We hear of child abduction and feel helpless to improve the lives of the victims. However, your reaction to this crime of worldwide scope can save a lost child without putting yourself in jeopardy; it is a crime hidden in plain sight.
Again, I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive; but better than both is he who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)
Human Trafficking – a Global Blight
- Human trafficking is a global problem affecting people of all ages.
- It is estimated that approximately 1,000,000 people are trafficked each year globally.
- It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Enslaving an estimated 45 million, human trafficking generates more than 150 billion dollars each year.
- Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa). Shockingly, the average worldwide age of entry is 12.
Between 20,000 and 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States, which is one of the largest destinations for victims of the sex-trafficking trade. In its 2019 report, the US State Department found the top three nations of origin for human trafficking victims were the United States, Mexico and the Philippines. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago in the US yet there are more enslaved there today than any other time in history, many in the multibillion-dollar illicit massage industry and more in agriculture.
The United Nations (UN) divides human trafficking into three categories:
- sex trafficking,
- labor trafficking, and
- the removal of organs.
The UN defines human trafficking as the induction by force, fraud, or coercion of a person to engage in the sex trade, or the harboring, transportation, or obtaining of a person for labor service or organ removal.
According to the Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm.
The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor (18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labor is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.
According to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 7 of the more than 23,500 runaways reported to the nonprofit organization were likely victims of child sex trafficking. A report from the Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Ms. Foundation for Women supports that finding. Their report entitled “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline,” states that girls who grow up in the instability of the child welfare system, particularly those placed in multiple homes, are “vulnerable to the manipulation of traffickers who promise to love and care for them. Indeed, some traffickers purposely troll for youth in certain group homes because they are aware of this vulnerability.”
The Trafficking Scheme
Traffickers look for victims that are susceptible such as young women, children and refugees. They look for the forgotten. Although a high percentage come from foster homes or are runaways, others could be trafficked and still live with their families.
Human traffickers often create transnational routes for transporting migrants who are driven by unfavorable living conditions to seek the services of a smuggler. Human trafficking usually starts in origin countries where recruiters seek migrants through various mediums such as the Internet, employment agencies, the media, and local contacts.
Middlemen who recruit from within the origin country commonly share the cultural background of those migrating. Migrants view the services of a smuggler as an opportunity to move from impoverished conditions in their home countries to more stable, developed environments.
Because such circumstances make it difficult for victims to obtain legitimate travel documents, smugglers supply migrants with fraudulent passports or visas and advise them to avoid detection by border-control agents. Transporters, in turn, sustain the migration process through various modes of transportation: land, air, and sea. Although victims often leave their destination country voluntarily, the majority are unaware that they are being recruited into a trafficking scheme. Some may be kidnapped or coerced, but many are bribed by false job opportunities, passports, or visas.
Transporters involved in trafficking victims from the origin country are compensated only after they have taken migrants to the responsible party in the destination country. Immigration documents, whether legitimate or fraudulent, are seized by the traffickers. After this, victims are often subjected to physical and sexual abuse, and many are forced into labor or the sex trade to pay off their migratory debts.
Although trafficking seems to imply people moving across continents, most exploitation takes place close to home. Data show intra-regional and domestic trafficking are the major forms.
So Many Complications Dealing with Human Trafficking
It is impossible to ever reach a consensus on the true scale of the problem but, regardless of the figures, what matters is that human trafficking is big and getting bigger and every number represents a human life destroyed. It is happening on every continent and in almost every country: whether the place we live is a source, destination or transit point for trafficking, none of us can claim to be wholly unaffected by this crime.
It must be emphasized that the essence of trafficking is the forced exploitation of individuals by those in the position to exert power over them. Moving people may take a variety of forms. If they have been tricked or deceived, a person may even willingly transport themselves into a situation of exploitation. But unlike those who pay to be smuggled into another country, victims of trafficking have no prospect of making a new life for themselves.
International trafficking will inevitably raise issues of immigration, but its victims cannot simply be treated as illegal migrants, nor can the efforts to tackle it be reduced to stricter border controls. We can find sex trafficking abhorrent without taking a particular stance against prostitution, and policies to reduce or control the sex industry are just one approach to end the trade of human flesh. Finally, despite the similarities between the organized trafficking of drugs, arms and humans, which may require comparable police tactics to combat, we commit a grave injustice against the victims of human slavery if we reduce them in our minds to the status of commodities.
