This summer I met with a man who identifies trafficking victims in Ontario, and he informed me of a trend he has observed. After a brothel or massage parlour raid in the area, soon there is a stream of ‘new replacements’ that comes through. Usually these replacements are of the same ethnic background that the previous girls were, as often traffickers exploit and move around their ‘own people.’ Many men who pay for sex seek women of their own ethnicity.
Evidence of this cultural/ethnic trend can be seen from last week’s trafficking ring bust in the U.S., in which 29 Somali gang members were accused of an interstate trafficking ring that sold Somali girls into prostitution. The girls were transported mainly between the Twin Cities, Nashville, and Columbus. One victim was 12 years old.
Here is a picture of those charged, several being leaders of the Somali Outlaws and Somali Mafia gangs. Some of them go by names like “Fatboy,” ‘Forehead,” and “Pinky.” I am saddened to see that there are women involved in this crime as well. Who taught all these men and women to exploit the vulnerable?
This kind of thing frustrates me because it reflects poorly on Somali people in general – criminals and extremists always do their fellow countrymen, most of whom are respectable and would never participate in such activities, a disservice by creating false stereotypes.
On Friday night members of the Somali community met in a Minneapolis restaurant to discuss the allegations. Restaurant co-owner Abdil Ahmed said, “This is not who we are. We are decent people.”
I am glad that this group was caught, and hope that the victims who were exploited will find hope for healing. Sadly, Somalis are not alone in trafficking their own – what can be done to break this global trend?