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Scholars to meet at Illinois to discuss criminal trafficking and slavery

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor


small female child standing next to a stop sign and a street sign: human trafficking
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Criminal trafficking and slavery will be the topic of a conference Feb. 23-25 at the U. of I.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Scholars from throughout the United States will assemble at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Feb. 23-25 to address this year’s Joint Area Centers Symposium on “Criminal Trafficking and Slavery: The Dark Side of Regional and Global Migration.”

The conference, organized by the U. of I.’s Center for Global Studies, is free and open to the public. Most events, including a teacher’s workshop for K-16 teachers, and a youth forum, take place in the Heritage Room of the Isaac Funk Family Library for Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, 1111 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana.

A keynote talk presented by Susan Forbes Martin, executive director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, begins the symposium at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana. The talk is co-sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study/MillerComm.

“Criminal trafficking and slavery, also known as T/S, is a 21st-century form of slavery – morally corrupt and illegal practices which exploit the underprivileged, who flow, often coerced by unscrupulous criminals, from poorer to more affluent nations,” said Edward Kolodziej (KOH-luh-zhay), conference coordinator and director of the U. of I.’s Center for Global Studies.
Most of the victims of trafficking and slavery, he said, are women and children.

Program participants plan to focus on the scope of the problem and identify ways to eliminate or limit these growing criminal practices. Papers also will assess whether prevailing American and international efforts are sufficient to cope with trafficking and slavery and to assist victims affected by it.

“Efforts to eradicate this blight appear to be losing ground to criminal elements,” Kolodziej said. “The latter profit from, and propagate the expansion of, what amounts to a globally dispersed system of exploitation with differential impact – all pernicious and heinous – across nations and regions.

“These complex, webbed systems of global crime violate fundamental human rights, threaten the security and welfare of national and international civil societies, and undermine the authority and capacity of national governments to protect their populations.”

Earlier this year, President Bush signed legislation authorizing increased funding for state and local law-enforcement efforts directed at investigating and prosecuting traffickers. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed similar legislation in 2005.

Kolodziej, however, said that more academic attention should be focused on the issue:

“While the U.S. government and various intergovernmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations are now focusing on combating human trafficking, the academy, particularly its major research universities, has not kept pace with the growth of T/S.”

To that end, he said, the conference has several aims:

• to advance knowledge about the underlying causes of trafficking and slavery;

• to evaluate current local, regional and global efforts – governmental and
private – to eradicate or limit the spread of trafficking and slavery;

• to identify cross-national strategies for strengthening law enforcement to cope with the problem;

• to put a human face on the problem by assessing the scope of exploitation and the adequacy of programs for addressing the physical and psychological needs of victims.

Co-sponsors of the symposium include the U. of I.’s International Programs and Studies and its cooperating regional and global centers, IPS’s Illinois International High School Initiative, and the College of Education.