No country is immune from human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2004 Trafficking in Persons report, each year about six-hundred-thousand to eight-hundred-thousand men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders. And the trade is growing.
The State Department report says that more than half of the victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation. The rest are made to work in quarries or sweatshops, on farms, as servants, as child soldiers, and in many other forms of involuntary servitude.
The United Nations estimates that the profits from human trafficking rank third among the top revenue sources for organized crime, after trafficking in narcotics and arms. Moreover, the profits of trafficking can foster government corruption and undermine the rule of law.
“The more you learn about the most vulnerable...who are savaged by these crimes,” says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, “the harder it is to look the other way”:
“We’re talking about women and girls, as young as six years old, trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation, men trafficked into forced labor, children trafficked as child soldiers. The victims are not few, and the vast majority are women and children.”
According to the State Department report, there are ten countries with a significant number of victims whose governments are not making significant efforts to combat human trafficking. In Africa: Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. In Latin America: Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, and Venezuela. In Asia: Bangladesh, Burma, and North Korea.
But over the past year, says Mr. Powell, some countries have improved in their efforts to combat human trafficking. They are Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Suriname, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
The evil of human trafficking clearly won’t be uprooted in a day. But, says Secretary of State Powell, all states must “work together to close down trafficking routes, prosecute and convict traffickers, and protect and reintegrate victims back into society.”