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What's Happening


Where do you expect to see a human trafficker—in a dangerous neighborhood? An impoverished city or country? Much of what you see on social media or what you learned as a child is probably misleading you. Trafficking doesn’t look like a stranger picking children up in a white van anymore. It isn’t happening far away.

Traffickers are showing up in schools, in places where they can prey on the disabilities and vulnerabilities of people. They are preying on children on gaming apps and girls on instant messaging apps. They are making sophisticated flyers offering promising jobs in other countries. They offer what appears to be legitimate opportunities that entrap people before they know what is happening.

According to U.S. Homeland Security, trafficking is a-$150 billion per year scheme worldwide. Traffickers stand to make a lot of money and they are coming up with new tactics to target the vulnerable. In Romania, traffickers are typically working as part of an organized crime group network with sophisticated methods to exploit Romanian women and children (according to the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report). 

We must stay alert and aware of these ever-evolving tactics! 

In Romania, we are learning new tactics because of our expanding network of Freedom Highway members across the country. Our growing number of video monitors showing our anti-trafficking messages in strategic locations educating the public on trafficking means more people are growing in their awareness. These people’s eyes are being opened and they are calling us to report what they are seeing. This means we are heading off these schemes proactively! 

Here are a few examples just in the past few weeks:

Traffickers Targeting Disabled Individuals

Two of our team members were recently called to assist in an emergency at a center in Romania that cares for physically disabled adults. 

They shared with us that traffickers had been making visits to their facility to promise patients a better life. They made fake promises of providing housing and care for them or a job opportunity in another country. 

The cruel reality was that when these traffickers got the patients to the other country, they were used for begging and as sex slaves.

Our team worked with the facility to train staff and residents to be on the lookout for these dangerous people. Our team also helped the facility put safety measures in place to track who was coming into their facility and to only allow registered visitors inside to speak with the patients. 

Because of the education we’ve been able to give to communities in Romania, people like the staff at this faculty are becoming aware that their patients are at risk. This awareness means we can bring in more education on prevention and more people can be protected! Can you imagine what could happen to these vulnerable people if they didn’t know how to protect themselves? 

Traffickers Using Drugs to Target School-Age Children

Our staff visited a school recently in a Romanian community and were shocked to hear that traffickers are targeting the students in their schools. We learned traffickers are going to the schools and using new schemes to entrap the students, including trying to hook students on drugs. 

One student told us about an elderly lady who handed out drugs to the students. First, she gives it to them for free. Then, she charges a small amount of money the next time. As they become addicted, she increases the price, and then traffickers can come in and make an offer. They tell the students they can give them a lifetime supply of the drug they’ve gotten hooked on. 

This has been a tactic in the U.S. for a long time, and now traffickers in Romania are catching on and adopting new ways to lure students away from their families and communities into a life of bondage. 

Luckily, we are in the process of training volunteers so they can bring awareness of these horrors to students, teachers, and families. We’re using a “train the trainer” model. We can train teachers and volunteers who can go into more communities and schools than our team can alone. We’re busy training a large number of new volunteers to educate communities like this one! 

We share these stories with you for a few reasons.

We want YOU to be aware. Traffickers are targeting children in our communities and you must stay alert! 

We also need help spreading the word so others stay free. Share these tips and stories with others so we can continue building a Freedom Highway around the world that stays aware and fights trafficking. 

Finally, you can help others find freedom. When you donate to Uncaged, you help us visit more schools and train more community members. You put monitors in more strategic locations. You protect more vulnerable people around Romania! 

Will you unlock the cage with your gift today?

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The news is spreading!

People around Romania are becoming more aware of the fight against human trafficking and how they can get involved. Phase Two of our strategy to blanket Romania with anti-trafficking resources through video messaging in key locations is expanding daily. 

We are excited to be partnering with the Romanian Ministry of Transportation and the Center for Assistance and Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking.

In February, the press gathered to watch the unveiling of our monitors at the Timisoara airport. As news began to spread about the effectiveness of the prevention strategy already in place in Bucharest, we gained access to this strategic city. Timisoara is the third largest city in Romania. The current airport serves 5000-7000 passengers a day. We were invited to install monitors there and in a new terminal that will open in March, daily bringing 8000-10,000 more passengers through the region.

A New Strategic Location

This area is strategic in the fight against trafficking because it is the gateway to the Schengen Region. Traffickers funnel their “merchandise” into this region that holds the most successful countries in Europe.

The press was there to capture the excitement of the day and to date, 24 articles have been written about the next momentous step Romania is taking to protect its people from traffickers.

People are taking notice and they want to know how to protect themselves, their children, and their communities. This is just the beginning of a nation rising up to say, “Slavery no more!” 

See What the Press is Saying

Here’s one example of these Romanian language articles people are reading. Take a look at a portion of (an English translation of) one of the articles:

Traian Vuia International Airport from Timisoara joins the campaign to prevent human trafficking initiated by Uncaged. 9 video monitors will be placed in the waiting rooms of the airport in Timisoara.

