Human trafficking is a contemporary form of slavery that has emerged as a result of a wide array of issues of social and economic nature. Its primary goal is to ensure the uninterrupted financing of the transnational organized crime. Of course, this problem is being addressed by a wide array of organizations and governments. Moreover, the initial stage of the international fight against this phenomenon is almost completed in the form of a system of legal acts regulating the responsibility for human trafficking (on the national and international scale). At the same time, these activities are being performed on the large scale, meaning that the local problems often remain unaddressed. As a result, it is clear that a change must be implemented by the U.S. government to enforce the existing laws regarding both human trafficking and laundering of money obtained by this criminal activity. The actions must be performed at all three levels (federal, state, and local), with the laws being enforced by the governmental agencies (immigration service and law enforcement agencies) as well as the local groups and organizations fighting against human trafficking. Therefore, the following work focuses on the implementation of the change that will allow to address the problem of human trafficking, considering the current situation and the position of the potential opponents.
The Current Situation
Human trafficking and slave labor have been the major problems of the global community for thousands of years. Moreover, they have always existed in different forms, being known in the Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome (Burke 24). Since the beginning of the 16th century and for the next four hundred years, slaves were one of the most profitable products in the trade of the most developed countries of the world (Farrell 15). Since the beginning of the 19th century, the issue of banning the slave trade was one of the major problems in the international relations. However, the Convention on the complete prohibition of slavery and slave trade was adopted by the League of Nations and ratified by the majority of countries only in 1926, which can be considered a sign of reluctance (Cullen-DuPont 6). Indeed, it was quite difficult to abolish the trade that brought huge profits, and not everyone was capable of leaving the past behind. As a result, human trafficking was not stopped completely. Currently, it is one of the worst forms of the international crime along with the slave labor. The primary reason for this is the fact that it affects dignity, self-determination, and inviolability of a person in a special way. Therefore, human trafficking and slave labor have become important, albeit ominous features of the modern world. Contrary to the opinion of many human rights defenders, these phenomena are not simple relics of the past; nowadays, they are modernized through the use of the advanced technology. As a result, despite its more than a thousand-year history, human trafficking fits quite well into the contemporary reality.
At the same time, the exact number of slaves, i.e. victims of the modern human trafficking, is unknown but the U.S. Department of State provides the following figures ranging from 600,000 to 800,000 people (Shelley 118). Only in the U.S., there are about 17,500 people trafficked by the modern slave traders annually. Despite the fact that they are foreigners, the residents of the country are also at risk of being sold into slavery, with about 200,000 children being the potential victims that may be lured in to sex industry (Isaac, Solac, and Giardino 1-2). At the same time, the people from West Africa and East Asia often become the victims of forced and bonded labor (a phenomenon often referred to as debt slavery) (UNODC 47). About 60% of all the victims are women and girls that are usually forced into prostitution or used for production of pornography (UNODC 37). There are cases when children are used as donors of human organs and tissues for illegal operations. Currently, about 300,000 children are used as soldiers in about 30 conflict areas around the world (Burke 8).
According to the estimates of the United Nations, people are sold into slavery (kidnapped, lured by deceit, etc.) and being exploited in 124 countries of the world. At the same time, the victims of this crime are reported to be the citizens of 152 different states (UNODC 1). Out of them, 11 countries are noted for an exceptionally high level of activity of such kidnappers, including such European states as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Lithuania. In Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, this level is also considered high. At the same time, the developed counties often play role of the final destination for the modern slaves. Their ranks include Israel, Turkey, Italy, Japan, Germany, Greece, and, finally, the U.S. Therefore, it is clear that the situation with human trafficking is indeed out of hand, which justifies the need for the change in the ways of combating it (Cullen-DuPont 23).
The ranks of those who benefit from human trafficking are rather diverse. They may include corrupt politicians that turn a blind eye to the problem in exchange for reward; law enforcement agencies that contribute to organized crime, especially in the poor countries; slave-owners that receive a source of cheap (and even free) workforce, etc. However, the most significant profits are obtained by traffickers, the ranks of which include the modern slave-traders that are involved in the smuggling of the people to the developed countries, namely due to the significant difference in the wages they may earn there (UNODC 47).
