As US media outlets report on recent allegations by two women who claim they were enslaved at a Saudi compound in the US, many US advocates who help human trafficking victims wonder why this common occurrence is only just now being reported on.
Two women from the Philippines alleged that they were held against their will at a Saudi compound believed to house a Saudi military attaché in McLean, Virginia. The women claimed that their documents were taken from them and they were forced into servitude.
Whether these allegations prove true or false, an FBI Special Agent who spoke with me previously on the issue of human trafficking claimed such occurrences are very common in the United States. “The most common form of human trafficking I’ve seen involves foreign workers who arrive in the US only to have their documents taken from them,” I was told. “They are forced into servitude with with threats of deportation or threats to their relatives in their country of origin.”
Dottie Laster, a leading advocate who helps victims of human trafficking with her company, Laster Global, expressed surprise that so many are acting as though events like the one being alleged in the Saudi compound issue are uncommon:
Many of the victims I help have come from foreign nations and have had their documents taken from them by the people who helped them get to the US, or they are sold to others by the people who helped them get here. They are forced into servitude for either no pay or for ridiculously low pay. Many predators will pay a small amount so that any effort by authorities to prosecute them will become more difficult. This is true whether the victims are from Mexico, the Philippines, or any other nation on this earth. We deal with this every day in the US.
According to Laster, these allegations are not the first that have surfaced against Saudis bearing diplomatic immunity. Laster told Breitbart News of a 2004 case involving an African woman in the US: “She came because Saudi Royal family members were seeking medical care here in the US. She was a domestic servant to them in Saudi Arabia.”
“Once here, she escaped with the help of another staff member,” Laster explained. “She was brought to me and she showed signs of severe physical abuse.”
“The FBI got involved and the victim was allowed to stay in the US, but the FBI and US Attorney’s office did not pursue charges due to diplomatic immunity. I also reported the issue to Diplomatic Security Services (DSS),” Laster said. “This occurred while I was employed by the YMCA as an advocate for victims of human trafficking in Houston, Texas.”
Brandon Darby worked with the FBI in an undercover capacity on anti-human trafficking efforts for approximately seven to eight months in 2011-2012. He currently helps to provide safe shelter for victims and assist anti-human trafficking advocates in ensuring law enforcement properly assists victims.