According to a recent report by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, around the world, nearly 60 million people are forcibly displaced, many living as refugees.
This is an increase of 8.3 million from 2013, and an all-time high. Some are fleeing war, ethnic violence or persecution in their home countries, others have lost their homes and livelihood to natural disasters and are looking to start anew. Still more abandoned their lives of hard-scrabble poverty and are seeking a better life abroad.
As they seek safe refuge or economic opportunity, migrants and refugees often lack the means to support themselves, or legal status. They may be socially marginalized, be unaware of local laws, or not know the local language and so be unable to communicate effectively. Thus, they are very vulnerable to exploitation by the unscrupulous: traffickers of humans, slavers who would enslave the vulnerable for profit.
Traffickers are both ruthless and relentless, said Secretary of State John Kerry:
"They target the weak, the despairing, the isolated. And they make false promises and transport their victims across borders to labor without passports or phones in places where the language is unknown and where there are no means of escape. If the victims rebel or become ill, the traffickers often use violence to ensure that their profits continue and their crimes are concealed.”
Eliminating this global scourge requires a global solution, one that involves governments, the private sector, academic institutions, civil society, the legal community, and even consumers, who can refuse to purchase from companies that exploit slave labor anywhere along the production or delivery chain.
But government action is the key to ending global slavery. Governments need to strengthen and enforce the laws that they have on the books, arrest, prosecute and imprison traffickers. And they must work together across borders, across continents.
Trafficking in persons is an insult to human dignity and an assault on freedom, said Secretary of State Kerry.
“We must never, ever allow a price tag to be attached to the heart and soul and freedom of a fellow human being.”