What is human trafficking?
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery” or the same for purposes of commercial or sexual exploitation of a person under 18 years old.
According to the United Nations, the total market value of human trafficking is in excess of $32 billion. Approximately 27 million men, women, and children are held as slaves today (Kevin Bales, Disposable People). Moreover, an estimated 17,500 are trafficked in the U.S. annually. Human trafficking spans over several different industries, from the food industry to manual labor to the commercial sex trade. The numbers are growing; thus, it is important to be informed and be able to identify the common signs of human trafficking in your community.
How can I tell if human trafficking is occurring in my community?
Because human trafficking is an underground industry that is often times hidden even from local law enforcement, it is sometimes difficult to detect. However, there are common red flags in look for:
Working and Living Conditions
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he or she wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp or manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his or her work
- High security measures exist in the work or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous or paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
- Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his or her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his or her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he or she is staying or cite the address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts or do not know what city he or she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his or her story
See The Polaris Project for more.
Are there legal remedies for trafficked victims?
Yes. While human trafficking is an emerging global problem and sometimes difficult to detect, U.S. laws have remedies in place to restore victims of human trafficking. Criminal prosecution of traffickers remains a crucial available legal action for victims. Further, civil action is an option for victims who seek financial restitution against their traffickers. Two primary immigration remedies are the allowance of T visas and U visas.
If I suspect that human trafficking is occurring, what should I do?
Please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline and report it immediately.