Boychenko

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.”


Human Trafficking: International Perspectives on Policing, Legal and Field Intervention

On November 9, over fifty people gathered at the University of Minnesota Law School to hear past and present Humphrey Fellows present on human trafficking.  The night began with Dr. Veerendra Mishra and Viresh Kumar Bhawra speaking on Trafficking and Policing in India.  Following a brief discussion, Legal and Judicial approaches were iterated by Amarjargal Davjayev* and Judge Philip Acosta Aguinaldo. Finally,  Zohir Navjuvonov**, Dr. Hari Paudel and Dr. Kirill Boychenko presented on Trafficking and Field Approaches.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines human trafficking as a crime against humanity that, “involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.”  While the UNODC has taken measures to combat human trafficking, they are thwarted by misrepresentation of data, lack of transnational communication and collaboration, and law enforcement corruption.

Throughout the event, the speakers posed questions exploring the magnitude of international collaboration, the manifestation of human trafficking in various countries and the international and national legal measures currently in place.   Specifically, the speakers highlighted the economic root of human trafficking.  The presenters stressed the lack of transnational cooperation, which cripples human trafficking enforcement. Suggestions were made to assign high priority to the issue, enforce domestic and international laws, include trafficking as a crime against humanity, empower NGOs, and strengthen the implementation of the UN treaty body system.

*Amarjargal Davjayev has worked with the Thailand Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women.

**Zohir Navjuvonov is the National Program Coordinator at the International Organization for Migration.

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