After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing.
- Sex Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act , in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years; or
- Labor Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders worldwide, according to the U.S. Department of State. These estimates include women, men and children. Victims are generally trafficked into the U.S. from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. Many victims trafficked into the United States do not speak and understand English and are therefore isolated and unable to communicate with service providers, law enforcement and others who might be able to help them.
Many victims of trafficking are exploited for purposes of commercial sex, including prostitution, stripping, pornography and live-sex shows. However, trafficking also takes place as labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude, sweatshop factories, or migrant agricultural work. Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to compel women, men and children to engage in these activities.
Victims do not realize that their debts are often legally unenforceable and, in any event, that it is illegal for traffickers to dictate how they have to pay off their debts. In many cases, the victims are trapped into a cycle of debt because they have to pay for all living expenses in addition to the initial transportation expenses. Fines for not meeting daily quotas of service or “bad” behavior are also used by some trafficking operations to increase debt. Most trafficked victims rarely see the money they are supposedly earning and may not even know the specific amount of their debt. Even if the victims sense that debt-bondage is unjust, it is difficult for them to find help because of language, social, and physical barriers that keep them from obtaining assistance.
Trafficking vs. Smuggling
- Victims either do not consent to their situations, or if they initially consent, that consent is rendered meaningless by the actions of the traffickers.
- Ongoing exploitation of victims to generate illicit profits for the traffickers.
- Trafficking need not entail the physical movement of a person (but must entail the exploitation of the person for labor or commercial sex)
- Migrant smuggling includes those who consent to being smuggled.
- Smuggling is a breach of the integrity of a nation’s borders.
- Smuggling is always transnational.
Help for Victims of Trafficking
National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888