“What we do as individuals is important. What we do as individuals collectively is even more important.” Together we are a Special Task Force.

I feel it’s a privilege to have a space in which to write about human trafficking to create awareness through education. I’ve had several questions following my recent posts. The first question was, “How do I spot human trafficking”? There are 101 answers, and none are foolproof or necessarily apparent.

  • Be alert. Notice things like different traffic in the neighborhood or patterns. Listen to what people aren’t saying, what is said, who is saying it, and how it sounds. Are they undermining other people? Are they suddenly friendly? Too charismatic? Everyone has intuition, often called “gut reaction,” so pay attention when “something” doesn’t ring true. My friend, Tom G. Reid, author of Sustained Leadership, calls these suggestions “situational awareness.”
  • Look for slave-free food. I can see and feel the agony of trafficked families splitting up and children being beaten, drugged, and held captive, so I usually do without whenever I can rather than buy food, such as Nutella and overseas seafood, that is sourced through slavery. It’s hard to always know when slavery is behind our food, but we can do our best. Overseas seafood availability is often the result of trafficked young men on fishing vessels. In America and worldwide, agriculture often uses trafficked labor. Be wary if a farmer won’t answer questions or encourage a tour because trafficked laborers will hide in fear of being “sent back.” They don’t know who they can trust, and the law is usually not on their side without papers. Be curious. Do you see farm workers in town? Are their children in school? Are they involved in the community? We can’t tell if trafficking is involved just by driving by a farm.
  • Put aside fear and hopelessness. Replace these with knowledge and action. Knowledge is power. Report suspicions. Ask questions of experts, such as myself, and invite them to speak at your organization or institution.

What blocks our ability to end human trafficking?

Lack of awareness and disbelief affect not only prevention but also justice. Jurors don’t want to believe that their favorite (fill in the blank) is involved in trafficking, so instead, they assume it was a misunderstanding or the victim lied.

Corrupt law enforcement and government officials are too often enough to prevent discovery. The lack of coordination between government agencies, Homeland Security, law enforcement, task forces, and organizations has to be addressed.

Worldwide, labor trafficking has not been considered an important issue. This causes underreporting, leading to false data, incomplete data, and lack of action. What information we have is accurate based on what has been reported.

The following are statistics from the International Labour Organization Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage

  • 49.6 million people were living in modern slavery in 2021, of which 27.6 million were in forced labour and 22 million in forced marriage.
  • Of the 27.6 million people in forced labour, 17.3 million are exploited in the private sector; 6.3 million in forced commercial sexual exploitation, and 3.9 million in forced labour imposed by state.
  • Women and girls account for 4.9 million of those in forced commercial sexual exploitation, and for 6 million of those in forced labour in other economic sectors.
  • 12% of all those in forced labour are children. More than half of these children are in commercial sexual exploitation.
  • The Asia and the Pacific region has the highest number of people in forced labour (15.1 million) and the Arab States the highest prevalence (5.3 per thousand people).
  • Addressing decent work deficits in the informal economy, as part of broader efforts towards economic formalization, is a priority for progress against forced labour.

We can do better.

Trustworthy support organizations such as Polaris Project https://polarisproject.org/. Home of Hope https://frontrangefreedomtour.org/home-of-hope/  supports children who need our help.

Use computer search engines to learn about human trafficking. Human trafficking happens all over the world and generally has the same patterns.

Force legislators to support laws that hold businesses accountable –

  • Close loopholes for money laundering. Traffickers utilize institutional systems where they are employed and use the identities of their victims to open accounts.
  • Ensure law enforcement has the tools they need to end the trafficking of drugs and humans, which are closely related to other crimes, as well.
  • Actively support the building of children’s self-esteem and address ignored issues such as teen homelessness and food scarcity. Children deserve better than we currently give them.

Of course, we need justice and accountability, but that won’t end human trafficking. Only love can do that.