US-Greek cooperation in fight against organized crime

«We have been working very well with the Greek government,» said Karen Grisette, a US Embassy official in charge of human rights issues and who is involved in a survey of the trafficking situation in Greece. Grisette brought a pile of files, reports and photographs to our meeting. «The purpose of publicizing the report on the illegal movement of persons is not to embarrass the countries involved, but to encourage governments to do even more to fight the problem,» she emphasized. The USA’s decision to counter the problem on a world level, she added, was focused on the United States itself, where other state agencies such as the departments of Justice and the Interior are involved. According to a lengthy Justice Department report, it is estimated that about 17,500 victims of human trafficking enter the US every year. The State Department became involved in fighting trafficking in 2000 as the result of a joint initiative between both Republicans and Democrats and women’s groups. «Every year about 600,000-800,000 people, mostly women and children, are illegally taken to countries outside their country of origin,» said Grisette. «However I think that on their own, numbers cannot show how serious or how evil trafficking in humans is. That can only happen by becoming aware of the reality of the victims’ lives.» Those involved in the survey, in every country, have terrible stories to tell. The researchers, along with state and international organizations, NGOs, the press and academics provide sources of information. The greatest obstacles are the serious threats to the victims, along with the general ignorance of the public regarding the true dimensions of the modern slave trade. «Most of the victims are afraid to go to the authorities. It needs a very well-trained group of social workers, along with appropriate legislation in order to find and help the victims,» said Grisette. «The most important thing is for all of us to help make these victims feel truly safe, so that they are not afraid of being deported.» The public also needs to be aware of the implications of the problem, not only for the victims themselves. People also need to consider the more widespread risks, since trafficking is not only linked to organized crime but the spread of serious diseases such as AIDS.

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