In General Knowledge

What is Human Trafficking Today

what is human trafficking

Human trafficking continues to be a worldwide problem. Estimates made by the International Labour Organization are that more than 20 million people are currently subject to this kind of exploitation. Over 161 countries have a problem with human trafficking so it is difficult to determine what country has the most human trafficking. Discover What is Human Trafficking Today.

What is the Definition of Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking uses force, manipulation, coercion, deception, and/or debt (sometimes for illegal immigration services) to control people like slaves and make them do things against their will.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking includes things like:

Where Does Human Trafficking Occur?

Many falsely believe that the human trafficking problem comes only from poverty in the poorer third-world countries. While poverty of this sort is a major factor, it is not the only cause. Another main reason for human trafficking is greed.

Even in the developed nations, human trafficking is a rampant problem. According to the Polaris Project, the equivalent of billions of US$ dollars comes each year from human trafficking. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that human trafficking is the equivalent of an annual US$150 billion global industry with over 20 million victims. Over 5 million victims are children and more than half (55%) are women and girls. About the equivalent of US$99 billion of the total comes from sexual exploitation and prostitution. The balance of the equivalent of US$51 billion comes from forced labor in agriculture, garment-making, domestic work, and construction.

What Does Human Trafficking Mean in Terms of Profits?

Here are the ILO 2012 estimates in US dollars of global profits from what is human trafficking by region:

  • Asia – US$51.8 billion
  • Developed countries including Australia, Canada, EU, New Zealand, USA, UK – US$46.9 billion
  • CIS (Russia), Central and Eastern Europe – US$18.0 billion
  • Africa – US$13.1 billion
  • Latin America and Caribbean – US$12.0 billion
  • Middle East – US$8.5 billion

Here are the ILO 2012 estimates in US dollars of what is human trafficking in regards to annual profits per victim by region:

  • Developed countries including Australia, Canada, EU, New Zealand, USA, UK – US$34,800
  • Middle East – US$15,000
  • CIS (Russia), Central and Eastern Europe – US$12,900
  • Latin America and Caribbean – US$7,500
  • Asia – US$5,000
  • Africa – US$3,900

What Happens to Human Trafficking Victims?

The experience of exploitation by victims of human trafficking differs in each country and includes abduction and being held captive, being sold, forced into having sex, forced labor including indentured servitude (also called debt bondage). Human trafficking always includes restriction of freedom.

Abducted and Being Held Captive

An example of this is the use of abducted children in armies in parts of Africa. Joseph Kony created the Lord’s Resistance Army starting in Uganda during 1986, which also operated in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the Central African Republic. Kony abducted children to use as sexual slaves and soldiers. In 2007, Kony had 88 wives and 42 children of his own. The International Criminal Court indicted Kony and five others in 2005 for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Arrest warrants came next. To date, Kony has evaded capture. The estimates are 66,000 children became child soldiers by force.

Being Sold

It is common in poorer Asian countries for families to sell infants or teenage girls. This practice occurs frequently in Vietnam and Cambodia. Foreign men come to these countries to find a “wife” and pay a monetary tribute to the family and the village where these poor people live. These teenage girls think they will have a better life, but in reality, they are sold into the child sex trade.

Infants are bought in these poor countries for the purpose of illegal adoptions. A Wikipedia report on child-selling states Lauryn Galindo profited US$8 million by selling eight hundred Cambodian babies for adoption. Galindo was sentenced and went to jail for a year and one-half for her crimes. These babies were purchased from poor Cambodian women and families for as low as $300. The adoptive families paid a fee of $11,000 and were told the babies were orphans.

This included a baby adopted by Angelina Jolie, who unwittingly became part of a human trafficking investigation when her true intent was to help orphaned children. Angelina Jolie fully believed the child was an orphan, so did many other adoptive parents caught in this scheme.

