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Human trafficking: everything you need to know about modern slavery

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Kuldeep Singh
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Every year, thousands of girls and boys, women and men, fall into the hands of gangsters who end up exploiting them sexually, in forced labor or killing them to sell their organs. Virtually every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. 

Globally, more and more countries are detecting victims and reporting the traffickers of these mafias. This leads to greater ease in detecting these victims, but, consequently, also an increase in the numbers of human trafficking.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that there are more than 2.5 million victims of trafficking. However, it warns that for every identified trafficking victim there are 20 more unidentified.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transfer, transport, reception and reception of people within a country or across borders to exploit them. These people are victims of threats, physical violence or other types of coercion, abduction, fraud, deceit, abuse of power.

Trafficked persons may be subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced labor or services, slavery, or practices analogous to slavery, servitude, or organ removal. Girls and boys can be used as objects of sale for adoption or as soldiers.

Trafficking is internal when the different stages of the process take place within a country and is international when it involves more than one country. Current international protocols define it as “a form of modern slavery“.

Who does it affect?

This crime is present in almost all countries in the world, which can function as a point of origin, transit or destination for trafficked persons. A study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published in 2019 revealed that:

  • 72% of trafficking victims in the world are girls, adolescents and adult women.
  • The most frequent destination (59% of cases) is sexual exploitation, followed by forced labor (34%).
  • Most victims of trafficking are victims within the borders of their countries; victims of trafficking abroad move to richer countries.

The data also shows that human trafficking occurs around us, as the proportion of people affected within their own country has doubled in recent years to 58%, according to the 2018 UNODC World Report on Human Trafficking.

The UN warns that people in need of international protection who move irregularly or who are in prolonged situations are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked and may not be able to seek help from state authorities to escape an exploitative situation.

Why is trafficking not the same as migrant smuggling?

There are three important differences, according to the UN:

  • Consent: In the case of migrant smuggling, which is often carried out in dangerous or degrading conditions, migrants consent to such trafficking. Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have never consented or, if they initially did, that consent has lost all value due to coercion, deception or abuse by traffickers.
  • Exploitation: illicit trafficking ends with the arrival of migrants at their destination, while trafficking involves the persistent exploitation of victims to generate illegal profits for traffickers.
  • Transnationality: illicit trafficking is always transnational, while trafficking may not be, it may occur within the same country.

World Day Against Trafficking 2020

This year the UN dedicated the commemoration to those who work on the front lines to end human trafficking. As published on its website, the objective is to emphasize its efforts to identify, support, advise and seek justice for victims of trafficking and to challenge impunity for traffickers.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, the essential role of these relief figures has become even more important, particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Still, their contribution has often been ignored and not recognized,” he warns.

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