Human Trafficking, Closer Than We Think

December 5, 2012

Slavery, domestic servitude, forced labor. There are many types of human trafficking, the practice of modern slavery. Some are more savage, more violent than others and thus, identifiable as bad by an even uninformed observer. Victims are held in captivity, threatened, restrained, beaten, and worse. Other types of human trafficking occur seemingly out in the open, with criminals using legitimate visas and other means to pass scrutiny, while using non-physical, deceptive modes of compulsion on their victims such as fraud and economic and psychological coercion. No matter the means, this practice violates people’s freedom and often endangers their lives. And according to Kelly Henrich, co-founder and president of the Global Freedom Center (GFC), it is happening right now, in every country, and, too frequently, under our very noses.


“There have been an estimated 20 to 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide,” Heinrich said at RCDC’s club meeting in mid-November, “but only about 43,000 cases were identified in 2011.” Of those identified cases, GFC charts the number of resulting criminal convictions at 3,969. From sex workers to dishwashers, from the supermarkets we shop in and the hotels we check into, many millions of enslaved are forced into all kinds of labor in a wide variety of industries, for little or no pay.


Heinrich, a lawyer by training with extensive experience in providing legal and social services to victims of human trafficking as well as policy and legislation advice and recommendations, started the Global Freedom Center to offer expert, customized training to organizations and individuals on the subject. The Center’s 5/20 Campaign aims to train 5 million professionals by 2020, to identify and prevent human trafficking.


Large, multinational corporations with massive, labyrinthine international supply chains, are beginning “to take notice that the social responsibility field once marked by voluntary codes of conduct is now shifting into mandatory legal requirements. This includes disclosure of efforts to monitor the corporate supply chain, which includes the labor practices of contractors and subcontractors.” Global Freedom Center trains executives to be aware and prepared to identify these problems.


For us, Heinrich’s presentation offered clues to identifying potential victims, scenarios where human trafficking takes place, and steps to take if we were to suspect a case of trafficking (HINT: it does NOT involve trying to resolve the situation ourselves, but rather, contacting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888).  According to an Office of Refugee Resettlement/Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet, victims of human trafficking may exhibit any of the following:


• Accompanied by a controlling person or boss; not speaking on own behalf
• Lack of control over personal schedule, money, I.D., travel documents
• Transported to or from work; lives and works in the same place
• Debt owed to employer/crew leader; inability to leave job
• Bruises, depression, fear, overly submissive


Many of our eyes were opened by the presentation and the truth that even at a distance, much of what many of us purchase and consume has been made by forced labor, by victims of modern slavery. The positive takeaway from our meeting is that awareness and accountability is growing among individuals, students, corporations, and governments. Through the hard work of professionals working on human trafficking, like GFC, and the watchfulness of more and more ordinary citizens, hopefully this trend will continue and more victims of modern slavery will be freed.


Learn more at http://globalfreedomcenter.org/GFC/learn/quick-facts
Publications: http://globalfreedomcenter.org/GFC/learn/publications
Donate to GFC: http://globalfreedomcenter.org/GFC/act/give

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