Human Trafficking, The Modern-Day Slavery
If you think that slavery has been eradicated, think again. Modern-day slavery takes place in the form of human trafficking which involves forcing, pressuring or defrauding victims into labor or sexual exploitation. In some cases, people are snared into trafficking by physical force, while in other cases, they are lured in by false promises of job opportunities. It is shocking that about 600,000 to 800,000 people (mostly women and children) are trafficked annually across national borders. These numbers exclude the millions of people trafficked within their own countries. Human trafficking is an issue that affects the entire human race, not just a particular gender or ethnicity.
If we look at the trafficking of children, which accounts for about one third of the detected trafficking victims, we will see that it particularly affects low-income countries, where it is correlated to the global problem of child labour. Children as young as 12 have been trafficked in South Asia to work in brick kilns, the textile industry, hotels and agriculture. While in Sub-Saharan Africa, children have been trafficked to work in mines and quarries, on farms, as market vendors and in plantations. South America has also reported child trafficking for forced labour in plantations.
Figure (1) below illustrates the pre-existing factors that human traffickers have taken advantage of. It shows clearly that the highest factor is the victim’s economic need which represents 51%.
Another statistical graph – in Figure 2 – illustrates the shares of detected trafficking victims by age group and national income. It clearly shows that in high-income countries, the percentage of adult victims exceeds the minor victims with a ratio of 6:1. The lower the income, the more minor victims are involved in human trafficking, where it reaches a ratio of 1:1 in low-income countries.
Another graph demonstrates the relationship between the GDP per capita in Venezuela and the number of identified Venezuelan trafficking victims reported outside Venezuela due to cross-border trafficking. The graph shows that in the five years between 2008 and 2013, as the GDP increased, the number of trafficking victims made a slight increase and was at some point stable. However, after 2013, the graph shows clearly that the relationship is inversely proportional, for as the GDP showed a sharp drop, inversely, the number of trafficking victims showed an alarming increase.
While the trends of forced labour trafficking differ by economic sector, one factor remains consistent: it is almost always the product of a decline of labour rights, such as lower wages, longer working hours, less protection, and informal jobs. Also, it is primarily a cross-border phenomenon, particularly in high-income countries – UNODC examined dozens of court cases involving hundreds of victims of forced labour trafficking, and the majority of them included a cross-border aspect. Victims were taken away from their homes in much greater numbers than in any other form of human trafficking. Map 1 shows an illustration of the main detected transregional human trafficking flows.
Victims have been found in Western and Southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East as a result of trafficking flows out of Sub-Saharan Africa. Victims from Sub-Saharan Africa have been found in North America and East Asia as well. The majority of victims found in this subregion are trafficked within their own countries or across borders.
In the region, four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have legislation that specifically criminalises child trafficking, while one country has no such legislation. After 2009, several other countries in this subregion implemented particular offences based on the United Nations concept of human trafficking. In comparison to the rest of the world, the number of convictions per 100,000 people reported in Sub-Saharan Africa has been generally lower. Furthermore, over the last 15 years, the conviction rate per 100,000 has fluctuated between 0 and 1 human, with no discernible increase. Since the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol went into effect, the number of victims detected per 100,000 in Sub-Saharan African countries has risen. However, in comparison to other countries, the number of detections remains significantly low.
Human traffickers view their victims as an object that can be used and sold for monetary benefit, regardless of their dignity or rights. Profits are made at various stages by human smugglers. Victim recruitment organizations benefit from selling victims, the price of which is determined by their willingness to negotiate the monetary value per victim. On the other hand, at the exploitation phase, profits are made from the sale of abused services to third parties or from the elimination of costs resulting from the victims’ unpaid services.
Between 2007 and 2017, 15 countries in six different regions globally reported data on the monetary values exchanged between the traffickers in the process of trafficking. According to the results, women victims were purchased for as little as 36 USD and as much as 23,600 USD. Single traffickers’ comparatively low earnings demonstrate how little victims are respected in the illegal trafficking industry. Victims of human trafficking are sold as goods. According to reports, victims are valued at as low as a few hundred dollars, which roughly equates a few grams of methamphetamine.
The following illustrations compare the monetary values given by traffickers in different criminal acts, in the European region and East Asia respectively.
Although the size of the human trafficking industry may be lower in terms of monetary value than other criminal markets, the damage caused by human trafficking has no equivalent indicators.
Human trafficking is a multi-faceted problem with enormous effects on both the individual victims and the global community. Human trafficking is a global health risk that deprives people of their freedoms and human rights while fuelling the growth of organized crime. On an individual level, it has a devastating effect on the victims who usually suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family and sometimes even death. All of these impacts of human trafficking make it a national threat since it jeopardises the safety and security of all nations with which it comes into contact.
The way to solving a problem as huge as human trafficking comes on two levels, an individual and small organizational level and a governmental level. On the individual and small organizational level, the following should be done:
- People who have been released from slavery must be viewed as victims, not criminals.
- There should be an increased awareness for the public on how this is not a harmless or victimless crime and that the risks involved with it are grave.
On the governmental level, two major things should be done. The first thing is that all governments alike should adopt the idea that slavery in the modern era must be abolished. This would result in an increased rescue of trafficking victims and prosecutions of traffickers which are urgently needed.
Source: Human Trafficking in the World, 10th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, viewed 18th January, 2011
Citation: ChartsBin statistics collector team 2010, Human Trafficking in the World, ChartsBin.com, viewed 10th March, 2021
This map depicts government intervention in 177 countries to fight human trafficking and modern slavery, with Tier 1 being the highest ranked. A Tier 1 state has acknowledged the problem of human trafficking, made efforts to solve it, and meet the minimum requirements of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPTA). A Tier 2 country has not met the minimum standards but has attempted to do so, while a Tier 3 country has not met the minimum standards and has not attempted to do so yet. As we can see, a significant number of countries lie in Tier 2 and 3, which simply calls for action from those countries to change their views on human trafficking then take action to meet the TVPTA minimum requirements.
The second thing that governments should do to eradicate human slavery is to address the root of this issue, which is poverty. As we have seen in previous studies and graphs, the lower the GDP of a nation the higher the human trafficking rate. In 52% of the cases reporting female victims and in 50% of the cases reporting male victims, the economic need is the main cause of their vulnerability. This translates to 5 out of 10 people being trapped by human trafficking networks due to their financial needs.
On one hand, poverty can drive people to be traffickers, on the other hand, victims are lured in mainly due to their economic needs since traffickers deceive them with false promises of better living conditions, false job offers and fake solutions for financial problems which lie in their inability to meet basic needs such as food, shelter and healthcare. When people do not have access to legal economic opportunities, they are more vulnerable to human trafficking.
It might take a while to provide better economic opportunities and improve living conditions, however, not doing anything about it would make the problem grow out of control. Governments need to change their perception of human trafficking and they should start addressing the problem from its roots. Providing legal economic opportunities and assisting with basic living conditions and human rights is an official and moral duty for each nation towards its people.
- UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.20.IV.3). ISBN: 978-92-1-130411-4; eISBN: 978-92-1-005195-8
- UNODC on human trafficking and migrant smuggling”. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011