The first step to preventing human trafficking and prosecuting the traffickers is therefore to recognize the complexity of the crime which cannot be tackled in a vacuum. Anti-trafficking strategies must be embedded in every policy area, from improving female education in source countries so that girls are less vulnerable to trafficking, to increasing police pay in destination countries so that officers are less susceptible to bribery. We cannot allow ourselves to marginalize the issue of trafficking, viewing it as something that can be ended with a few extra taskforces or dedicated units. We need everyone to be aware of how it affects them, and what they can do to stop it.
How the Average Person can Recognize Human Trafficking
Often victims are people we walk by every day but unless you know what to look for you won’t notice them.
For example, when you’re passing through an airport, you’re usually focused on getting to your destination as quickly as possible. But glancing around and noticing your fellow passengers could help save a life. It’s not just vacationers who travel on planes; airports are also hubs for human trafficking — when adults or children are transported into forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Seeing something and reporting it could potentially keep someone from becoming a victim of modern slavery.
The red flags of identifying victims of human trafficking:
Lack of control – Victims are continuously monitored with little control over their money or IDs. They may not be allowed to speak for themselves, or a third party may insist on being present. They are not free to come and go at will.
A ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’ who is significantly older will control who the victims will associate or correspond with.
Poor mental and physical health or abnormal behavior. Victims may have a sudden change in mood or fashion choices. There may be a negative impact on grades and a change in the friends that they keep. They may be anxious, fearful, and avoid law enforcement and won’t look you in the eye. They may also show signs of substance abuse or addiction, poor hygiene, malnourishment, physical or sexual abuse or physical restraints (especially at wrists ankles necks and arms).
Tattoos – Commonly used are roses, dollar signs, crowns, barcodes or QR codes which are especially common in the United States. These designate whose property they are.
Other signs – They have few or no personal possessions. They ae subject to verbal or physical abuse by their supervisor. They may live and work at one site with high security measures at work and/or living locations.
How You can Help Reduce Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking Hotline Numbers
The following information is derived from internet searches as of January 2021. Over time some numbers may change. Please confirm for your area. If no hotline number is available contact local law enforcement.
In Australia, if you are a victim of trafficking or know someone who is, contact the AFP on 131AFP (131237) or email NOSSC-Client-Liaison@afp.gov.au
In the USA, if you suspect human trafficking you can call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 888 373 7888 or text “help” or “info” to 233733 (be free). Or call law enforcement at 911. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is confidential, toll-free and available 24/7 in more than 200 languages. You can also chat @ humantraffickinghotline.org.
In Europe, if you suspect human trafficking you can call your national hotline as listed alphabetically by country in this link: National Hotlines | Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings (europa.eu)
If you live in Kazakhstan, The Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, contact the corresponding numbers listed at the bottom of this link. Surviving Human Trafficking | Program Update | Kazakhstan | U.S. Agency for International Development (usaid.gov)
To report a potential trafficking situation in Singapore, please contact the local authorities at: Police hotline 6435 0000 or email SPF-Reportfirstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Manpower 6438 5122 or email email@example.com
All information provided will be kept confidential.
0800 222 777 is the South African National Human Trafficking Hotline
Another alpha listing by country can be found on How to help: Global hotlines – The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery – CNN.com Blogs
Financial Support for Organization Fighting Human Trafficking
If you would like to support an organization that is fighting human trafficking in the USA, the following link lists those organization by state and provides their phone numbers. Sex Trafficking Prevention and Intervention Organizations – Child Welfare Information Gateway
If you do not live in the USA and would like to support an organization in your country that fights human trafficking, the following link provides their names and location. Scroll down to find an alpha listing by country. Anti-trafficking organizations around the world – CNN
The extent of human trafficking is overwhelming when we consider the numbers, but we can make a huge impact on the life of an individual victim. Our choice to recognize the red flags of trafficking and report what we see, is to follow in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan. It is our natural impulse to help – it is fear that keeps us from doing so. But faith and trust in God pushes us past the fear, to free a man, woman or child from slavery and abuse.
For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy. (Psalm 72:12-13)
If you see a child, woman or man being trafficked, God has put you there for a reason.
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“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt 5:7)
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil,
and is pregnant with mischief,
and brings forth lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole which he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own pate his violence descends. (Psalm 7:14-16)
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence. (Psalm 27:12)
but these men lie in wait for their own blood,
they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of all who get gain by violence;
it takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:18-19)
O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek;
thou wilt strengthen their heart, thou wilt incline thy ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17-18)
Seeing the Unseen: How to Recognize Human Trafficking – YouTube by Brittany Ketter
5 Common Types of Human Trafficking – Public Health by Public Health Nigeria
13 trafficking statistics that enormity of the global sex trade (usatoday.com) by Cara Kelly published July 29, 2019.