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What is the human trafficking problem?
Human trafficking is one of the most prevalent and painful injustices of our time. According to the International Labour Organization, today there are nearly 21 million children, women and men around the world. These are individuals sold as products for someone else’s gain, rather than treated as human beings. Traffickers make over $150 billion in illicit profits per year for their crimes, making this one of the most lucrative transnational crimes.
This problem affects every country, whether they be countries of origin, transit or destination. The United Nations reports identifying trafficked persons from 152 different citizenships living in 124 different countries in the period of 2010 to 2012. That means they can be found everywhere from villages in Malaysia to construction sites in Russia and upscale hotels in big US cities like Denver. In fact, U.S. is far from immune from this problem. In 2016, 120 cases in Colorado were reported to the national hotline. Look up the statistics for your own state!
This problem affects every one of us because it touches the food we eat and the people who serve us that food. Vulnerable populations are forced, lured, and deceived into situations where they endanger their own lives and work in unsafe conditions whether we see them, or not. They work in faraway factories, fisheries, and farms, as well as in nearby stores and restaurants, to bring us products and services we use everyday.
What does human trafficking mean?
Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. It has many faces and includes more situations than many people realize. But the common elements are clear — the severe exploitation of someone for the purposes of sex or labor through force, fraud or coercion. Victims and survivors of human trafficking include children, women and men, and come from different races and religions.
What are examples of human trafficking?
- Runaway kids from broken homes manipulated into prostitution
- Desperate laborers conned into impossible debt for the chance to work abroad
- Isolated sheep herders whose visa sponsors seize all of their wages for food
- Children sent by parents to work in factories after natural disasters
- Domestic servants for the international elite
- Soldiers whose labor is contracted out to local businesses by their commanders
What tools do traffickers use to control their victims?
- Abuse individuals physically, sexually, psychologically and emotionally, sometimes through calculated unpredictability
- Threaten families and loved ones
- Destroy, conceal, confiscate, or deny access to passports, driver’s licenses and personal belongings
- Impose harsh conditions of individual’s captivity, such as unsanitary housing, low quality food and water, limited freedom of movement
- Expose individual to cruel working conditions, such as crowded factories, high levels of pesticide, unsafe work equipment, long working hours, inadequate pay
- Refuse communication or access to people that could help, such as neighbors, community, family and friends
- Misrepresent terms of employment through misleading recruitment practices that do not disclose basic information and lie about wages and fringe benefits, location of work, employer-arranged living conditions and housing, significant costs charged to employees and dangerous nature of work
- Charge high recruitment fees that can never be repaid with the earned wages
What do human trafficking survivors need?
The needs of human trafficking survivors are as diverse as their stories. For someone who has been trafficked, the road to rebuilding a stable and fulfilling life is long and hard. Survivors need professional legal help to fight the myriad of ways that traffickers abuse the law to control them. Otherwise, they have few options for leaving the cycle of violence and exploitation that makes them vulnerable to trafficking. Often, connecting quickly to a lawyer to obtain a divorce from a trafficker, resolve debt issues as a result of financial abuse or clear criminal records makes all the difference in each individual’s life.
What can I do about this huge problem?
The horrors of this grave injustice may seem too big for any one of us to solve. And indeed they are. Yet you can still play a critical part in the anti-trafficking movement by supporting the work of ALIGHT and other anti-human trafficking organizations that are on the front lines.
If you are a concerned citizen, help us fight for the rights of human trafficking survivors! Consider donating or becoming an ALIGHT Ambassadors of Light by engaging your own community on these issues and organizing a fundraiser. This program provides you with resources to go deeper into this complex issue and a platform to share your passion and purpose with your family, friends and colleagues. To discuss becoming an Ambassador of Light, please contact us here.
If you are an advocate or service provider in Colorado who needs free legal assistance for your human trafficking clients, please get in touch with us here.
If you suspect human trafficking near you, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at1 (888) 373-7888 or text233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) 24/7.