Few Americans can look at "human trafficking" with clear vision. The legacy of slavery in America is so distasteful that we prefer to remain in denial and look away from this modern iteration of slavery. Latin American countries, however, where many of the victims are preyed upon, take a much harder look at this criminal depravity and proactively strive to curtail its devastation.
The Belize Ministry of Human Development, taking an active interest in supporting its vulnerable population and curtailing human trafficking, defines it like this:
Human trafficking, also referred to as modern day slavery, is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of a person by means of threat or use of force or other means of coercion, or by abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, or by giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
The Crime of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is the third largest crime industry in the world, behind drug dealing and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing activity of trans-national criminal organizations. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), forced labor alone (one component of human trafficking) generates an estimated $150 billion in profits per annum. The ILO estimates that 21 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 14.2 million (68%) are exploited for labor, 4.5 million (22%) are sexually exploited, and 2.2 million (10%) are exploited in state-imposed forced labor.
Who is Vulnerable to Human Trafficking?
Usually, the common thread among human trafficking victims is some form of vulnerability such as:
- Gender inequality
- The absence of equal opportunities and economic hardship
- Demand for commercial sex
- Demand for cheap labor
- Weak judicial and law enforcement systems and civil instability
The International Labor Organization has reported that child workers, minorities, and irregular migrants are at considerable risk of more extreme forms of exploitation.
- Low-wage and migrant workers and those in the informal economy are facing riskier employment conditions, including restricted movement, minimal oversight mechanisms, withheld wages, and increasing debts—all indicators or flags for human trafficking.
- Workers who live at their worksites become particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor while being restricted in their ability to seek assistance or leave their situation of exploitation.
- An IST Research survey of 6,000 migrant workers concluded that during COVID-19 employers were 36% more likely to confine domestic workers to their workplace and were 240% more likely to force those workers to work on rest days. With minimal oversight mechanisms, many of these worksites remained unmonitored, resulting in fewer opportunities for victim identification.
- According to UNODC, migrant workers whose plans were disrupted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, either to travel home or to the workplace, were likely to have already paid recruitment fees or travel costs, placing them at risk of debt bondage.
- In India and Nepal, young girls from poor and rural areas are forced into marriage in exchange for money.
- In the United States, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay, women tenants are forced to have sex with landlords when they cannot pay rent.
- In Haiti, Niger, and Mali, gangs operating in IDP camps force residents at the camp to perform commercial sex acts.
- In Burma, 94% of households surveyed are forced to take loans making them vulnerable to indentured servitude.
- In the same survey, more than 50% of migrant workers reported bearing new debts because of the pandemic.
- Similarly, a study by the Government of the Philippines found many overseas Filipino workers were stranded with their savings exhausted during 2020. They were vulnerable to incurring debt and indentured servitude.
Who is Responsible for Human Trafficking?
- Traffickers can be anyone! They see people as goods, the means to an end, simply to be sold or used for their own financial gain.
- Traffickers use effective tactics to lure and control victims. These include false promises of financial rewards and greater opportunities.
- They advertise in local papers or television stations for high paying jobs in great locations.
- Use fraudulent employment, modeling, and matchmaking agencies to lure young men/women.
- Offer opportunities to travel.
- Meet families directly in local villages to convince parents to place children in their hands with a promise of a better future for all of them.
- Traffickers are often connected to an organized criminal network.
- Traffickers prey on individuals who have financial and other needs (at risk children, women, men), using lies, intimidation or force.
To the Belize Ministry of Human Development and other small emerging nations who have launched proactive programs to uncover and root out this modern-day scourge.
We are exceptionally proud of the vital work our client the Belize Ministry of Human Development performs. We invite you to read more about our clients under case studies in our blog.
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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2021 and has been updated with additional information.