Human Trafficking: An Issue Without Borders

July 30th is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons which aims to raise global awareness and support to end human trafficking. Human trafficking is a devastating and urgent issue that affects every country and community around the world. As a part of this day of observance, this blog will help provide context and help you understand how you can be a part of the solution.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit”. Trafficking is a multidimensional human rights violation and public health concern. People can be trafficked for a multitude of reasons including forced labor, domestic servitude, forced marriage or sexual exploitation. Individuals subjected to human trafficking almost inevitably experience multiple traumatic events during their period of exploitation, and many have experienced repeated and chronic trauma prior to being trafficked. This trauma can result in a myriad of adverse health and mental health consequences that continue to perpetuate a survivor’s struggle to regain normality, trust, and their sense of self.

Human trafficking does not abide by any borders. It is a global problem that requires global collaboration to raise awareness, support affected individuals, build infrastructure, and equip professionals with the tools they need to prevent and address human trafficking.

How Are Children Affected?

Human trafficking has clear and devastating consequences for thousands of men, women, and children around the world. Approximately one in three individuals subjected to trafficking are children. The number of children identified as experiencing human trafficking has tripled in the last 15 years.

Children make up almost one-third of trafficked persons worldwide.

Traffickers target those with vulnerabilities they can exploit. Children are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation due to their lack of developmental maturity. Other circumstances such as migration, missingness, poverty, abuse in the home and social marginalization can also lead to heightened risk for trafficking. This vulnerability and risk has only continued to grow with the increased access provided by the global expansion of the internet and technology.

The Role of Technology

This year’s theme for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is the use and abuse of technology. Increased access to the internet has accelerated the use of technology to facilitate human trafficking and other forms of exploitation such as online grooming and the production and distribution of child sexual abuse materials. Offenders take advantage of the numerous tools and easy access provided by the internet to recruit and vulnerable children and adults.

However, technology may also be the key to combating exploitation. As offenders shift their focus to online means, so can investigators and advocates. Technology provides the opportunity to develop and leverage new tools to disrupt trafficking networks, provide digital evidence to strengthen prosecutions, provide support services to individuals who have experienced trafficking, and raise awareness among the public to prevent and report exploitation.

The internet also provides us an opportunity to educate ourselves about trafficking and provide resources to help #EndHumanTrafficking.

Jordan Greenbaum, MD, Medical Director, ICMEC

To seek counseling and advice or report suspected trafficking or exploitation visit our list of helplines and hotlines to find resources in your country: https://www.icmec.org/hotlines-and-helplines/.

If you are a healthcare provider, visit our HealthPortal for specialized resources to support victims of trafficking in your practice:

Human Trafficking Toolkit

The Healthcare Response to Human Trafficking

A “How-To” Guide to Develop a Healthcare Protocol for Responding to Child Trafficking and Exploitation

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