Human trafficking is a global industry worth $32 billion and places millions of vulnerable people from poor countries in servitude, but the number of successful prosecutions is still pitifully small.
Were he alive today, the great British anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce would undoubtedly feel the need to begin his life’s work all over again. Wilberforce may have been credited with helping to abolish slavery; yet according to the United Nations, there are still more than 2.3 million people in forced labour worldwide as a result of human trafficking at any one time.
Similarly, Wilberforce might also be compelled to voice his frustrations at the ineptitude and impotence of global law enforcement agencies in the face of mass trafficking. Despite major international efforts to combat trafficking, the fight is being lost. According to the 2011 US Trafficking in Persons Report, there were only 6,017 prosecutions and 3,619 convictions for human trafficking in 2010 – a figure that fails to commensurate with the millions of victims.
The nature of the exploitation has, of course, changed since the late 18th century when Wilberforce began his campaigns. But trafficking is still slavery because it involves forcing vulnerable people to do something against their will. Exploitation can include enforced prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labour and the removal of organs.
According to Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), “trafficking in human beings must be acknowledged for what it is:
“Massive-scale modern-day slavery, a gross violation of human rights and freedoms, mostly a business of organised crime (which proves highly lucrative), and a serious transnational threat for individual and State security. Trafficking should not be treated as a marginal phenomenon, involving the profiles of certain victims only, or limited to sexual exploitation.”
The sheer scale of the global $32 billion trafficking market is exceptionally startling considering how few prosecutions have happened. According to the UN, only one individual is convicted for every 800 trafficking victims in 2006.
Read the full story by David Smith on EconomyWatch: The 21st Century Slave Trade: A Cacophony of Lies, Abuse, and Incompetence
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