The diversity is also observed within the ranks of people that are affected by human trafficking. Of course, it is clear that there are always those that are influenced by it in an indirect way, namely the families of slaves. However, the people that experience the direct effects of this criminal activity, i.e. the victims, present the highest interest for the research. At the same time, the wide array of the types of human trafficking makes it difficult to create a typical portrait of a victim of this criminal activity. The cases occur in all parts of the world, and the victims indicate that sex, age, and origin of a person are of little meaning for trafficking. For example, children can be sold from Eastern to Western Europe and Central Asia for the purpose of begging or commitment of petty crimes, such as pickpocketing. In Africa, traffickers often supply the local armed forces with child soldiers. The people from Asia are usually trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and organ removal (UNODC 37). Finally, both women and men that, for example, are taken from Central America to North America may be forced to work in grueling conditions on farms, bringing huge profits to their owner and traffickers. The reason for that is the fact that the legal salary of such worker in the U.S. is much higher than in Columbia, Guatemala, and the other similar countries (2,200 dollars per month against 60) (UNODC 47).
The Position of the Opponents
From the point of view of the opponents, the proposed change will not do much in terms of fighting human trafficking, which continues to exist despite all the measures taken by the governments and international organizations. Indeed, the primary reason for the existence of human trafficking in the modern era is the fact that such exploitation of people brings huge profits to the organized criminal groups. The actual figures vary, but the number of victims of human trafficking at any given time is about 12.3 million people, and the profit from this trade is about 32 billion dollars. Moreover, currently, human trafficking is considered to be one of the most rapidly developing criminal activities, meaning that the actual figures may be even higher than the provided ones (Isaac, Solac, and Giardino 1). As a result, it is a major criminal business that is supported by the most marginalized sectors of the population, i.e. the primary players on the slave market. Indeed, trafficking is recognized as one of the most important directions of the international organized crime, with the global revenues brought by it being comparable only with those provided by the arms trade and drug trafficking. In turn, traffickers view people as commodities, as things that can be exploited and traded for profit. The majority of the convicted traffickers are men; however, the proportion of women involved in this criminal activity is also quite large in comparison to their involvement in other crimes. In particular, some criminal gangs consider women to be more efficient in luring the victims (UNODC 27). The position of a job recruiter or operator is also a way for women victims to avoid that trap, which prepares them for trafficking. As a result, it is clear that the system of human trafficking is indeed well-organized, meaning that the primary instigators remain unpunished. Consequently, the introduction and implementation of yet another change is unlikely to affect the situation significantly, leading only to the arrests of nominees from the very bottom of the system.
In addition, the opponents may note that even the best laws and regulations do not always allow law enforcement agencies to make a distinction between trafficking and smuggling, poor working conditions and forced labor. Secondly, these bodies are often poorly equipped and not trained to detect human trafficking. Serious shortage of funds and powers of the police and labor inspectorate can potentially complicate the problem through corruption. In addition, trafficking involves the movement of victims that is usually hidden from the public. As a result, one requires special tools for its identification. Law enforcement agencies (border guards, labor inspectors, police, and immigration officials) often operate in the absence of coordination with each other and other bodies that may come into contact with potential victims. Finally and most importantly, the punishment of criminals depends on the testimony of victims (UNODC 27). However, there are many cases when the victim and the offender are in intimate or even family relationship (UNODC 28). As a result, the change must be conducted on a large scale rather than the local level – a task which is already performed by the international and governmental organizations.
By analyzing the opponents’ point of view, it is possible to say that the primary reason for the existence of human trafficking is the impunity of those that are engaged in this criminal activity. In order to punish those who receive excess profits from this form of slavery, a strict enforcement of laws and regulations as well as the corresponding activities at local level are required. Moreover, the gap between the estimated and actual number of victims is still surprisingly large, meaning that the countermeasures that were implemented earlier are far from being efficient. As a result, the mentioned change is still necessary.
The Implementation of Change
As was mentioned before, the problem of human trafficking is being addressed by a wide array of international and local organizations as well as the governments of the majority of countries. Among the most significant fighters is the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, the International Labor Organization, etc. However, their programs and strategies are advisory in nature, meaning that the actual fight is conducted by the governments and community (Cullen-DuPont 10). Apart from the organizations acting at global level, it is possible to review the federal policy of the U.S. concerning the problem of human trafficking. Currently, there are several laws addressing this issue, with the most significant of them being the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. In general, it toughens the punishment for traffickers, allowing the prosecutors strive for the maximum sentence for them. Moreover, it provides the resources for protection of the victims of human trafficking as well as the cooperation between the agencies involved in the fight. Finally, according to it, trafficking victims may stay in the U.S., applying for T-1 Visa, which gives the right to permanent residency in the country (“Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000” n.p.). In addition, there is the Stop Exploitation through Trafficking Act, a bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives in 2013. In case the bill receives the status of a law, it will be possible to expect the following changes in the legislation that will affect the process of fighting human trafficking. First of all, each state will be obliged to introduce the legislation that treats a minor engaging in a commercial sex act as a victim of a severe form of human trafficking. In addition, such persons will not be charged for prostitution or sex trafficking offense but given to the child protection services (“H.R.3610 – Stop Exploitation through Trafficking Act of 2014” n.p.).
