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July 18, 2014

Panel explains human trafficking problem

NORMAN — Many topics were discussed over the course of three days during the 2014 Oklahoma Judicial Conference, but one of the newest issues the legal system is beginning to look at is human trafficking.

A panel discussed human trafficking Thursday afternoon during a plenary session at Embassy Suites Conference Center in Norman.

“This is a real issue that’s happening in the United States and across the world,” said Oklahoma attorney Jasmine Majid, moderator for the session.

To grasp the concept of what human trafficking is, Majid provided the definition. Human trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerable people through force, fraud and coercion for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude or commercial sexual operations.

Human trafficking also can be described as one of the most fundamental violations in human rights; it is modern slavery, according to an American Bar Association video played during the session.

It is a $32 billion industry, and about 27 million people are trafficked worldwide. However, only less than 1 percent of those people are identified, she said.

“About 800,000 human lives are trafficked. Close to a million souls are bought and sold into moderate slavery every year, and 200,000 per year are brought into the United States. Fifty percent, or 100,000 of those, are children.” Majid said.

Panelists discussing the issue included Justice Bobbe Bridge, retiree from the Washington State Supreme Court; District Judge Doris Fransein of the 14th Judicial District; Assistant Attorney General Lesley March, chief of the Victim Services Unit; Dr. Lori Basey, president and co-founder of No Boundaries International; and Agent Craig Williams, a senior agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

The panelists agreed that identifying victims of human trafficking is difficult. They blend into the environment, Basey said, who works on the front lines going into areas where criminal activity such as prostitution frequently occurs.

Basey said she and her organization attempt to identify victims by offering resources and establishing relationships with those people in difficult situations, which can often represent a transient, homeless population.

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