Victims are sometimes tricked and lured by false promises or are physically forced. Some traffickers use coercive and manipulative tactics including intimidation, feigned love, isolation, threat and use of physical force, debt bondage, other abuse, or even force-feeding with drugs to control their victims.
People who are seeking entry to other countries may be picked up by traffickers and misled into thinking that they will be free after being smuggled across the border. In some cases, they are captured through slave raiding, although this is becoming rare.
Trafficking is a lucrative industry. In some areas, like Russia, Eastern Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and Colombia, trafficking is controlled by large, powerful organisations. However, the majority of trafficking is done by networking of smaller groups that each specialise in a certain area, like recruitment, transportation, advertising or retail. This is very
profitable because little startup capital is needed, and prosecution is relatively rare.
Trafficked people are usually the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region. They often come from the poorer areas where opportunities are limited. They often are ethnic minorities, and they often are displaced persons such as refugees, though they may come from any social background, class or race.
Trafficking of children often involves exploitation of the parents’ extreme poverty. The latter may sell children to traffickers in order to pay off debts, or gain income, or they may be deceived concerning the prospects of training and a better life for their children. In West Africa, trafficked children have often lost one or both parents to the African (AIDS) crisis.
The adaptation process, legal or illegal, results in cases of trafficking of babies and pregnant women between the West and the developing world. In David M. Smolin’s papers on child trafficking and adoption scandals between India and the United States, in the cities there are systemic vulnerabilities in the country adoption system that makes adoption scandals predictable.
Women, who form over 70 per cent of trafficking victims, are particularly at risk to become involved in sex trafficking. Potential kidnappers exploit lack of opportunities, promise good jobs or opportunities for study, and then force the victims to become prostitutes, participate in pornography or escort services.
Through agents and brokers who arrange the travel and job placements, women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to the employers. Upon reaching their destinations, some women learn that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do; most have been misguided about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment; and all find themselves in coercive and abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous.
The main motive of a woman or a girl to accept an offer from a trafficker is better financial opportunities for herself or her family. In many cases traffickers initially offer ‘legitimate’ work or the promise of an opportunity to study. The main types of work offered are in the catering and hotel industry, in bars and clubs, modeling contracts or au pair work. Traffickers often use offers of marriage, intimidation, threats and kidnapping as means of obtaining victims. In majority of the cases, the women end up in prostitution.
Also some prostitutes become victims of human trafficking. Some women know they will be working as prostitutes, but they don’t have clear view of the circumstances and the conditions of the work in their country of destination. Many women are forced into the sex trade after answering false advertisements, while others are simply kidnapped. Thousands of children from Asia, Africa, and South America are sold into the global sex trade every year. They are kidnapped or orphaned, and sometimes they are actually sold by their own families.
Men are also at risk of being trafficked for unskilled work predominantly involving hard labour. Other forms of trafficking include bonded and sweatshop labour, forced marriage, and domestic servitude. Children are also trafficked for both labour exploitation and sexual exploitation. In some areas children are forced to be child soldiers.
According to United States State Department data, “An estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year approximately 80 per cent are women and girls and up to 50 per cent are minors.” The data also illustrates that the majority of transnational victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. Due to the illegal nature of trafficking and differences in methodology, the exact extent is unknown.
Since the fall of the iron curtain, the improverished former ‘Eastern bloc’ countries such as Albania, Moldova, Romania, Russia and Belarus and Ukraine have been identified as major trafficking source countries for women and children. Young women and girls are often lured to wealthier countries by the promises of money and work and then reduced to sexual slavery.
According to an estimate, two-thirds of women trafficked for prostitution worldwide annually come from Eastern Europe, three-quarters have never worked as prostitutes before. The major destinations are Western Europe (Germany, the Netharlands, Italy, Spain, Greece, UK), the Middle East (Israel, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates), Asia, Russia and the United States. An estimated 500,000 women from Central and Eastern Europe are working in prostitution in the EU countries alone.
About 14,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year although because trafficking is illegal, accurate statistics are difficult. According to the Massachusetts-based Trafficking Victims Outreach and Services Network in Massachusetts, there were 55 documented cases of human trafficking in 2005 and the first half of 2006, in Massachusetts. In 2004, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) estimated that 600-800 persons are trafficked into Canada annually and that additional 1,500-2,200 persons are trafficked through Canada into the United States.
In the United Kingdom, over 70 women were known to have been trafficked into prostitution in 1998 and the Home Office recognised that the scale is greater as the problem is hidden and research estimates that the actual figure could be up to 1,420 women trafficked into the UK during the same period. Trafficking in people is increasing in Africa, South Asia and into North America.
Russia is a major source of women trafficked globally for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Russian women are in prostitution in over 50 countries. Annually, thousands of Russian women end up as prostitutes in Israel, China, Japan or South Korea.
