The Reality of Human Trafficking Print
By Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, USCCB Committee on Migration   
Thursday, 20 June 2013

As many as 700,000 persons are trafficked globally each year – men, women, and children. Survivors of human trafficking are commonly linked by poverty and lack of opportunity. They are also connected by their desperation and their perception of migration as an accessible escape route. Often they seek to escape life in an oppressive slum, with the hope of finding opportunity and a brighter future elsewhere. Combined with these economic root causes is a demand in developed nations for the services of the sex trade and forced labor. Human trafficking will never be truly defeated without eliminating the consumerism which feeds it and prosecuting those actors in receiving countries, including our own, that benefit because of the exploitation of vulnerable human beings. It is in this “supply and demand” global environment that human traffickers flourish, promising unsuspecting victims an opportunity to travel to a foreign land for employment and housing. At the end of the journey, they find coercion, abuse, entrapment, and exploitation in a brothel, a massage parlor, an illicit factory, or an agricultural outpost. By the time they are discovered, if ever, they are traumatized by physical, mental, and psychological abuse in the roles of prostitutes, domestic servants, or manual laborers. Many become ill with disease or become infected with HIV. Some lose their lives. This is not a problem that exists merely on far away shores and in developing countries. It exists right here in the United States, where thousands of persons are trafficked each year for purposes of forced prostitution or forced labor. It is estimated that as many as 17,500 human beings each year are trafficked into the United States. Men, women and children have been forced to work in prostitution and have been forced into different types of manual labor, without pay or protection. Trafficking in persons is a modern-day form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of slavery today.