Slavery may seem to be a long forgotten term, with no real relevance in this century. Unfortunately this is far from the truth, human trafficking is the phrase now used to describe modern slavery and it is more common than many of us may believe.
Some will have seen films like ‘Taken’ in which Liam Neeson plays an aging Jason Bourne like character who rescues his daughter who has been abducted to be sold as a sex slave. Human trafficking is also regularly portrayed on television in programmes such as ’Law and Order – Special Victims Unit’.
“United Kingdom is not entirely innocent”
Human trafficking is not merely fictional however and it is not only about the sex trade. Whilst young women are the most common victims, abducted, tricked, threatened, often drugged and held in captivity there are other reasons for modern slavery.
It is not only third world or Eastern European countries which are involved either. These are often made the stereotypical scapegoats but the western ‘democracies’ such as the United States or United Kingdom are not entirely innocent.
There are all too many cases of people from poor and often oppressive nations being lured with promises of a new life and improved standard of living to a life of servitude in the west. These unfortunate people have often lived in fear of their lives, in extremely dangerous regions only to be preyed upon by those with the means to exploit them.
“sold as commodities”
Many are refugees attempting to escape horrendous conditions in their own countries, often having to loan extortionate sums of money well beyond their means to repay. Known as ‘bonded labour’ they are then held captive and forced to work in ‘sweat’ shops producing goods in awful conditions for little or no pay, meaning they will never pay off their ‘debt’.
Some are sold as commodities, personal slaves to look after the households of the wealthy without integrity or compassion. The conditions they are forced to live under are little better than those they left behind, regular beatings, sexual abuse, mental cruelty or worse. Imagine having to sleep in a room that is not any larger than a wardrobe, again more common than might be imagined.
‘Forced labour’ is not restricted to women however, in fact men are equally at risk for all manner of unskilled labour. This can include agricultural work, household servitude, janitorial, general labour or even begging.
It is the sex trade however that gets the greatest amount of exposure; it is probably the most sickening form of modern day slavery. Young boys and girls often still in their teens are being forced into a trade which displays humankind at its absolute worst on a daily basis.
The vulnerable of society are often targeted, the homeless, refugees, drug addicts, runaway teenagers and as ‘Taken’ portrayed even tourists. The mere fact they are away from their home territory can make them powerless to human traffickers. Prostitution, escorting, exotic dancing and the pornographic industry are all possible forms of exploitation.
” 3 million people are being trafficked into 137 countries”
Large crime syndicates are involved it is estimated to be the second largest money earner for these organisations after drug trafficking. It is claimed that more than 3 million people are being trafficked into 137 countries, make no mistake it is a huge multi-billion dollar industry.
It is of course also being strongly resisted by every law enforcement agency. However as some of the major western powers do not have a clear conscience with over 300 children being trafficked into the United Kingdom annually alone it is a battle which at present is being lost.
Whilst there is little many of us can do to assist directly, there are a few organisations which aim to raise public awareness. The Polaris Project, campaigns for a world without slavery, committed to combatting it and provides assistance to victims. The UK based Poppy Project provides support and accommodation to any woman that has been trafficked into exploitation.
Whilst it is difficult to completely defend against becoming a victim, it is possible to guard against it. It is unfortunate that one of our modern day most relied upon forms of communication is also the human traffickers greatest tool; the internet.
Seasonal agricultural work, online dating sites, hospitality job offers, childcare/nannies, domestic service and student travel schemes even educational opportunities can potentially be used to lure the unwary.
These are often offered online so if considering replying to such an offer be sceptical, and really do some thorough research into the ‘agency’ involved. Never give out any details until their credentials have been confirmed, ask for verifiable testimonials. Thoroughly check out the website, ensure it has some history and did not spring up overnight, if there isn’t one be especially wary.
Traffickers will often be prepared to pay ‘expenses’ to enable a meet and will offer an unrealistically ‘rosy’ picture to entice a victim. Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!
“human traffickers greatest tool; the internet”
Be careful when abroad, traffickers will be looking out for easy targets. Being friendly and becoming immersed in a culture is fine, but also protect yourself by avoiding being alone with a new found ‘friend’. Avoid informing anybody of the location of your accommodation and certainly not until you are completely sure they do not pose any threat.
The intention of posting this is not to unnecessarily cause alarm, but to raise awareness and to remind there is a need for caution. Independent travellers are potential targets, fortunately the odds are still in our favour, most will remain safe and most are sensible enough not to take unnecessary risks.
A world without slavery would be of course be a much better place for us all. At present this is not the case, but with a little care it is possible to at least avoid becoming a statistic.
Further useful sites –