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Human Trafficking

Trafficking in Persons is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

There are an estimated 30 million slaves in the world today. More than at the height of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade

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Major forms of human trafficking include:

Forced Labor

Recent studies show the majority of human trafficking in the world takes the form of forced labor. The ILO estimates that for every trafficking victim subjected to forced prostitution, nine people are forced to work. Also known as involuntary servitude, forced labor may result when unscrupulous employers exploit workers made more vulnerable by high rates of unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, or cultural acceptance of the practice. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well.

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking comprises a smaller but still significant portion of overall human trafficking. When an adult is coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution – or maintained in prostitution through coercion – that person is a victim of trafficking. All of those involved in recruiting, transporting, harboring, receiving, or obtaining the person for that purpose have committed a trafficking crime. Sex trafficking can also occur within debt bondage, as women and girls are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale” – which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free. It is critical to understand that a person’s initial consent to participate in prostitution is not legally determinative: if they are thereafter held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, they are trafficking victims and should receive the benefits outlined in the Palermo Protocol and applicable domestic laws.

Bonded Labor

One form of force or coercion is the use of a bond, or debt. Often referred to as “bonded labor” or “debt bondage,” the practice has long been prohibited under U.S. law by its Spanish name – peonage – and the Palermo Protocol requires its criminalization as a form of trafficking in persons. Workers around the world fall victim to debt bondage when traffickers or recruiters unlawfully exploit an initial debt the worker assumed as part of the terms of employment. Workers may also inherit debt in more traditional systems of bonded labor. In South Asia, for example, it is estimated that there are millions of trafficking victims working to pay off their ancestors’ debts.

Debt Bondage Among Migrant Laborers

Abuses of contracts and hazardous conditions of employment for migrant laborers do not necessarily constitute human trafficking. However, the attribution of illegal costs and debts on these laborers in the source country, often with the support of labor agencies and employers in the destination country, can contribute to a situation of debt bondage. This is the case even when the worker’s status in the country is tied to the employer as a guestworker in the context of employment-based temporary work programs.

Involuntary Domestic Servitude

A unique form of forced labor is the involuntary servitude of domestic workers, whose workplace is informal, connected to their off-duty living quarters, and not often shared with other workers. Such an environment, which often socially isolates domestic workers, is conducive to nonconsensual exploitation since authorities cannot inspect private property as easily as they can inspect formal workplaces. Investigators and service providers report many cases of untreated illnesses and, tragically, widespread sexual abuse, which in some cases may be symptoms of a situation of involuntary servitude.

Forced Child Labor

Most international organizations and national laws recognize children may legally engage in certain forms of work. There is a growing consensus, however, that the worst forms of child labor should be eradicated. The sale and trafficking of children and their entrapment in bonded and forced labor are among these worst forms of child labor, and these are forms of trafficking. A child can be a victim of human trafficking regardless of the location of that nonconsensual exploitation. Indicators of possible forced labor of a child include situations in which the child appears to be in the custody of a non-family member who has the child perform work that financially benefits someone outside the child’s family and does not offer the child the option of leaving. Anti-trafficking responses should supplement, not replace, traditional actions against child labor, such as remediation and education. However, when children are enslaved, their abusers should not escape criminal punishment by virtue of longstanding administrative responses to child labor practices.

Child Soldiers

Child soldiering can be a manifestation of human trafficking where it involves the unlawful recruitment or use of children – through force, fraud, or coercion – as combatants or for labor or sexual exploitation by armed forces. Perpetrators may be government forces, paramilitary organizations, or rebel groups. Many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants. Others are made unlawfully to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with male combatants. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Child Sex Trafficking

According to UNICEF, as many as two million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. International covenants and protocols obligate criminalization of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The use of children in the commercial sex trade is prohibited under both U.S. law and the Palermo Protocol as well as by legislation in countries around the world. There can be no exceptions and no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations preventing the rescue of children from sexual servitude. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/ AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possible death.

An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking

Of these:

    • 1.4 million – 56% - are in Asia and the Pacific
    • 250,000 – 10% - are in Latin America and the Caribbean
    • 230,000 – 9.2% - are in the Middle East and Northern Africa
    • 130,000 – 5.2% - are in sub-Saharan countries
    • 270,000 – 10.8% - are in industrialized countries
    • 200,000 – 8% - are in countries in transition

 

161 countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking by being a source, transit or destination count

• People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries, affecting every continent and every type of economy

The Victims

  • The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age

  • An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year

  • 95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking (based on data from selected European countries)

  • 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98 per cent are women and girls 

  • 32% of victims are used for forced economic exploitation, of whom 56 per cent are women and girls

  • 52% of those recruiting victims are men, 42% are women and 6% are both men and women

  • In 54% of cases the recruiter was a stranger to the victim, 46% of cases the recruiter was known to victim

  • The majority of suspects involved in the trafficking process are nationals of the country where the trafficking process is occurring

The Profits

• Estimated global annual profits made from the exploitation of all trafficked forced labour are US$ 31.6 billion

Of this:

    • US$ 15.5 billion – 49% - is generated in industrialized economies
    • US$ 9.7 billion – 30.6% is generated in Asia and the Pacific
    • US$ 1.3 billion – 4.1% is generated in Latin America and the Caribbean
    • US$ 1.6 billion – 5% is generated in sub-Saharan Africa
    • US$ 1.5 billion – 4.7% is generated in the Middle East and North Africa

You can report trafficking crimes and get help by calling the Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line at 1-888-428-7581

Credit: U.S. Department of State,UNODC