They looked like a bunch of revelers out to enjoy on the Super Bowl weekend. Their boat docked on a beach in Haiti. Then, they had visitors. These were people who sell young children and underage girls to tourists. Soon after the ‘business deal’ was sealed, there was another batch of surprise visitors – police. They arrested 9 of the child traffickers and rescued 29 of their victims.
This group of apparent football enthusiasts were actually volunteers of Utah-based organization Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), a nonprofit that works against human trafficking. They interacted with the suspected child traffickers in the guise of tourists interested in buying young girls for sex. They “bought” 20 minors, some as young as 11, and nine 18-year-old girls. All of them were liberated by the police.
CEO of the organization Timothy Ballard called it one of the most successful operations of OUR. “They were so grotesque, talking about 10-year-old kids and what they were going to do; talking about them like they were selling computer parts. These kids were the subject of child pornography, videos that were being distributed outside of Haiti. Some of the kids had been branded as property,” he said.
According to the the OUR website, sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise worldwide with 90% of victims being female.
Since it was formed in 2013, the group has saved 643 victims of sexual trafficking in 15 countries. They have also helped the authorities nab 280 offenders that include traffickers and pedophiles. In all the countries that they work, OUR has affiliation with international as well as local enforcement authorities.
Together with other organizations and the authorities, OUR volunteers ensure that the rescued victims get a better life. They help many of them to return home to their families. When this is not possible or workable, they ensure the victims are placed in safe orphanages or care facilities.