A coalition of non-profit organizations serving the Asian American community launched a human trafficking task force on January 13 to specifically target the needs of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) survivors.

The task force, called the Asian Pacific Islander Human Trafficking Task Force, consists of 15 member agencies, and aims to strengthen the services that can be provided to API victims of human trafficking through their collaboration.

API victims have specific needs due to cultural and language differences, task force representatives said, and could be better served when agencies are more sensitive to those differences. Together, the task force is able to provide services in 19 languages, including Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Tagalog, Khmer, Thai, Cantonese, Bengali, and Vietnamese.

Among the members of the newly launched task force alone, 764 victims of human trafficking were served last year, 57 percent (434 individuals) of which were API. Most of the clients were Thai (228), followed by Filipino (114), and Korean (35).

However, underreporting of human trafficking is also a significant issue in the API community that leads to a lack of accurate data to appropriately provide resources to victims, said Connie Chung Joe, the executive director of Korean American Family Services (KFAM). Underreporting could be attributed to various reasons, she said. For example, when one or both parents of a child sex trafficking victim are English speakers, the report may fail to check and record the ethnicity of the victim, and the same may apply if the child is mixed race. Children who were trafficked internationally before getting specific help from the DCFS may not be reported into the records, Chung Joe added.

Representatives said they hoped the task force would bring about greater advocacy and awareness so that the API community would be more knowledgable of the resources available to them, such as hotlines, and that cases of human trafficking in the API community would be more accurately reported.

Member agencies include non-profit organizations such as the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Filipino Migrant Center, Korean American Family Services (KFAM), Thai Community Development Center (CDC), and Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), as well as government agencies and individuals, including Los Angeles County’s Mental Health Commissioner Lawrence Lue and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.