Combating Trafficking in Persons: A Regional Project for the Near East and North Africa

As globalization advances the ways in which the world collectively evolves, it has also drastically transformed the ways that malign actors exploit those around them. In the case of human trafficking, international cooperation is critical to share strategies and best practices to eradicate such crimes, which disproportionately affect women and children. To share methodologies that combat international trafficking and support the survivors of its exploits, a group of five visitors from across the Near East and North Africa (NEA) travelled to the United States to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The program aimed to examine international law, survivor reintegration programs, anti-trafficking hotlines, and strategies to combat these crimes at local, state and federal levels.

Visitors connect with TIP experts at a U.S. Department of State briefing.

Project Objectives

  • Review U.S. government strategies to combat international trafficking in persons, including crimes against women and children, by examining the formulation, administration, and enforcement of U.S. policy on the national, state, and local levels; 
  • Examine the roles that government, law enforcement, the courts, and local organizations play in detecting, preventing, and prosecuting crimes; 
  • Explore initiatives to recognize, protect, and assist victims of abuse and trafficking, including victim recovery and reintegration programs; and 
  • Investigate international law enforcement cooperation in trafficking in persons cases. 

Project Design

Over the course of their 3-week program, visitors made stops at the following destinations, where meetings were focused on specific aspects of larger project themes. The group visited five cities to see how trafficking in persons questions are addressed in different parts of the United States.  

Washington, DC: In the nation's capital, visitors were introduced to theories and frameworks that situated responses to trafficking in persons (TIP) in larger American and global contexts. Meetings with major federal departments, including the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), discussed national responses to TIP activities, including the "Blue Campaign" on raising public awareness, and DOL research mechanisms for identifying preventative indicators of labor trafficking. At Polaris, visitors learned how the National Human Trafficking Hotline connects survivors to services across the country, Visitors appreciated the high-level meetings across agencies that outlined federal activities to combat TIP.

Raleigh, NC: Heading south, visitors explored how grassroots activism, law enforcement and academia address TIP, providing them with diverse perspectives in their first city stop outside of Washington, DC. Visitors heard presentations from NC Stop Human Trafficking, discussing the NGO's relationship with local migrant farmworkers in the community, as well as speakers from Project NO REST in the University if North Carolina's School of Social Work, which recently piloted a series of human trafficking intervention programs across the state. The variety of ways different industries work to combat TIP activities served as a valuable first step in understanding national approaches to countering TIP. The warm welcome they received during home hospitality with local families was a highlight of their time in Raleigh.

Denver, CO: A stop in the American West illustrated practical, on-the-ground measures to combat TIP and support survivors. The Colorado Human Trafficking Council shared clever methods to discreetly share resources with trafficked people on hand sanitizer and other hygiene products. A meeting with Truckers Against Trafficking detailed how TIP often occurs along busy transportation routes where there is little oversight, and how their organization is equipping truckers to be allies in identifying human trafficking activity.

Colorado Springs, CO: A day of meetings in Colorado Springs illuminated law enforcement partnerships with local service providers to investigate sex trafficking crimes and provide wraparound support services for survivors. Their visit included tours of police facilities and meetings with TESSA and Safe Passages, where the visitors learned more about the importance of streamlining services and reducing further trauma for survivors.

New York, New York: In the group’s last city stop, visitors heard from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office about the plea bargain process, which highlighted how different legal systems around the world handle the prosecution of TIP offenders. The Center for Court Innovation shared their work on alternative dispute resolution, which was a new concept for many of the visitors. They also had time to enjoy the sites of the city, bringing a touch of culture and history to the end of their program.

Impact and Next Steps

Visitor Impressions: 

“I knew as an activist and educated person about the U.S. system in general, but there is a difference between what you hear and what you see for yourself. Specifically, this experience benefited me by teaching me a lot of information and expertise that I could not have otherwise learned in three weeks, it would have taken me years.”

“It was a very beneficial project, especially in the exchange of information, but culture as well. The best thing was learning about the American federal system, also TESSA, Safe Passage and Polaris. I learned a lot from these visits and [benefited] big time.”

Equipped with a new network and knowledge, visitors aim to undertake the following steps post-program:

  • Develop a training program syllabus to share new evidence and country-by-country trends on TIP issues with aviation industry colleagues;
  • Implement a campaign similar to the “Blue Campaign” to raise public awareness and warning signs of TIP activity;
  • Replicate a model of survivor outreach that conceals barcodes to services within selfcare items, discreetly but effectively giving a lifeline to support; and
  • Collaborate with the Polaris Project on future countering TIP projects. 

Project summary

Combating Trafficking in Persons: A Regional Project for the Near East and North Africa
Number of Visitors: 5
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Countries: Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia
Impact Areas: Human and Civil Rights
Program Areas: Global Leadership