Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Human trafficking `survivor' to speak at Miami summit

Posted on Wed, Oct. 28, 2009


She was only 13 years old, a runaway fleeing an abusive father, when a pimp reeled her in with the promise of fast cash and an independent life.

`You're 13 years old and you see $400, $600, $800 in your hand,'' she said in an interview. `I'm seeing all this money and I'm like, I could get somewhere, I could make it on my own. I don't need my parents for nothing.''

Mia, who did not want to disclose her last name, would end up far from her Arizona home, trafficked by pimps to California, and later traveling to New York. She estimates she was arrested more than 50 times.

Now, five years later, she lives in Miami and is trying to rebuild her life. She has a job and is in school. Her priorities have changed -- now she has a young son to take care of.

On Thursday, Mia will tell her story during the second day of a two-day statewide Summit on Human Trafficking at the Miami Hilton downtown.

The summit, the first of its kind in Florida, brings together law enforcement authorities, social workers and community groups to help combat human trafficking and assist `survivors.''

Among those addressing the summit: Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon and Cameron Holland, the State Department's legal counsel on human trafficking.

`Traffickers are selling women and children on our cities' streets, they are forcing large numbers of victims to work in our fields and in our factories. They are enslaving workers in the very hotels we stay in,'' Sheldon said in a written statement.

`We must ensure that we have more people who can recognize trafficking for what it is and establish the ways for reporting, investigating, prosecuting perpetrators and treating victims, giving them the support and services they need to become survivors and lead healthy and successful lives, free from oppression,'' he said.

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature created the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, to be co-chaired by DCF and the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

U.S. Justice Department officials estimate that as many as 200,000 children each year are trafficked within the United States as part of a vast sex industry. As many as 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.

United Nations officials say human trafficking generates $31.6 billion a year in global business profits, second only to drug trafficking.

The summit -- Recognizing the Problem, Collaborating on a Response -- is being held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Miami Hilton Downtown, 1601 Biscayne Blvd.