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Cindy McCain talks Syrians refugees’ plight, trafficking in Arizona

LISTEN: Cindy McCain

In an interview with Mac and Gaydos, Cindy McCain opened up about a recent trip to Turkey and her thoughts about trafficking in Arizona.

She is devoted to humanitarian efforts both in the states and overseas and was recently on a trip in Istanbul, Turkey. McCain shared her account of the Syrian refugee crisis overseas and experiences in Turkey.

Her husband Sen. John McCain has long stated that there is a refugee crisis overseas and that it is a real problem for all countries. Cindy McCain agrees and has been particularly involved with the Syrian refugees’ plight fleeing their own country. She decided to visit Turkey after last visiting Greece and wanted to see the Turkish side of the crisis.

“It’s dreadful, it’s tragic. Not only the numbers of people, but what’s happening to them,” McCain said. “These are traffickers that are taking these people, selling them substandard life vests, a place in a lifeboat that’s like riding on a trash bag and for exorbitant amounts of money and pushing them on their way.”

Many refugees will pay people they believe can help get them out of the country, but unfortunately McCain said there are some people that are in it for their own personal gain.

She said she witnessed organized trafficking and thinks Russians are involved in scamming refugees, as she heard some Russian accents when witnessing this firsthand.

“Once they get into Turkey, then they meet up with the traffickers, and then that’s where the traffickers prey upon them. Most of the places that are the easiest…are on the coastal side, and so the ones I’ve been dealing with are specifically heading to Greece.”

McCain said on the day she left Turkey, there were 9 bodies that washed up on the beach.

McCain spoke directly to refugees and shared a touching story about talking to a group of young Syrians in their prime fleeing their country. When she asked if they wanted to go back, they said they would return in a minute, when the time was right.

“I guess what impressed me the most was the resilience of these people and the desperation to get out and get some place where they can be safe, and clothed and fed,” said McCain.

Unfortunately, McCain said Europe is overwhelmed by the staggering amount of refugees, citing incidents in both Germany and Sweden. However, she believes the United States can not completely step in a this time, as the U.S. does need to vet any Syrian refugees that come in for safety, although her humanitarianism tells her all refugees should be accepted.

But, McCain said trafficking and bad conditions are not only happening overseas, it’s happening in our own backyard. McCain delved into the tough topic of human trafficking in Arizona.

As Mesa police deal with the haunting story of a 3-year-old girl found alive but taped up and stashed in a bag in a closet, McCain said these incidents of abuse and trafficking are happening more than we know. A man and woman were arrested for their plans to sell the toddler online for sex.

“This is an everyday occurrence unfortunately. First of all, these two people should be locked away forever, throw the key away as far as I’m concerned…It happens every day unfortunately, (and) our governor and the task force we have have been very active in trying to stop this,” McCain said. “Human trafficking just doesn’t mean your moving people around for sex. It can happen right in someone’s home.”

McCain said the word trafficking is a broad description of what this really is, and it’s happening everywhere. She said the state of Arizona is not only trying to stop trafficking but is trying to prosecute the people involved, not those that are victims of it.

“Let me tell you, no teenager girl or young girl or child says, ‘Gee I want to grow up and be a prostitute.’ They’re not, they’re victims,” McCain said. “We’re trying to have the world prostitute erasing from any legislation, any pending legislation, because they’re not. They’re victims.”

She said this definitely applies when someone is underage.

It’s also about bringing aware to first responders and the general public about what to look for. McCain said Arizona has stepped up and leads the country on this issue, training and awareness.

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