Russia has significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation from regional and neighbouring countries into Russia, and on to the Gulf State, Europe, Asia, and North America. In poverty- stricken Moldova, where the unemployment rate for women ranges as high as 68 per cent and one-third of the workforce live and work abroad, experts estimate that since the collapse of the Soviet Union between 200,000 and 400,000 women have been sold into prostitution abroad-perhaps up to 10 per cent of the female population.
In Ukraine, a survey conducted by the NGO, ‘La Strada’ Ukraine in 2001-03, based on a sample of 106 women being trafficked out of Ukraine, found that 3 per cent were fewer than 18. The US State Department reported in 2004 that incident of minors being trafficked was increasing. It is estimated that half million Ukrainian women were trafficked abroad since 1991 (80 per cent of all unemployed in Ukraine are women).
The ILO estimates that 20 per cent of the five million illegal immigrants in Russia are victims of forced labour, which is a form of trafficking. However, even citizens of Russian Federation have become victims of human trafficking. They are typically kidnapped and sold by police to be used for hard labour, being regularly drugged and chained like dogs to prevent them from escaping.
There were reports of trafficking of children and of child sex tourism in Russia. The Government of Russia has made some effort to combat trafficking but has also been criticized for not complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The majority of child trafficking cases are in Asia, although it is a global problem.
In Asia, Japan is the major destination country for trafficked women, especially from the Philippines and Thailand. The US State Department has rated Japan as either a ‘Tier 2’ or a ‘Tier 2? Watchlist’ country every year since 2001 in its annual trafficking in Persons reports. There are currently an estimated 300,000 women and children involved in the sex trade throughout Southeast Asia. It is common that Thai women are lured to Japan and sold to Yakuza-controlled brothels where they are forced to work off their price.
Many of the Iraqi women fleeing the Iraq War are turning to prostitution, while others are trafficked abroad, to countries like Syria, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iran. In Syria alone, an estimated 50,000 Iraqi refugee girls and women, many of them widows, are forced into prostitution. Cheap Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists. Of the clients coming from wealthier countries in the Middle-East many are Saudi men. High prices are offered for virgins. As many as 200,000 Nepali girls, many under 14, have been sold into the sex slavery in India. Nepalese women and girls, especially virgins, are favoured in India because of their light skin.
In some parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for an offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve a sex slave within the offended family. In this instance, the woman does not gain the title of “wife”. In parts of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, Shrine slavery persists, despite being illegal in Ghana since 1998.
In this system of slavery, sometimes called trokosi (in Ghana) or voodoosi in Togo and Benin, or ritual servitude, young virgin girls are given as slaves in traditional shrines and are used sexually by the priests in addition to providing free labour for the shrine.
A sharp increase in prostitution has been witnessed in Cambodia, Bosnia and Kosovo after UN and in the case of the latter two, NATO peacekeeping forces moved in. Peacekeeping forces have been linked to trafficking and forced prostitution. Proponents of peacekeeping argue that the actions of a few should not incriminate the many participants in the mission, yet NATO and the UN has come under criticism for not taking the issue of force prostitution linked to peacekeeping missions seriously enough.
Some causes of trafficking are:
(i) lack of employment opportunities;
(ii) Organised crime and presence of organised criminal gangs;
(iii) Corruption in government; political instability; armed conflict;
(v) Social discrimination;
(vii) Driven by demand: As demand is high for prostitutes and other forms of labour in host countries, there is a very profitable market available to those who wish to become handlers.
(viii) According to the UN a major factor that has allowed the growth of sexual trafficking is, “governments and human rights organisation alike have simply judged the women guilty of prostitution and minimized the trafficker’s role”.
(ix) Uprooting of communities because of mega projects without proper resettlement and rehabilitation packages;
(x) Insufficient penalties against traffickers; and
(xi) Profitability; growing deprivation and marginalisation of the poor.
Trafficking in people has been facilitated by porous borders and advanced communication technologies; it has become increasingly transnational in scope and highly lucrative. Unlike drugs or arms, people can be “sold” many times. The opening up of Asian markets, porous borders, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the former Yugoslavia have contributed to this globalisation.
In 2000 the United Nations adopted the convention against Transnational Organised Crime, also called the Palermo Convention, and two Palermo protocols thereto:
(i) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; and
(ii) Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
All of these instruments contain elements of the current international law of trafficking in human beings.
Government, international associations, and non-governmental organisations have all tried to end human trafficking with various degrees of success.
Actions taken to combat human trafficking differ from government to government. Some have introduced legislation specifically aimed at making human trafficking illegal. Governments can also develop systems of cooperation between different nation’s law enforcement agencies and with Non- Government Organisations (NGOs).
Other actions governments could take is to increase awareness level. This can take on three forms (i) raising awareness amongst potential victims, in particular people in countries where human traffickers are active, (ii) raising awareness amongst police, social welfare workers and immigration officers, and (iii) in countries where prostitution is legal or semilegal, raising awareness amongst the clients of prostitution, to look out for signs of a human trafficking victim.