Trafficking is a lucrative industry. It is now the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Globally, it is tied with the illegal arms trade, as the second largest criminal activity, following the drug trade. Human trafficking usually affects women and children
The total annual revenue for trafficking in persons is estimated to be between USD$5 billion and $9 billion. The Council of Europe states, “People trafficking has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade, with a global annual market of about $42.5 billion.” The United Nations estimates nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked around the world.
However, many of these statistics are grossly inflated to aid advocacy of anti-trafficking NGOs and the anti-trafficking policies of governments. Due to the definition of trafficking being a process (not a singly defined act) and the fact that it is a dynamic phenomenon with constantly shifting patterns relating to economic circumstances, much of the statistical evaluation is flawed.
Human trafficking differs from people smuggling. In the latter, people voluntarily request or hire an individual, known as a smuggler, to covertly transport them from one location to another. This generally involves transportation from one country to another, where legal entry would be denied upon arrival at the international border. There may be no deception involved in the (illegal) agreement. After entry into the country and arrival at their ultimate destination, the smuggled person is usually free to find their own way.
While smuggling requires travel, trafficking does not. Much of the confusion rests with the term itself. The word “trafficking” includes the word “traffic,” which we often equate with transportation or travel. However, while the words look and sound alike, they do not hold the same meaning. Human trafficking does not require the physical movement of a person (but must entail the exploitation of the person for labor or commercial sex). Additionally, victims of human trafficking are not permitted to leave upon arrival at their destination. They are held against their will through acts of coercion and forced to work or provide services to the trafficker or others. The work or services may include anything from bonded or forced labor to commercialized sexual exploitation. The arrangement may be structured as a work contract, but with no or low payment or on terms which are highly exploitative. Sometimes the arrangement is structured as debt bondage, with the victim not being permitted or able to pay off the debt.
Bonded labor, or debt bondage, is probably the least known form of labor trafficking today, and yet it is the most widely used method of enslaving people. Victims become bonded laborers when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan or service in which its terms and conditions have not been defined or in which the value of the victims’ services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt. The value of their work is greater than the original sum of money “borrowed.”
Forced labor is a situation in which victims are forced to work against their own will, under the threat of violence or some other form of punishment, their freedom is restricted and a degree of ownership is exerted. Men are at risk of being trafficked for unskilled work, which globally generates $31bn according to the International Labor Organization. Forms of forced labor can include domestic servitude; agricultural labor; sweatshop factory labor; janitorial, food service and other service industry labor; and begging.
Sex trafficking victims are generally found in dire circumstances and easily targeted by traffickers. Individuals, circumstances, and situations vulnerable to traffickers include homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced homemakers, refugees, and drug addicts. While it may seem like trafficked people are the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region, victims are consistently exploited from any ethnic and social background.
Traffickers, also known as pimps or madams, exploit vulnerabilities and lack of opportunities, while offering promises of marriage, employment, education, and/or an overall better life. However, in the end, traffickers force the victims to become prostitutes or work in the sex industry. Various work in the sex industry includes prostitution, dancing in strip clubs, performing in pornographic films and pornography, and other forms of involuntary servitude.
Human trafficking does not require travel or transport from one location to another, but one form of sex trafficking involves international agents and brokers who arrange travel and job placements for women from one country. Women are lured to accompany traffickers based on promises of lucrative opportunities unachievable in their native country. However, once they reach their destination, the women discover that they have been deceived and learn the true nature of the work that they will be expected to do. Most have been told lies regarding the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment and find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 1,229 human trafficking incidents in the United States from January 2007- September 2008. Of these, 83 percent were sex trafficking cases.
Child labor is a form of work that is likely to be hazardous to the physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development of children and can interfere with their education. The International Labor Organization estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade, and other illicit activities around the world.