Today is July 30, marked by the United Nations as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The purpose of the designation is to raise awareness of human trafficking across the globe and protect the rights of victims – and rightfully so. Human trafficking affects every country in the world and almost every locality as well. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to human trafficking as “one of the most heinous crimes on Earth” in a note to readers ahead of the Trafficking in Persons Report for June 2019. Secretary Pompeo is correct.
Human Trafficking by the Numbers
“Trafficking in persons” is defined in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol). It covers a variety of offenses, including forced labor or recruiting persons to compel commercial sexual exploitation.
As of June 2019, the U.S. State Department reported that an estimated 24.9 million people across the globe are trafficked. As of 2016, the UNODC reported the most common form of trafficking among victims is for sexual exploitation, then trafficking for forced labor. An estimated 49% of detected victims of trafficking are women and 23% are young girls.
Refugees Are Highly Vulnerable
Refugees remain vulnerable to all forms of trafficking because of their compromising positions. Escaping conflict, refugees are often left alone and subjected to exploitation by those who claim they are there to help them. The UNODC reported that in some refugee camps in the Middle East, women and young girls are married off without their consent in neighboring countries, subjecting them to sexual exploitation. In Libya, militias control some detention centers for migrants and refugees, who coerce detainees for exploitative reasons. Refugees not in camps are also subject to being exploited for manual labor, due to their precarious financial situations. They will work for jobs with unsuitable conditions for little to no money or for fraudulent employment.
Ways You Can Help
First, you should recognize the signs of human trafficking. The State Department lists several non-exhaustive signs, including:
- Living with an employer who holds identity documents
- Markings or signs of physical abuse
- Inability to speak the native language
- Submissive and fearful demeanor
If you recognize these signs in a potential victim, be careful about how you address the situation. It may not be best to directly confront them, as they may be untrusting or could be harmed from talking to you. Instead, feel out the situation first and try to form some amount of trust between you and the victim. Be sure to ask questions about their living conditions and if they have an ability to leave their situation if they wanted to.
If you feel uncomfortable confronting the victim directly or perhaps that it would be dangerous for you or them, you can utilize trafficking hotlines. The National Human Trafficking Hotline, in the U.S. is a 24-hour toll-free, multilingual hotline. Call 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip or connect with other trafficking services in your area. The Polaris Project has also launched a global human trafficking hotline. Fore more information, visit their website here.