Who is Trafficked?

Who is Trafficked?

Since human trafficking is an underground crime, it’s difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected. Experts estimate 10-30 million people are enslaved today.

TraffickingMap-FutureGroup

Victims of human trafficking can come from any city or country in the world. Some areas like Southeast Asia are particularly vulnerable, but victims are from everywhere—from the Sudan to the suburbs. Their destinations are just as varied. No place or people is immune.Most human trafficking victims are women and young girls, but men and boys are trafficked in significant numbers as well.

Traffickers exploit people who are looking for a better life. Since traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of victims, people who are poor, uneducated, neglected, unemployed, victims of sexual abuse, from unstable home lives, immigrants, or refugees are particularly at risk. But other people can be exploited as well.

In every region, some groups are particularly at risk: In Southeast Asia, the daughters of poor rural families are at risk. In the U.S., foster kids, runaways, and illegal immigrants are particularly vulnerable. In many countries, unemployed men are lured into forced labor and debt bondage. In parts of Africa, young boys, particularly orphans, are trapped and trained as soldiers to fight in violent conflicts. Around the world, even those with education can be duped by promises of jobs or even love and protection.

Where Does Trafficking Occur?

Human trafficking occurs nearly everywhere. These maps give a glimpse of the scope of the problem, showing countries in which people are at the greatest risk for trafficking and from which countries people are trafficked to the United States.

One common misconception is that human trafficking only takes place in the Third World. Sadly, this isn’t true: Trafficking is common even in the United States. Our partner organization, Thistle Farms, operates in Tennessee, and the Polaris Project, a leading anti-trafficking organization, works primarily in the United States. Polaris Project’s site has a map that shows the number of calls to their hotline from each state.

The U.S. Department of State has done thorough research and evaluation about human trafficking in every country of the world. Each year, the results are published in the Trafficking in Persons Report.  The report ranks each country and gives detailed narratives of the weaknesses and risk factors of each country. It’s a great resource to find out how slavery manifests itself in each country and what’s being done to stop it.

How Does Human Trafficking Occur?

Traffickers use fraud, force, and coercion to entrap their victims. Each victim’s story is unique, but here are some common methods traffickers use to gain access to their victims and manipulate them:

  • the false promise of employment
    buying the daughters of impoverished families
    kidnapping
    befriending runaway teens
    confiscating victims’ legal documents
    financial debt, often with exorbitant interest, dishonest bookkeeping, and a hold on multiple generations of a family
    companionship and romance, which transforms in to force and coercion

These survivor stories highlight how people fall victim to trafficking. While it’s tough to read about exploitation, understanding the causes is a big step to ending the problem.

In Disposable People, Kevin Bales tells the story of one man working as a slave in a Pakistani brick kiln: His brother-in-law had left the kiln in search of better work, as a result this man was taken captive by the owner of the kiln where the brother-in-law had worked. “I had never been to this kiln before in my life and I had never worked there; I didn’t owe this man any money … The kiln owner just said that was tough, he was holding my brother and me as ransom against my brother-in-law’s debt. At the kiln they made me work and told me that if I tried to escape they would beat me or shoot me.”

Bales also describes how victims are entrapped in charcoal production in Brazil: Recruiters, called gatos (cats), come to the abundant slums in eastern cities to find workers for charcoal batterias in the west. “They offer to provide transport of Mato Grosso, good food on site, a regular salary, tools, and free trips home to see the family.” Once the men agree, they climb on the trucks and ride across the country, enjoying the generous free meals at restaurants that the gato provides. Then once they’ve been taken deep into the wilderness, the gato lets the men out in a forest camp surrounded by armed guards and says, “You each owe me a lot of money: there is the cost of the trip, and all that food you ate, and the money I gave you for your families—so don’t even think about leaving.”

The Trafficking in Person’s report includes several survivor stories including this one about Sabine who was trafficked as a domestic worker in France: “Sabine was 23 when her parents gave her to another family as partial payment for a used car. The family who took Sabine used her as a domestic slave for three years, making her look after their seven children and hiring her out to other men for sex. They burned her with an iron and cigarettes and beat her with iron bars and sticks, took her identity papers and claimed her unemployment benefits for themselves, and chained her up in a squalid shed at night to prevent her from escaping. They threw scraps of food on the ground for her to eat, treating her worse than an animal.”

The TIP also includes this story of Josephine who was trafficked in the Democratic Republic of Congo: “The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) … attacked Josephine’s village, she and her family had too little time to flee. A group of about 80 LRA men surrounded her house. They tied up the family and shot and killed Josephine’s grandfather in front of her. They took Josephine and her three brothers into the bush. … She was forced to carry heavy loads, find food, and cook. She and other girls, some as young as 12, were forced to become LRA “wives.” Josephine was assigned to a boy who had also been kidnapped and forced to be an LRA fighter. She watched as the men forced him to kill another boy by striking him on the back of the head with a machete.”

The Polaris Project tells the story of Keisha: “After running away from her foster family at 14 due to sexual harassment, Keisha met an older man who offered to help her find her biological family. Then he forced her into commercial sex to pay him back.”

The Polaris Project also tells Mari’s story: “With four children between them and a 16-year relationship, Mari couldn’t imagine leaving Darrell. She didn’t see any viable options, even though he was physically abusive and forced her into commercial sex when money was tight.”

Nicholas Kristof describes the situation of one girl rescued in Brooklyn: “Among those rescued was Baby Face, who had run away from home in September. Her pimp allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add.”

Kristof also tells the story of a 13-year-old girl kidnapped in Cambodia and taken to a brothel in Phnom Penh then tortured with an electric current.


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