Human trafficking in this day and age is a form of slavery, it occurs all throughout the world and Guam is no exception.
On Friday morning, the administration met with federal officials to discuss ways to combat human trafficking.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, from December 2012 to December 2016 there were 10 cases of human trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking hotline.
The hotline’s website shows that since 2007 there were 30 calls received reporting human trafficking on Guam resulting in 18 cases and between 20 to 36 victims.
In 2017 and 2018, two more reports were received. However, according to the report, there is insufficient data to report the number of potential persons trafficked by citizenship, gender or age.
A closed-door meeting was held between the administration and local and federal officials. PNC interviewed Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio who shared his takeaway from that meeting.
“The purpose of the visit to Guam is to visit the insular areas that are eligible for funding under the administration for Native Americans. Because they are doing that, they’ve invited some of the other federal partners to get a sense of what’s going on in the community. So this morning, our focus has been on human trafficking and I know that over the last few years there has been some focus on that, really looking and trying to get some training opportunities for health and social services folks as well as law enforcement folks to identify what’s going on in our community and try to make sure that we have a good response to it,” Tenorio said.
The lieutenant governor added that both the non-profit sector and the government believe that there is some human trafficking going on here on island and although they are doing their best to push back, he believes there is a way lot more that needs to be done.
“Well, I think that’s something that we are going to have to examine. I have to say that we have to look at some of the obvious things going on with a large number of massage parlors. I have seen studies which state that there are more massage parlors than convenience stores. I think that’s an indication that we have some issues that we have to look at. But I also know that from my background at the courts as the administrator that we have a homelessness problem, we have a substance abuse problem, and we have trafficking problem with individuals,” Tenorio said.
He added that Guam needs to wrap itself around the problem as human trafficking is tied to other issues facing our community such as the homelessness problem and the substance abuse problem.
“I would also say that we also have this issue going on within the Micronesian community. We have kids who are living with people that are not their parents, without supervision and some of those are known to be victims of human trafficking. So I think that although we are doing our best to look at this, I think that there is way more that we can be doing,” Tenorio said.
He added that they are going to try to expand training of local law enforcement to ensure they are properly trained in areas such as screening.
If the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency is trained to screen inbound passengers, Tenorio said authorities would be able to see what’s really going on.
“But also, we need to educate ourselves about what trafficking is. It’s not necessarily somebody that’s trapped in a room being held hostage. Sometimes they are out there in the community, it’s just that they don’t have full control over what they are doing. People, because of debts that are owed or because of people that are predators, are living in situations that are not healthy and they don’t have their own free will. Those are the cases that we really need to look out for,” the lieutenant governor said.
According to the Guam Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence website, human trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
This occurs in situations of forced labor such as domestic servitude, factory or agricultural work.
It may be recalled that the infamous Blue House Lounge was where young girls and a minor were forced into prostitution as the karaoke lounge was a mask for a brothel.