Global Economic Woes Driving Human Trafficking

The global economic crisis is driving increasing numbers of impoverished individuals into the hands of human traffickers, according to this year’s Trafficking in Persons report released by the State Department this week.

“Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, breaks up families, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in Wednesday’s Washington Post.

Clinton warns:

“The problem is particularly urgent now, as local economies around the world reel from the global financial crisis. People are increasingly desperate for the chance to support their families, making them more susceptible to the tricks of ruthless criminals. Economic pressure means more incentive for unscrupulous bosses to squeeze everything they can from vulnerable workers and fewer resources for the organizations and governments trying to stop them.”

This year’s report
increased the number of countries and territories being monitored for possible sanctions from 30 to 52 percent — mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Countries that found themselves newly added to that list include India, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines and Nicaragua.

The worst-ranked, or Tier 3, countries – among them Myanmar, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Cuba — face sanctions over their inaction on the issue.

The United Nations and the International Labor Organization estimate over 12 million people are currently trapped in the murky underworld of traffickers seeking cheap labor, sex labor and in the most extreme cases, body parts. As demand for cheap labor continues to climb along with the desperation of impoverished families, the report warns, more people will fall prey to traffickers.

Trafficking victims are susceptible to many forms of abuse including failure to pay wages, physical assault, sexual abuse, starvation and loss of identity documents.

As in previous versions of the report, an accounting of America’s battles with the problem on the homefront was absent, but Clinton indicated that will change starting with the 2010 report.