On Human Trafficking And Smuggling.


General Overview

Hollywood has done a great job of making the terms human trafficking, human smuggling and prostitution, household words. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal activity in the world. It is a form of modern-day slavery and a way in which humans are moved from one place to the other for either sexual reasons or labor reasons. It is estimated that 21 million people are currently enslaved around the world. Between 14,500 to 17,5400 victims are trafficked into the U.S annually. This excludes trafficking that occurs between states.


Who are the victims?

The victims are men, women or children. They are often from marginalized communities, lower-income communities. Many cannot communicate in the English language. They are often isolated. These victims come from all over the world into the U.S.A but the prevalent countries are Asia, Central and South America and Eastern Europe.


What types of trafficking exist?

There are two main types of trafficking; they are sexual trafficking and labor trafficking. Sexual trafficking is when individuals are obtained for the use of commercial sex. They have no choice. This is very different from prostitution because a prostitute has a choice. Sex tourism falls under this. Sex tourism occurs, when individuals travel out of their country to other localities to have access to ‘exotic’ /’different’ , ‘illicit’ kind of sex.  Unfortunately,  American males are at the top of the chart in traveling to other countries for illicit sexual activities.

Labor trafficking is when individuals are obtained for labor use. These are the individuals you see selling tapes on the train, nannies, house helps, those who work in sweat shops.

What types of tools are used?

The tools used in recruiting, obtaining and retaining the victim (s) are blackmail, threat (with deportation), force, fraud, threats with death or injury, taking away victims travel documents, isolating them to hinder escape.


How do you prove that you are a victim of trafficking?

To prove that you are a victim of trafficking, you have to show that either force and or fraud and or coercion was used.

Force is the use of rape, beating, confinement to break the victim down and make them easier to control. In the African setting, it could be refusing to allow the trafficked child mix with other children, ensuring that all the child has around are people who are aware that he/she has been trafficked. Using shame or fear or cultural tools to tie the child into doing what you want.

Fraud: Using false offers to get people into trafficking. For example, using an ad to attract women into jobs as musicians in other countries and when they get there, they find themselves forced to work as sex workers. In the African setting, going to a village and taking a child from there, and telling the mother that you are going to put the child through school but rather, taking that child to your home to work as your help or to help you run your store.


Coercion: This involves threats of serious harm to the victim or the victim’s loved ones to get them to do what you want them to do. In many cases, this threat could be the abuse of the legal process. For example, threatening to call USCIS to get him/her deported, if he/she does not do what you want them to do.

P.S: A minor does not need to prove all these to show that he/she has been trafficked. Only one will do.


What is the difference between Trafficking and Smuggling?

Though these are quite similar, the main difference is the issue of choice. In trafficking, the victim did not consent to their situations or if they originally did, the behavior of the traffickers made the consent meaningless. Trafficking is exploitative. It seeks to continue making profits out of the trafficked.

In smuggling, victims consent to this. It is transportation based; it is about moving the individual from one part of the world, country or state to another illegally. It is basically about breaching the country’s or nation’s border. Often, when the victim has been smuggled, and pays the price, the smuggled continue on with their lives.

 A special note on debt bondage:

Debt bondage is a tool used by traffickers. This is when victims are trapped to continue paying off their debt because of living expenses. As such, victims remain caught in a trap of sex or labor trafficking without ever seeing the money that they should have received for services rendered. They remain slaves for life.

In Houston, Texas, a three-pronged approach is used to combat this issue and they are namely:

a) Outreach, training and prevention.

b)Investigation, rescue and prosecution. c) Victim services and protection.

Why is this a Public Health Issues:

a) It involves issues of exploitation.

b) It involves issues of Marginalization.

c) It involves the socio- economic.

d) It involves mental, sexual and physical health issues of a population (in this case , the population are victims).

e) It involves creating  and enforcing policies to control, protect and execute.

f) It involves a lack of voice/ lack of power.


What can you do as a regular member of society?

When you see something that does not seem right, ask questions wisely. When you come across an advert in a newspaper that raises the red flag – reach out to the newspaper or the trafficking hotline and have that investigated. There are many who wish they could go home but they are too scared and they cannot communicate in English. Many are isolated and depressed.



If you suspect an individual has been trafficked, if you have questions about an ad or you just want more information – call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1888 3737 888.


Information and Data From:

a)International Labor Organization. “ILO Global Estimate of forced Labour,:  June 2012.

b)US Department of State.  “Trafficking in Persons Report,” June 2013.

c)International Labor Organization. “ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour,” June. 2012.



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