Havocscope maintains a website with human trafficking prices that come from worldwide reports. Some of the prices reported, in the equivalent amount of US dollars (lowest to highest prices), include:

  • Mozambique girl US$2
  • Indian children (especially females) sold for US$24 to 45 as compared to US$350 for a buffalo
  • Thai children rented out for US$25 for use a street beggars
  • Fiji girls from US$42 to US$80
  • Bangladesh girl US$250
  • Pakistani women US$342
  • Nepalese women US$975
  • North Korean women US$1,066 (20 years old), US$761 (30 years old), US$457 (40 years old)
  • Columbian (Medellin) girl sold online for US$2,600
  • Greek baby US$4,100
  • Canadian prostitute US$4,879
  • Iraqi virgin girls US$5,000
  • Chinese baby US$7,800
  • Russian Boy US$17,500
  • UK child US$25,000

It is hard to decide what is most shocking on this list of reported prices, that a girl in Mozambique sold for less than the price of a cup of coffee in a developed country or that a child in the UK sells for $25,000. This just shows how widespread the problem is and that any person, child, or baby is available for a price.

Sexual Exploitation

As we noted, it is not just the poor countries that have the problem of human trafficking. America has a serious problem from illegal sexual exploitation of runaway teenagers, who are both boys and girls and other young men and women. They are forced to perform sexual services for pay and give the money earned to the traffickers (commonly called “pimps”). Drug addiction is very common amongst them and one of the ways that the traffickers use to control their captives. This is an example of what is human sex trafficking and what causes human trafficking even in well-developed nations.

Labor Exploitation

Labor exploitation targets undocumented workers and those who are willing to pay big fees to immigrate to another country in hopes of finding work and a better life. An investigative report by BBC News, found the worker’s conditions for construction workers in Dubai to be horrendous. Many of these workers came from Bangladesh and India on promise of having good jobs. What they find after they arrive is they face both harsh work conditions and squalid living conditions.

The New York Times reported in May 2014 that migrant workers constructing an extension campus for New York University in Dubai and building other magnificent skyscrapers in Dubai work twelve-hour days, sometimes seven days per week. Outside temperatures in Dubai regularly reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Worker’s strikes are illegal in Dubai. Immigrant workers make up 85% of the population in Dubai. They pay high fees for these jobs, equivalent to one year’s pay and find it is impossible to pay off the debt. Their passports are taken from them when they arrive and they will never be able to return home. They live in rooms of about 200 square feet with up to fifteen men that are only supposed to accommodate four men. Anyone who speaks up for worker’s rights, risks a beating, arrest, and faces torture while under interrogation by the police. Outsiders are not permitted to visit the labor camps.

Read more Human Trafficking stories on the Global Freedom Center webpage.

What Can We Do to Stop Human Trafficking?

The first thing to do is know the signs of human trafficking and understand victims often feel there is no way out. They are frequently in a different culture, with little knowledge of the language. They have problems understanding of the laws of other countries and are fearful of the consequences of asking for help. If they were babies when they were sold, they may not even be aware of the truth. They may have other problems like drug addiction or be living as an illegal immigrant. They may risk their lives getting help. The good news is there are organizations that can help.

Polaris gives some of the most common indicators for whats human trafficking:

  • A person has no freedom
  • Sexual workers are seen on the streets, frequently with a pimp
  • Workers receive little or no pay
  • Work hours are long and at unusual times
  • Workers are not allowed to take breaks
  • A person is not able to pay a very large debt owed to a recruiter or the trafficker
  • Workers have no documentation, identification, and/or no legal immigration status
  • Workers do not have any possessions or bank accounts
  • Workers got promises of good paying jobs for paying high fees
  • Work locations and living quarters have high security and no visitors are permitted to enter
  • Workers are not permitted any communication with outsiders except when another person representing the trafficker is present

A person who is a victim of human trafficking has a high level of stress. They are fearful of speaking with others, are submissive and depressed. Their health may be poor from malnourishment. They may show signs of abuse. They may have suffered confinement for long periods in physical restraints (like being chained to the floor), and torture. They may have been moved from many locations and not even know exactly where they physically located.

Getting Help for Yourself or Others

In the United States, the Polaris (code name p human trafficking) Project offers help for victims of human trafficking. All calls are confidential. Operators are available who speak 170 different languages. The toll free number, within the United States, is 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733). The website for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is

International resources for help are listed on to learn what is being done to stop human trafficking.

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