One of the emerging issues regarding criminology is human trafficking that is conducted through organized crime. It involves transportation of people from their mother country across interstate borders as well as within their mother countries to be sexually exploited as well as a become source of cheap unskilled labor in the developed states.
Most of the victims are lured through fake promises that they would be offered better jobs as well as study opportunities once they arrive at the promised destinations. However, traffickers may also use coercion and forceful abduction through raids, although this rarely happens. Governments and other social organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations, are making efforts to suppress this lucrative business through awareness.
Human trafficking involves people being recruited and taken to far places or even harbored, where they are treated as a slave and are forced to do work as well as being subjected to servitude. For example, in Europe and America, the revenue generated from the trafficking of people is almost $9 billion every year.
According to the council of Europe, human trafficking is now at an epidemic level globally, where the annual market is estimated to have reached $42 billion. Most Of the victims are recruited through coercion and deception, as well as through fraud.
Recruitment can also be done through power abuse or even abduction. Victims are likely to give in for exploitation when they are subjected to threats or acts of violence, and sometimes the traffickers may take advantage of economic leverage, especially when there is debt bondage.
Once the victims are recruited, they are subjected to various sexual exploitation, such as prostitution and hard labor. Where the victims are children, they are also subjected to prostitution as well as illegal adoption and early marriages. Some children can be recruited as young soldiers, sportsmen, or beggars, as well as followers of certain religious cults. (Laczko, 2005)
Human trafficking is different from people smuggling
Human trafficking is unique in that the victims do not have a choice, and the recruitment is against their wish, while in people smuggling, the victims volunteer to offer the services in exchange for fees and so it does not involve deception even though the agreement is still illegal.
Trafficked individuals are not set free on arrival to their destination as opposed to smuggled victims, and so they continue being enslaved, and in case of debt bondage, highly exploitive terms are set. Basic human rights of trafficked persons are taken away by the traffickers. The traffickers sometimes trick their victims and use false promises to lure them if not use of physical force.
Coercive, as well as manipulative tactics such as deception and feigned love, are used along with force-feeding on illegal drugs so as to have the victims under easy control.
In case an individual is looking for an entry into another country, he/she may easily be picked by his/her trafficker and be misled, hoping to be set free after successful smuggling through the border. Victims of trafficking may also be captured by their traffickers through raiding in spite of the fact that this rarely happens. (Salt, 2000)
Lucrative nature of human trafficking
The business of human trafficking has gained popularity over the last few decades as a result of it being lucrative in nature. Most of the areas where the business is conducted on a large scale include Russia and parts of Eastern Europe where there exists large organization of criminals taking control of the business.
However, on a global level, the larger percentage of human trafficking is conducted on a small scale through small groups that are properly networked and assigned specific roles depending on the location of the group. The roles may be recruitment or advertisement of the business while other groups are assigned the task of transportation as well as a retail business.
The profit margin in the trafficking business is usually very high because the traffickers require just a small amount of capital to start the business. On the other hand, because the business is usually underground, chances of prosecution of the traffickers are usually very low. (Van, 2004)
The people likely to be trafficked
People who are likely to fall victim to human trafficking are usually a vulnerable minority in society with little power compared to other regions. They are characterized by poor backgrounds that have limited opportunities, and their ethnic background is usually the minority in a larger society.
Although the social background where such potential victims may come from is unlimited, they are more likely to come from among those who are displaced or on runaways as well as refugees of any race. Women comprise the larger proportion of those who are likely to be victims under sex trafficking.
Traffickers in the criminal organization will take advantage of fewer job opportunities and promise to offer better opportunities, including chances for further study and then latter the victims forced to be prostitutes. The agents who work for the human trafficking organization make travel arrangements as well as placement for promised jobs where they give the women escort to the place of destination and hand them over to their potential employers.
Some of the women victims will realize almost immediately on arrival to the destination that they have been created regarding the promised work, but it becomes very difficult for them to run away. Such an attempt is either very difficult for them as well as dangerous because they will have already been subjected through coercion to abusive treatments. (Lehti, 2006)
Regarding the trafficking of juniors, most traffickers exploit the extreme poverty of their parents, in which case the parent opt to exchange his/her child for money to clear debts or generate income for other basic needs. Some parents are also cheated that their children would be trained and would, therefore, lead a better life where they would even support them financially.
In regions such as West Africa, most of the young victims are those whom their parents have died of AIDS. Such children, especially the males and at times females are forced to become young soldiers who are put under continuous training to be used later in the army.