In addition, there is Polaris Project, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, which has implemented multi-pronged approach to the problem of human trafficking. It is engaged in the direct outreach and victim identification. Although human trafficking is actively addressed by a number of organizations, Polaris Project is one of the few groups that seek to counteract the criminal industry directly through strengthened law enforcement rather than the treatment of victims (Polaris n.p.).
However, as was demonstrated above, all these efforts are not enough to stop human trafficking. Therefore, there is a need to change the way in which the problem is addressed. The mentioned change should be implemented in the following way. First of all, it is necessary to develop a set of interdepartmental measures aimed at combating the organized crime in the area of immigration. The reason for this initiative is the fact that the current measures of the financial investigation of such crimes are not efficient since traffickers are quite adept at hiding their illicit profits (UNODC 53). Such an approach is meant to bring together the efforts of law enforcement and governmental agencies, the intelligence services, and the community organizations under a single strategy and common objectives. The primary goal of the change is to reduce the damage from serious crimes committed by organized groups in the area of human trafficking by such means as:
- increasing the risks for the criminals (through their need for the advertising of their products);
- depriving the illegal activities of profits (by freezing their accounts).
It is also required to develop the mechanisms for the exchange of operational information on the traffickers, the joint development of optimum tactics of liquidation of the criminal groups, and determination of the agencies responsible for different actions. The strength of this approach is the use of knowledge and experience in various fields available to various agencies, as well as their resources. This approach requires refusal from the departmental goals and the usual methods of work, which can be achieved provided that the responsibility for the success of operations lies with all the mentioned facilities.
Such cooperation must also extend to the creation of joint operational teams where police officers will work alongside the immigration officers and the representatives of such organizations as Polaris Project. It is an innovative approach considering that many of these people are civil servants and have no police training.
Obtaining a profit is the primary incentive for the activities of human traffickers. Therefore, it is required to identify and seize their assets, blocking the illegal cash flows and reducing the profitability of criminal gangs. However, the profit of groups involved in the smuggling of immigrants is not always a result of the sale of live goods. For this reason, efficient actions require a successful combination of previous experience and new thinking and tactics. At the same time, the measures dedicated to addressing the problem of human trafficking must be part of a broader strategy comrpising the withdrawal of assets which is aimed at:
- The wider use of investigation in relation to the profits from criminal activities;
- The withdrawal of assets which are derived from the criminal activity;
- The prevention of opportunities for laundering the proceeds of crime for perpetrators and their associates, identification of money-laundering, and punishment for it;
- The use of the seized assets for the benefit of the society.
As a result, there is also a need to involve specialists on financial crimes in investigation as well as focus on disclosure of complex schemes of illegal money flows, financing human trafficking and other forms of the organized crime.
As a conclusion, it is possible to say that the proposed change will allow to improve the current situation by using the vulnerabilities of traffickers (the need for advertisement and the desire to be profitable). However, despite the fact that the fight is already being performed at all levels of the global society, the reviewed problem matters not only to the officials, human right defenders, and the members of international organizations but also to every human being. The reason for its relevance lies in the fact that human trafficking is invisible to an average citizen, but it gains momentum with each passing day, pulling people out of the society one by one. Moreover, this criminal activity often threatens to swallow it all; and without enough attention to the problem, the society runs the risk of being enslaved literally. Moreover, as was mentioned before, sex, age, and origin of a person are often of a little meaning for human trafficking. Considering that there is a wide array of trafficking ways and methods to lure a potential victim into a trap, it is possible to say that no one is completely safe from slavery. In addition, such activity is carried out every day before the eyes of the common people, basically making them the traffickers’ partners in crime. It may sound cruel, but such is the truth. For example, there are many advertising materials, in which the goods are presented by a half-dressed woman (primarily to the male audience), with an allusion to the fact that after the purchase of the advertised items, the buyer will receive this woman along with them, just as an optional accessory. Moreover, this kind of advertising is considered to be perfectly normal and is even positively assessed by the people, which is already a sign of perceiving a human being as nothing more than an object that can be purchased or sold. As a result, it is clear that this problem must matter to every member of the society.