International Policy Digest

World News /30 Jul 2019
07.30.19

A Violation of Human Dignity: The Heinous Nature of Human Trafficking

The increased awareness of the crime of human trafficking in recent years has helped nations to identify the signs and assist the victims who have fallen prey to the most unscrupulous individuals living amongst us. July 30th is World Day against Trafficking in Persons. In light of this day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres remarked: “On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to stop criminals from ruthlessly exploiting people for profits and to help victims rebuild their lives.”

The revenue component of this crime is the biggest challenge confronting the global community. Human trafficking is an extremely lucrative industry generating approximately $150 billion per year. These profits are made at the expense of the most vulnerable peoples of the world. Individuals risk their lives when they flee violence and conflict in their home country because they simply seek a better way of life for themselves and their families. Along their perilous journeys, many fall into the hands of traffickers.

Since 2003, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has compiled information regarding the victims of trafficking. One thing is certain: No nation is immune from the crime of human trafficking. In 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons encouraging the international community to take action to put an end to the heinousness of human trafficking. Moreover, the Plan of Action seeks to blend the “…fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader [programs] in order to boost development and strengthen security worldwide.”

Earlier this year, the UNODC released its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons which showed that the number of cases hit a 13-year high, but at the same time the data reflected an increase in the conviction rate. The UNODC’s Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, stated that “The report was undertaken for a simple reason: If we want to succeed in confronting human trafficking in all its manifestations, we must better understand its scope and structure.” Further, he indicated that “We need to appreciate where human trafficking is happening, who are its victims and who is perpetrating this crime.”

The ability of countries to collect data has improved while the number of nations who have institutions dedicated to monitoring instances of trafficking has increased to 65, the 2018 report shows. On the other hand, Asian and African states have lower conviction rates and lower detection numbers. As the report states, this “does not necessarily mean that traffickers are not active.” What this does reflect is that countries in these regions of the world have higher instances of trafficking and operate in an environment with a higher degree of impunity.

The most vulnerable individuals are women and girls. As the report points out, the vast majority of detected victims of trafficking [occurs] for sexual exploitation and 35 percent of those trafficked for forced [labor] are female. From region to region of the world, the victim profile varies. However, many of the victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation particularly in the Americas, Europe, and East Asia and the Pacific.

This year has brought this issue to light as news reports show the horrifying photos of migrants attempting to make their way to the United States. The people who make this dangerous trek often succumb to the nefarious motives of human traffickers. Migrants from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala oftentimes must pay smugglers to assist them in making their way north. They leave to escape the devastating consequences of gang violence and poverty. Sixty percent of the trafficked victims are children based on reporting from UNODC.

Civilized nations would agree that the practice of human trafficking is morally reprehensible; yet, what is equally reprehensible is the treatment of migrants on the border. They arrive to this point after what is usually a harrowing journey only to find conditions in which they are detained equally deplorable. It is time for the U.S. to take back its position as a global leader, end human trafficking, while also ending its misguided policy towards migrants.