Research has also shown that the process of child adoption, even when legalized, may be misused to involve baby trafficking and some time expectant mothers from West Africa and other developing nations such as India to the United States. An adoption scandal is predictable through the existence of systematic vulnerabilities, especially where the adoption is inter-country.
Research has shown that children in terms of thousands on a global scale are bought for sexual exploitation, and most of them come from Asia and South America as well as West Africa. In case of where such children victims are not sold by their actual parents, they may be kidnapped or may have been orphaned due to other natural factors.
Men are also targeted for where they may be used to perform labor that does not require specialization or skills, and which statistic from international labor organization shows that it generates more than $30 billion on a global scale. (Opara, 2007)
The current extent of human trafficking
Human trafficking is illegal in nature and uses a variety of methodologies, and therefore, it is very hard for one to establish exact figures on a global scale. However, according to the data provided by the state’s department in the United States, a total of about 800, 000 persons comprising of both sex as well as minors are currently victims of trafficking through inter-states’ bonders per annum.
About 70% of these victims are women, while the rest are minors. Research illustrates most of the victims of transactional human trafficking as being targets for sex trade exploitation. The data from the united state’s department indicates that a high level of the enslavement of individuals who are held captives and subjected to labor exploitation, especially in their mother countries are also victims of human trafficking.
Unfortunately, human rights organizations find it difficult to track such trafficking, especially from far. The figures for the number of people trafficked for unskilled labor is, therefore, often underestimated. Research from the data provided by the national human right-center in California indicates that an estimated 100, 000 forced victims of human trafficking are currently working in the United States.
About 30% of this figure are domestic servants, some of them being children. Human trafficking involving children who offer domestic services in the United States is, therefore, a representation of the illegal, common practice, especially in West Africa, that has been extended in the United States.
Families located in remote areas normally send their children to look for job opportunities in the surrounding cities with an expectation of raising their level of income. Some girls opt to offer free services as long as they are provided with food by their employers. This tradition has consequently led to more opportunities for human trafficking, especially where the African employer happens to migrate and become a citizen of the United States.
Research by students at the University of California representing the organization that fights human trafficking revealed that about 45% of the victims of slavery based in the United States are forced into sexual exploitation while about 27% of them become victims of domestic servitude. Another 10% and 17% are involved in agriculture and as well as other occupations respectively. (Laczko, 2005)
Common causes of human trafficking
There are unlimited factors that lead to human trafficking, but the most common are related to economic instability. Most of the victims are usually from areas that have scarce opportunities for employment and which are linked to organized crime through criminal gangs.
This arises due to regional imbalances as well as disparities in economic status both in the mother country of the victims and also between inter-states. Human trafficking is also likely to be more rampant in societies that practice social discrimination, especially if their governments are corrupted and politically unstable, being characterized by armed conflicts.
This may lead to a certain country having poor policies where communities are uprooted to create space for megaprojects, but the government latter fails to resettle them, or when it does, the resettlement is not properly done along with the recommended rehabilitation packages. Most of the traffickers are usually after high profits through trading with victims from areas that are greatly marginalized as a result of being poor.
Research has also shown that another factor that has accelerated human trafficking is a lack of adequate penalties on the gang that is involved in the trafficking. This enables them to settle the amount of penalty that is placed on them and later go back to the same business because the profit margin is still high. Most of the governments have also been having lax laws to suppress the industry on sex tourism at the global level.
Regarding the trafficking of children, demand from pedophiles fuels to a great extent, trafficking of minors for the purpose of profitability. Therefore, according to the opinion of the United Nations, the most significant factor enhancing the increase in the trafficking of women for the sex trade is an ineffective government and the weaknesses in the human rights organization.
These institutions have been found to simply perceive the woman as always guilty in matters concerning prostitution with little focus on the role of traffickers who actually initiate the process. Research indicates that the whole process of human trafficking is largely influenced by demand for prostitutes as well as for unskilled labor in the host destinations making the industry very profitable for any trafficker. (Salt, 2000)
Trafficking people has also been accelerated by the fact that the borders between the source and destination countries are porous, making control of the movement very difficult. Research has also shown that the recent advancement in technology, especially in communication, has increased the pace at which the business is being transacted.
Studies have revealed that, as opposed to drugs where the item is sold just once, victims of trafficking can be transacted several times before they reach their destination where they can still be resold. One of the factors that have significantly contributed to humans trafficking at the global level was the creation of a porous border for the Asian market during the error of the Soviet Union. (Van, 2004)
Vulnerable issues related to human trafficking
Research has shown that human trafficking for the purpose of sex trade does not have a definition that can universally be accepted because it generally refers to the movement of individuals, especially women.
