USDOL provides MDT with information to aid fight against human trafficking
Due to the lack of local trafficking laws in the territory, the Multi Disciplinary Task Force has reached out to Timothy A. Riera, Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in Honolulu Hawai’i. Riera’s agency covers EEOC matters in American Samoa.
The MDT group advocates for survivors of family violence and trafficking victims.
In this working relationship, the MDT has received publications from Terence J. Trotter-District Director for the USDOL Wage and Hour Division, Honolulu district office, according to MDT Vice Chair Ipu Avegalio Lefiti. The package contained limited publications on the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. (Current data as of 2012).
It also contains general regulations and their interpretation, pertaining to the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Services.
Lefiti noted that there are also copies or pamphlets with "Handy Reference Guides to the Fair Labor Standards Act" and included are Work Hours Calendars to record employment hours.
In the meantime, MDT, which is chaired by Deputy AG Mitzie Jessop, is looking at hosting a second conference on Human Trafficking in a few months. The first conference against family violence featured a seminar on ending Child Abuse and Human Trafficking in the territory.
“The MDT partners have been advocating for victims and survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and the prevention and awareness of human trafficking,” said Lefiti. Through persistence and consistent advocating via media and outreaches for our survivors, these bills are finally making their introduction into the Fono.
It “is currently planning a follow up conference on Human Trafficking. We are open to dialogue with our neighboring islands — Apia, Tonga & the Philippians. Due to the increase of criminal activities and victimization involving our neighboring islands, it is important that we come together to create a language in agreement to the crime," she noted.
“The year 2001 was an awakening year for American Samoa. It was the first time we became aware of human trafficking, with the Daewoosa clothing factory debacle.”
The MDT Vice Chair further noted that 2010 was the last local attempt to enact the criminalization of human trafficking, after its failure to pass through committee in the Fono.
“The Daewoosa incident and reported conditions cited by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) — I felt cut right to the quick what many of us grew up seeing. We felt it was wrong but it was not a crime as long as no one was killed or died," said Lefiti.
"Many to this day still carry the scars and have a story on the incident that caused it.”
Lefiti stated that on the domestic scene, for years, they have either watched or heard of the abuses forced upon our domestic helpers and field hands. "We have witnessed their suffering from forced labor under cruel conditions; beaten, starved into submission or if it’s a female, they have their hair shorn off."
“Talk about involuntary servitude, and many survivors who have spoken to us admitted they had no idea they had any rights. They believed their sponsors who kept their legal documents had the undisputed authority over their lives, which included their spouses and children," she told Samoa News.
“Their blind obedience was not considered being held against their will,” Lefiti said. She then noted that what is finally being revealed are the forced sexual encounters by some sponsors or a sponsor's male family members.
"Now, we have the charges against sponsors who transport women across the border under the guise of employment to provide sex for paying customers,"said Lefiti.
She explained that the scheduled conference will be enhanced with the sharing of grass roots information, data collection and a blanket discussion on legally adjudicated cases. “It also will help to support front line agencies on their policies and procedures, to reinforce and align themselves with the law to include the proper management of the victims and perpetrators.”
The American Samoan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (ASCADSV) is the only non-profit organization in American Samoa that provides shelter services for victims of violence. They are already assisting victims of employment trafficking from neighboring islands.
If anyone is interested in these publications, or further information, please contact the ASCADSV office at 699-0171.