The objectives and stages of the partnership were presented during the launch event that took place on Friday, February 9, 2024, at Timişoara "Traian Vuia" International Airport, in the presence of partners, officials, and representatives of the local community.

During the 12 months of the partnership, Uncaged will carry out information and training actions for the general public to prevent human trafficking and increase awareness of this phenomenon among citizens. 

At the same time, a pilot project will be carried out to install several 9 video monitors in the waiting rooms of Timişoara International Airport - Traian Vuia SA, on which short audio messages will be broadcast to the general public, informing them about the prevention and protection against abuse and of human trafficking, as well as promoting good behavior and passenger safety.

In 2024, Uncaged and its partners will financially support the running of a national program consisting of the installation of video monitors in crowded public places, monitors on which will be presented informative and educational materials related to the prevention of human trafficking and abuse.

"We started this national project in December 2023, and we are happy to be able to launch this new stage in Timişoara. We are always concerned about the safety of our children, and women in Romania and around the world, as well as all vulnerable people who do not have the chance to avoid the increasingly numerous traps laid by unscrupulous people, able to sell human beings as a commodity.”

The authorities in Romania are making significant progress in the fight against human trafficking. Allow me to mention here, with gratitude, for their involvement: the Ministry of the Interior, the National Agency against Human Trafficking, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity, as well as many other competent bodies.

We collaborate with non-governmental organizations from all over the country and from Europe to reduce the number of victims, but also for the identification and emotional and social rehabilitation of survivors. 

Only together can we succeed! Because only together we are a force!" declared Beniamin Lup, European Director.

"Uncaged exists to build a new future for human trafficking survivors. We want to see them healed and restored. At the same time, in addition to healing and restoring the life course of every human trafficking survivor, we always strive to ensure that no one will go through these horrors ever again.

The campaign to prevent human trafficking, by placing monitors in the most crowded public spaces, will save the lives of thousands of women and girls. We have already received numerous calls to our short number that have allowed us to redirect potential victims. If they had fallen into the traffic trap, their life expectancy would have been only seven years! We can say, therefore, that we don't just protect. We literally save lives!

We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Ministry of Transport and Timişoara Airport on this important project. This is just the beginning! We intend to cover all major air and land transport hubs as well as other strategic locations. Currently, we have started concluding partnerships with several ministries and government institutions to expand anti-trafficking strategies throughout the country. Thus, together we help the survivors in Romania to free themselves from the traumas of the past!", said Kim Westfall, founder of Uncaged.

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Updated: Feb 26

Human traffickers are no respecter of persons. They could come for anyone! 

Certain parts of the population are more vulnerable than others. We have launched into action to help protect the most vulnerable—like the women and children refugees fleeing war in Ukraine. We educate children and educators because we know traffickers prey on trusting and unsuspecting children. 

How can we best protect those at risk? We’ve given you tips recently on what to do if you encounter someone already trapped in trafficking. But we want to see this stopped before it ever happens! Education is a big key to prevention. A part of that education means understanding the risks of an online world and how to protect ourselves and our communities. 

As more people turn to online communications and at even younger ages, we must remain vigilant! 

The term grooming describes the method traffickers use to build an emotional connection so that they can exploit or extort victims. We recently shared how some traffickers groom their victims through the promise of a relationship (The Loverboy Method). Others promise a job, a trip, or other economic benefit. 

A growing way traffickers are grooming people is by using social media, messaging platforms, and online gaming. People who are seeking connection and support are particularly vulnerable to grooming online. 

When we go into schools, we talk about online safety with children. We are telling tens of thousands of travelers every day through our messages in transportation hubs like airports and train stations. Our signs and training with Border Patrol alert refugees to protect themselves by never sharing photos of themselves, their locations, or personal details through messaging or over the phone.

Here are a few more tips for staying safe online:

1. Have strict privacy settings

You can set social media accounts to private. Make sure to turn off your location sharing!

2. Be on the lookout for strange friend requests

Only accept friend requests from people you know. Do not chat with anyone online you do not know personally.

3. Don’t share too much personal information

Remember, anything you put online is public domain! Traffickers can use photos and personal details to groom, blackmail, or harass people. Never share personal information like your address, phone number, or live location. 

4. Beware of advertisements that are too good to be true

Traffickers use catchy job advertisements online (like the chance to make high pay for simple work or the chance to be a model, actress, etc). If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Traffickers are waiting for you to respond so they can trap you!

5. Flag suspicious pages or activities

If something feels suspicious, don’t share it. You can block or unfriend someone if they are talking to you in a way you don’t like. It’s also a good idea to screenshot messages that feel suspicious. They can be used in investigations later. 

(Source: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)

We hope these tips help you stay aware and active in preventing trafficking in your own communities. 

When you partner with the mission of Uncaged, you’re helping us keep people safe all across Europe! Your gifts help us unlock the cage. We want to see trafficking stopped once and for all! 

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