With promises of a better life, legal immigration and better pay, unsuspecting impoverished people, as well as those suffering psychological, emotional, or economic hardships, or political instability, are lured, then smuggled into a deplorable life of servitude by human traffickers. They come from some of the most depressed areas of the world seeking to improve their lot in life, only to fall prey to these traffickers and become entrapped in this modern-day form of slavery.
Human trafficking differs from people smuggling. Smugglers charge people a fee for their service, then set them free once they reach their destination. Human trafficking for labor exploitation involves the recruitment, harboring and/or transportation of people and families into situations of “slavery” using violence, coercion, and deception, and in some cases, drugs.
Where these people are promised better wages, all too often they get paid paltry piece-rate wages and are then cheated out of this pay, being docked or deducted for “advances” given as “seed money” by their traffickers to start a new life. Their documents are taken away until this debt is satisfied, and often are not returned at all.
Some victims are hidden behind locked doors in brothels and factories. In other cases, victims are in plain view and may interact with community members, but the widespread lack of awareness and understanding of trafficking leads to low levels of victim identification by the people who most often encounter them.
According to a report by the Polaris Group, an organization involved in fighting human trafficking and helping survivors,
…human trafficking for exploitation doesn’t necessarily cross international borders; human trafficking occurs at a national level, or even within one community.”
Core Difficulties in Fighting Human Trafficking
There are many forms of human trafficking for exploitation; forced labor, domestic servitude, forced begging, forced marriage, forced criminality, prostitution, and forced organ removal. Trafficking involves a conscious and willful decision deceive, coerce, and enslave people, exploiting them into situations of indebtedness with no escape.
Human trafficking generates billions of dollars in profits annually, second only to drug trafficking. Victims of this “hidden crime” rarely come forward due to fear of the traffickers or law enforcement and language barriers being the two biggest reasons. The emotional trauma may be so great that many don’t even identify themselves as victims.
There are several myths and misconceptions about human trafficking. For example, one common misconception is that trafficking involves transporting victims across borders; although this does occur, it does not always apply. Human trafficking for labor exploitation can occur domestically as well. In situations involving children, just by bringing them into exploitive situations constitutes trafficking; coercion and violence need not be present.
Even though human trafficking for sexual exploitation gets more attention, the majority of human trafficking is for labor exploitation.
Here are some estimated statistics of human trafficking by The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- 51% of identified victims of trafficking are women, 28% are children, and 21% are men
- 72% of people exploited in the sex industry are women
- 63% of identified traffickers were men and 37% are women
- 43% of victims are trafficked domestically within national borders
The Polaris Report goes on to say that …
“Because human trafficking is so diverse…you can’t fight it all at once and there are no single, silver bullet solutions. You have to…fight it type by type,” Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, told reporters…”We see this report as a major breakthrough in the field.”
The Polaris report is considered the largest data set ever compiled on human trafficking in the U.S.; of the 32,000 reports of human trafficking, over 10,000 of the reports were for labor exploitation. This report is considered a “game changer”; collecting information through hotline calls is helping prosecutors identify and disrupt labor trafficking networks.
Workers — mostly men from Central America and Mexico— often were lured with lies of an hourly rate; however, once in the U.S., they were paid much lower piece-rate wages. Many reported being denied protective gear and medical care, were constantly threatened with deportation and forced to live in repulsive conditions; some were even threatened by the human traffickers that they would injure or kill the workers’ families back home.
The law firm of Aikman-Smith & Marcy, located in Oakland, California, firmly believes in enforcing the whistleblower statutes as established by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) These laws are designed to protect you from recrimination and your employer is not permitted to take adverse action against you including blacklisting, demoting, firing, denying promotions, disciplining, intimidating or threatening you in retaliation for reporting the company’s illegal actions or cooperating with authorities in an investigation.
If you have any questions regarding whistleblowing, or if you know someone who is a victim of or is involved in human trafficking for labor, etc., call Aiman-Smith & Marcy today at 510-817-2711.