It usually takes the form of an organized process from one country to another as well as within a particular country to perform sex work. It usually involves the use of physical force and deception as well as bondage in repayment of forced debts. Human trafficking, however, becomes a subject of debate when the term coercion is not incorporated in its definition, therefore, facilitating the willingness of an individual to engage in prostitution.
In the UK, for example, the act that was incorporated in 2003 regarding offenses related to sex stated that one did not have to have used force, deception, or even coercion to be guilty of a sex offense. Interpretation of these activities means that any individual entering the UK with a purpose to engage in the sex trade is included in the action regardless of whether or not he/she consented for human trafficking.
The issue becomes subject to controversy and a matter of confusion because of prostitution being considered the abuse of basic rights of women as well as juniors and therefore perceived as an equal to sexual exploitation. The main aim of a woman and young girls in giving in to a trafficker is to get in return financial support either for her or sometimes for the family.
Usually, the traffickers will provide legitimate work or study opportunities initially where such work gave is normally based on catering as well as the hotel industry. Victims of human trafficking are also subjected to various forms of psychological torture where most are alienated socially either in their mother countries or in the host countries of their destination.
Such victims, in most cases, find it hard for them to be integrated back to their local communities due to stigmatization, intolerance as well as poor social inclusion.
The issues become more complicated because of the little assistance offered by the government and the limited social services available for the victims when they return to their mother countries. Victims of human trafficking also get exposed to criminal sanctions as a result of them having been involved in drug trafficking through force by the traffickers. (Lehti, 2006)
Reducing human trafficking
Research has shown that the degree of success has varied for different bodies concerned with curbing human trafficking that include the governments as well as international associations in liaison with a non-governmental organization.
Different governments intervene differently to stop human trafficking, where some prefer the introduction of legislation with the aim of illegalizing human trafficking. Co-operation systems may also be developed by the government in the mother countries to work with those under different laws in other nations. This is possible through enforcement agencies in collaboration with non-governmental organizations.
However, most governments have not been aggressive in identifying victims of trafficking because of their weak immigration policies. Such policies may lead o the victim being re-victimized and also fail to provide sufficient actions that would help in avoiding vulnerable individuals of human trafficking from becoming future victims.
Studies have revealed criticism over certain countries because of their reluctance to handle issues of human trafficking for other motives different from sexual exploitation. An example of where the government has intervened with the more strict measure is in the UK, wherein 2004, trafficking people for the purpose of labor was illegalized after a lot of pressure was received from human rights organizations.
Several years before this was done, the law used to criminalize human traffickers for the purpose of sex. Research has, however, discovered that, despite the introduction of the law in 2004, it has rarely been implemented because even by June 2007, no convict had been held guilty under the new provision.
Other measures by the government may include the creation of awareness through media averts and posters along with vulnerable areas lived by those who are likely to become victims and where the traffickers are more active. An equal amount of awareness should be extended to the respective agents such as police and workers of various social welfare as well as those officers that work in immigration departments.
In the countries that have legalized prostitution, awareness should be conducted among prospective clients to make it easier for the officers to identify early signs of vulnerable victims of human trafficking easily. (Opara, 2007)
Human trafficking is closely linked to other issues that pose a security threat to the general wellbeing of an individual. The victims are subjected to long term threats that cause physical harm by the traffickers who always ensure that the victims have complied with their wishes.
Most victims are kept in bondage where they are beaten up to minimize their resistance as well as denying them money for sustenance, which consequently causes absolute poverty. Because the business is illegal, none of the victims has access to be protected by laws of labor and therefore end up working for long hours with no provision for holidays.
Good illustrations are the Chinese human traffic victims who are based in France and are subjected to an average of 15 working hours every day. Another example is observed in Japan, where the victims reported that their work contracts were being breached as they were not receiving wages in addition to being subjected to compulsory night work as well as poor accommodation.
Laczko F. (2005): Data and Research on Human Trafficking: Blackwell Synergy PP25-32
Salt J. (2000): Trafficking and Human Smuggling: Blackwell Synergy PP46-49
Van K. (2004): The Need for a Multidisciplinary Approach towards Human Trafficking Blackwell Synergy PP75-81
Lehti M. (2006): Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: university of Chicago Press pp37-44
Opara V. (2007): Re-Examination of Consent in Human Trafficking: Routledge pp25-29