Combating Human Trafficking in the Hospitality Industry
January 29, 2018
By Daniel Hack
Social Work Graduate Assistant
Students in the Wheelock@Worcester program are working to combat human trafficking by creating a policy that would require hotels to train their employees how to spot victims of trafficking who may be held in hotel rooms.
The students discussed the proposed policy at an event this month attended by Worcester Commissioner of Health and Human Services Mattie Castiel and Worcester City Councilors Kate Toomey and Sean Rose. The policy project was done in partnership with the Central Massachusetts Freedom Coalition and Living in Freedom Together, an agency that provides survivor services.
Wheelock@Worcester students Samantha Joseph, Irisdane Kirouac, Andrea Cruz, Dina Carreno-Melo, Wesley Cruz and Maria Caicedo worked with the agencies as part of their human rights and justice-based Integrative Projects course.
When implemented, the proposed policy would mandate that all employees working in the hospitality industries be trained on how to properly identify potential victims of human trafficking who may be held in hotel rooms. This is a departure from the current policy, where only management is properly trained on how to spot cases of human trafficking.
Kirouac said, "As a resident of Worcester, I became sick to my stomach when I realized that sex trafficking is happening here in my backyard, not only abroad like in the movie Taken. I personally would not be able to sleep well at night knowing that I didn't do anything."
When asked about any difficulties they faced during the project, Irisdane said one of the obstacles was the complexity of the decision-making process that elected officials go through when creating policies that will affect their constituencies.
"As a group, we are still in the early stages, and this issue will not be resolved overnight. We need more individuals to get involved. What would make me the most proud is to have someone we can give the torch to once our time is up in order to continue with the next step on this issue."
Since the January event, the Worcester City Council has moved the proposed policy change forward, and it will be reviewed by the Public Health Policy Committee. Food and space for the event was provided by the Worcester Marriott Residence Inn.