We Have a Problem, Human Trafficking


"It’s sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves. They are trapped in lives of misery—often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay. We’re working hard to stop human trafficking—not only because of the personal and psychological toll it takes on society, but also because it facilitates the illegal movement of immigrants across borders and provides a ready source of income for organized crime groups and even terrorists". --fbi.gov

No country is exempt from human trafficking. Specified by the United Nations, human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of 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." Potential trafficking victims are the most vulnerable of a particular society. Women, children, the poor or people in need, folks with disabilities and immigrants without legal status, are likely victims. As vile and distasteful as it is, it is a global epidemic. Poorer nations suffer from domestic and sub-regional trafficking. However, there is a great influx of trans-regional trafficking in richer countries in the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America.(1) 

According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 11.4 million women and girls are trafficked annually across the globe.(2)  Trafficking illegal immigrants are a hot commodity; they are especially defenseless in trans-regional trafficking situations because they are far away from home, without familiarity of the language and culture. The clients are available, accessible and steady. Impoverished families are often preyed upon for trafficking. Many become participants of their own children's fate. Selling one of their children is a way to feed others.

Majority of trafficked victims are subjected to sexual exploitation.(3) In some of the poorer regions, women and children as young as three, are often forced to work in brothels, having to service 20 to 30 clients a day. They are tortured and beaten and do not receive compensation. The money goes directly to the brothel owners and they are forced to pay for room and board. It is not a life one could ever possibly fathom for any human being. Yet there are other types of exploitation such as forced labor and servitude, organ removal, forced marriages and most recently detected, the use of children in armed combat in certain areas.(4)

Human trafficking is the fastest growing global criminal industry.(5) Approximately 32 billion dollars is being profited through trafficking.(6) In 2008, the United Nations estimated nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked into 137 countries around the world.(7) Trafficking should not be confused with people smuggling which is the transportation or illegal entry of persons across international borders. Human smuggling is often accompanied by the consent of the person being smuggled, sometimes paying large sums of money to reunite with family or for some other benefit. However, it is possible that a smuggled victim can become trafficked.(8) 

In a 2013 Chicago lecture provided by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF proposes a global approach for prevention. Bissell works closely with communities that are potential havens for trafficking epidemics which entails providing necessities such as food, water, and medicine. These resources leave poor people less vulnerable to trafficking predators. Susan suggests that countries should focus more on preventative measures as oppose to primarily zeroing in on protection for victims. However, some countries feel that it boils down to strengthening border control and law enforcement measures. She suggests educating communities about the subject because many nations still are not in a consensus when determining human trafficking. This is extremely problematic for trans-regional trafficking. Victims are transported beyond their borders into another territory that may have a different interpretation of trafficking, with little to no laws against it or protection for victims. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that 6 out of 10 victims have been trafficked across at least one national border.(9) Since it's a crime that extends across shorelines, growing a global alliance would make things less complicated if it is recognized similarly on an international scale. This could strengthen prevention and protection for victims.

Outlined by the U.S. Department of State's 2014 Trafficking In Persons Report, The United States is one of the 31 countries that fall under the tier 1 category. Meaning, that the United States will adhere to the minimum requirements to bring certain people to justice and for trafficking prevention according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).(10) Still 133 countries fall into the tier 2 category. These are countries that are making some efforts to comply with TVPA but has a significant way to go. Thirty-three countries fall under tier 3. These countries are not in compliance and are not making steps to do so. The U.S. may be taking more strides to acknowledge the seriousness of trafficking and making it a priority issue, but the world has a long way to go. The more there are efforts being made to do away with extreme levels of poverty, the less likely people are vulnerable to these horrors.


Revised: 3/25/2015


(1) UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.11) <http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/GLOTIP_2014_full_report.pdf>
(2) "New ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: 20.9 Million Victims." International Labour Organization. International Labour Organization, 1 June 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_182109/lang--en/index.htm>.
(3)UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.9) <http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/GLOTIP_2014_full_report.pdf>
(4)UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.13) <http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/GLOTIP_2014_full_report.pdf>
(5)"STOP THE TRAFFIK - The Scale of Human Trafficking Worldwide." STOP THE TRAFFIK. STOP THE TRAFFIK. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://www.stopthetraffik.org/the-scale-of-human-traffiking>.
(6)Smith, Katherine Taken, Hannah Michelle Martin, and Murphy Smith. "Human Trafficking: A Global Multi-Billion Dollar Criminal Industry." By Katherine Taken Smith, Hannah Michelle Martin, Murphy Smith. Social Science Research Network, 4 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2316169>.
(7)"UN-backed Container Exhibit Spotlights Plight of Sex Trafficking Victims." UN News Center. UN, 6 Feb. 2008. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=25524&Cr=trafficking&Cr1>.
(8)"Fact Sheet: Distinctions Between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking 2006." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 1 Jan. 2006. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://www.state.gov/m/ds/hstcenter/90434.htm>.
(9) UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.12) <http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/GLOTIP_2014_full_report.pdf>
(10) "Tier Placements." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2011/164228.htm>.

Julene Allen Julene Allen Author


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