Human trafficking is a type of crime that can be considered a modern-day slavery. Unfortunately, it affects individuals across the world and is the most pressing human rights problem of the present. Moreover, human trafficking is considered the third-largest criminal activity in the world (FBI). This crime that is committed with the use of force, cheating, or any form of coercion with the aim to obtain some type of labor exploitation or commercial sex act
(National Human Trafficking Hotline). This means that it is possible to distinguish two types of human trafficking crimes: Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking. Sex trafficking involves obtaining of a person with the commercial sex act purpose with the use of force and coercion
(National Human Trafficking Hotline). “Labor trafficking is the type of recruitment of a person for work with the use of force or cheating, it may include involuntary servitude, forced labor, or even slavery (National Human Trafficking Hotline).
Millions of men, women, and children suffer trafficking every year. According to the data of 2012 from 124 countries across the globe, around 50 percent of all victims were women, 33 percent of detected victims were children and 18 percent – men. Of all convicted traffickers 72 percent were men and 28 percent – women (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2014).
Most people who are with irregular employment or migration status are affected by trafficked forced labor. It is necessary to admit that human trafficking is one of the most profitable crimes as it generates billions of dollars. The main problem concerning human trafficking is that it is a hidden crime because victims rarely admit they were trafficked in most cases because of fear (U.S. Department of Homeland Security). As many victims are usually threatened and intimidated by traffickers they do not want to cooperate with the criminal justice system and as a result, there is still a low number of convictions of human trafficking (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2014).
In the world-wide scale, the most common type of human trafficking is sexual exploitation as it affects around 79 percent of all victims. Labor trafficking is less frequently detected. What is also pressing, 20 percent of all victims are children. In some regions of Africa, children are even the majority of trafficking victims (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
In the period of 2008 – 2010 according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the United
States, 2515 suspected incidents of human trafficking has been opened. “About 8 in 10 of them were classified as sex trafficking, and about 1 in 10 incidents were classified as labor trafficking”
(Banks and Kychelhahn 2011).
Despite human trafficking is a global problem, there are still some factors that explain why it occurs in these or those parts of the world. According to the article of Mohsen Rezaeian, human trafficking “mostly occurs in those parts of the world where law and order is disrupted due to poverty, unemployment, war, armed convicts, natural disasters, social unrest due to existence of nondemocratic governments” (Rezaeian 2016: 32). This means that cause and effect relationship is obvious. As a confirmation of such statement, the data of 2016 from different countries in the study are presented: out of 45.8 million enslaved people, 58 percent are from such countries as India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Bangladesh. The countries with the highest prevalence of human trafficking are North Korea, Cambodia, India, Pakistan Sudan, Iraq,
Afghanistan (Rezaeian 2016: 34).
Women and children are the main victims of the human trafficking and to be accurate, the main victims of sexual exploitation. According to the data between 800,000 to 4,000,000 women and children have been trafficked around the world annually. The study of sexual exploitation in Mexico states that children from poor families are mostly trafficked by American tourists. There is explained the connection between the prostitution as Mexico is the second country in the world in terms of prostitution and exploitation of under-age persons. “U.S. Department of State extensively recognized Mexico is a source, transit and destination country of women and children trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation” (Acharya, Suarez and Ontiveros 2016:
11). Because of such statistics, the country enforces different anti-trafficking laws and reforms.
According to one of the researches on the human trafficking issue, it is possible to identify the third type of this crime according to its purpose: organ trafficking. Nevertheless, it is stated that the government of the United States is trying to curb these three forms of human trafficking differently. Efforts against sex trafficking were focused in 2000, attention to the labor trafficking was paid in 2005 and organ trafficking has fallen outside the scope of the US Department altogether (Efrat 2015: 3). It is necessary to know that despite organ trafficking is less researched in social science, it is more prevalent in comparison with organ trafficking. Efrat provides the example of Israel as a country that launched vigorous efforts against sex trafficking whereas the efforts of the government against labor and organ trafficking were less intense (11).
One of the important issues concerning human trafficking is the necessity to be aware of the physical and mental long-term health problems of trafficking survivors. A research on Human Trafficking and Health that involved 150 victims of trafficking concluded that among the severe physical symptoms are headaches, tiredness, back pain, dizzy spells and memory problems. Around 70 percent of victims suffered depression, anxiety disorders or posttraumatic stress disorder. 38 percent of people admitted they had suicidal ideation (Oram 2016: 1077).
