How Well Are We Fighting Human Trafficking?

Globalization of the world economy has increased the flow of goods and services between countries, but it also has a darker side: the growing trade in people. Human trafficking has become one of the most lucrative aspects of international organized crime, estimated by the United Nations to have a total market value of $32 billion.

The real extent of human trafficking is unknown due its clandestine nature and a lack of adequate data collection. The U.S. government has calculated that, around the world, between 2 and 4 million people are trafficked annually, but many human rights and migration specialists believe that this vastly underestimates the true scale of the problem.

Sex trafficking has become the most common form of trafficking in recent years, with young women and children accounting for the majority of victims. But men are trafficked, too, often to be sold into forced labor. Traffickers are often of the same nationality as their victims and commonly consist of organized crime gangs. Their victims may be directly abducted or deceived by promises of well-paid jobs, legal entry into western countries, educational opportunities or marriage. Once in the destination country, they are frequently subjected to extreme mental and physical brutality by their employers and prevented from escaping. If detected by the authorities, they are often themselves treated as criminals for entering or working in the country illegally.

The main source regions for the trade in people are those with less developed economies and high levels of poverty: South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the countries of the former Soviet Union. In contrast, the destination countries for trafficked people are mostly in Western Europe, North America, the Middle East and other parts of Asia. Trafficking also occurs within country borders or to neighboring countries, a form which reportedly often involves young children.

International Shortcomings

The United Nations is now leading the fight against human trafficking; its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children has been ratified by 119 nations to date. However, some 70 countries have not yet signed up while others are implementing the protocol ineffectively. Although overall numbers of prosecutions of offenders have increased in recent years, most escape with relatively minor penalties for their crimes, which fail to provide an effective deterrent to other traffickers. Moreover, there is little evidence that U.S. economic sanctions against countries that fail to cooperate in fighting trafficking, such as Burma, Cuba, Iran and North Korea, have much effect.

Since the economic rewards of trafficking outweigh the perceived risks of prosecution or the severity of the punishment, this inhumane trade is likely to increase. Moreover, in conditions of extreme poverty, potential victims will easily succumb to the promises of a better life or may simply make a calculated decision to try to better their lives by taking a chance on the unknown in a new country.

The lack of reliable data and information on trafficking presents one of the major barriers to the development of effective ways to tackle it. Even among those states that have signed the UN protocol, data collection and knowledge exchange on human trafficking is at best ad hoc. In the developed world, insufficient resources have been made available to improve the knowledge base, and data protection and other regulatory barriers have hindered information exchange between countries. In many of the poorer countries from which trafficked victims originate, resources are simply not available for statistics and research.

See Also

Laczko, F. & Gramegna, M.A. (2003) Developing Better Indicators of Human Trafficking.

International Organization for Migration, Geneva.

Seelke, C.R. & Siskin, A. (2008). Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2007). The Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2008). United Nations General Assembly urges stronger action against human trafficking.

U.S. Department of Justice (2007). Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking.

U.S. State Department (2008). Trafficking in Persons Report.

1 comment to How Well Are We Fighting Human Trafficking?

  • Siddhartha

    Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty’(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of cl-ass or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of Space’ (Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up. – Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101.

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