Star Ledger: Alleged ‘victims’ defend accused smugglers

Alleged ‘victims’ defend accused smugglers
Sad and intense story of how victims of a human trafficking scheme defended their captors as a result of what experts call “traumatic bonding.”

Last September, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested two men and a woman from Togo who they said smuggled 14 girls and young women from West Africa, forced them to work without pay at hair-braiding salons in Newark and East Orange, and kept them in line with threats and beatings.

It was, one agent said, a case of modern-day slavery.

Now, four of the alleged victims say they weren’t exploited at all.

Rather, they described the three people charged in the case, Lassissi Afolabi, 44, Akouavi Kpade Afolabi, 39, and Dereck Hounakey, 30, as benevolent parent figures who rescued them from misery in their African village, where drinking water was hauled from a stream each day and their parents struggled to feed their families.

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

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