While looking at human trafficking, it is important to find out the driving factors or what motivates the perpetrators to participate in human trafficking. The factors also vary from one country to another. According to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), human trafficking is a complex occurrence influenced by a variety of factors including culture, economic wellbeing and social status. Some local conditions such as contravention of human rights, poverty and political instability motivate populations to migrate in search of a better life. In most cases, people fleeing from instability in their own country lack appropriate travelling documentation. When such people get into the host countries, they become vulnerable to human trafficking as perpetrators take advantage of their situations. Such people who have been pushed out of their countries suffer through forced labor as they seek for means of livelihood (UNODC.org). Other than the push forces, pull forces such as wealth may cause people to migrate to other countries. Such pull forces are rampant through the social media and increase the desire for people to move into the countries that express limitless opportunities for wealth creation. Saudi Arabia as an example has been vilified for human right abuse on working migrants who form a third of the workers in the Kingdom. People are subjected to unfair trials and execution and work in conditions that resemble ancient slavery in a society that deeply discriminates against gender, religion and race (Hrw.org: np). A culture that promotes gender inequality makes women and girls vulnerable to trafficking for sexual exploitation. In addition to the above, border porosity, corruption, collaboration between government officials and Organized International Criminal organizations and the weak commitment to enforce border control all contribute to human trafficking.
The human trafficking industry generates up to USD 150 Billion annually. For such an industry to thrive, there has to be forces of demand and supply in play. The industry produces cheap labor and minimal risk. Most of the children and women who are trafficked end up as sex slaves. The sex trafficking sector produces immense profits with margins exceeding 70 percent (Molloy: np). The margins correlate well with those from all forms of forced labor. The demand for cheap labor to drive margins is high. With poor border patrolling, border porosity and corruption, and the little risk of criminal prosecution, it is becoming increasingly easy for traffickers to procure and move people illegally. Demand is a key drive for the human trafficking industry. The sex and entertainment sector is a key creator of demand for the trafficking industry. Men and sex entrepreneurs such as pimps create the demand for women for use in prostitution. The sex entrepreneurs make specifications for the physical attributes they want in the women and girls initiating the cycle of trafficking. The demand for women in prostitution is increasingly becoming a normal phenomenon with some countries establishing legal frameworks for the protection of the sex industry player. The sex industry is lucrative and generates millions of dollars annually in states that have legalized sex trade. The key beneficiaries of the business are the states in terms of taxes and the organized crime groups that run the businesses. These businesses depend on the normalization of flow for foreign women who can be exploited sexually. In Netherlands, for example, prostitution is legal. Since its legalization in the year 2000, sex trade has tripled and turned into USD 1 Billion industry annually. The number of local women is not adequate and 70 per cent come from non-European countries to meet the demand (Hughes and Endowed: 2). On the supply side, regions experiencing mass migrations are already disadvantaged suffering from high levels of unemployment, poor institutions of education and law and low wages. Migration becomes the only way to increase economic opportunities and obtain a comfortable livelihood (Mahmoud and Trebesch: 10).
The UNODC proposes some measure that may be used to combat the scourge of human trafficking. The measures are either dependent on the country of origin of the victims, the country of arrival, or a collaboration of both countries. The measures are mostly about establishing policies that change the economic and social status which are the root causes of human trafficking. In the countries of origin, UNODC recommends improving children’s access to education, awareness creation, and boosting levels of school attendance. The organization also proposes women empowerment through facilitation of business incentives for establishment of small and medium enterprises. UNODC also proposes the establishment of multifaceted agencies that monitor gather data and intelligence on the sex industry in an effort to uncover exploitation and places where demand exists. Dialogue between governments involved in the chain should be conducted in an effort to liberate the labor markets in order to increase employment opportunities for workers. Similarly, the receiving government should establish a framework to address unprotected and informal labor striking a balance between inexpensive labor and the possibility of legal migration. Mahmoud and Trebesch (9) argue that human trafficking is an unavoidable consequence due to the wide disparities in income between the origin and destination countries and closed borders. As a combined measure, countries experiencing mass emigration can collaborate with those receiving the immigrants by raising levels of social protection and creating employment for all. Policies should also be put into place to stop discrimination against women by allowing them to have equal access and control over financial resources.
Gauging at the margins experienced from human trafficking, it would be almost impossible to utterly stop it. The challenge is gigantic due to the level of social activism and the need to diversify economic activities that bring in income in terms of taxes. For example, it would be impossible for countries such as the Netherlands to criminalize prostitution and shut down an industry that generates USD one Billion annually. Efforts can therefore only focus on mitigation and creating of a better environment in host countries for those who in one way or another find themselves in the trafficking scourge. Policy measures should be put in place to counter human trafficking by countries opening up their borders through legal means. Awareness creation campaigns should be carried out in countries that experience high migration rates. Governments that require cheap labor should set up labor market information systems on job availability and establish model employment contracts to prevent exploitation. Governments globally should also revise their restrictive immigration policies to prevent pushing would-be-immigrants to illegal channels that make them vulnerable to trafficking. With the growing population and diminishing employment opportunities, ending human trafficking may be a farfetched dream as long as the migration pressure keeps mounting. It would take collaboration of the global family to expose the scourge and employ mechanisms that make the job market liberal and accommodative to diverse sets of skills.