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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Problems Prosecuting Diplomats With Immunity and Domestic Slavery

From NPR.com: For years, stories have circulated around Washington, D.C., of foreign diplomats who mistreat their domestic servants in the United States.

Many diplomats assigned to America bring their domestic workers with them. Some servants have accused employers of withholding their passports, restricting their freedom of movement and burdening them with long work days for extremely low pay. Sometimes, allegations of physical abuse also come into play. But because the accused have diplomatic immunity, U.S. authorities can do little against them.

Recently, the U.S. government's human-trafficking experts asked immigration lawyers in New York and Washington, D.C., how many cases of domestic slavery they had handled in which the employer was a diplomat. The unscientific and unofficial count: more than 40 cases, involving workers from all over the world, from Cameroon to Peru to Russia. None of the cases resulted in convictions.

"The fact that there are these claims means there needs to be investigations," says Gonzalo Gallegos, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department. "And we encourage all of those out there, who believe this may be happening, to go to their authorities and to follow through, so we can find out exactly what is happening and where it is happening."

Immigration lawyer Suzanne Tomatore says she has reported 15 of these cases to authorities. None has been prosecuted. However, Tomatore says the U.S. government has recognized nine of those 15 clients as victims of human trafficking.

"We've actually been able to obtain nine T visas, which are special immigration visas for victims of human trafficking for folks who were trafficked by diplomatic or U.N. officials," she says.

Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

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