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On The Trade In Humans

Child labor in Africa.
Child labor in Africa.

Around the world, between 12 and 27 million people are living in modern slavery.

Around the world, between 12 and 27 million people are living in modern slavery, what we call trafficking in persons. For that, and many other reasons, the Obama Administration has made the effort to combat modern slavery a top priority.

“It seems almost unfathomable that today, in the 21st Century, we still live in a world where human trafficking persists,” said U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole at the Yale Law School Human Trafficking Symposium, which took place in mid-April.

“And yet it exists and is often hiding in plain and painful sight. It’s the young woman who comes to America for the promise of a new life but finds herself enslaved and sold for sex. Or the child who grew up here in America but ran away from home only to find herself the victim of her desperate acceptance of help from the wrong person. Or the migrant worker who is deprived of identification, transportation, and access to money in order to ensure his total dependence on his employer,” he said.

Partnerships between victims’ advocacy groups, and various government and law enforcement agencies at every level, are an essential element of successful investigation and prosecution of those who would enslave their fellow human beings and of successful victim support.

Taking this approach a step further, Deputy Attorney General Cole said that “pursuing justice within our borders is simply not enough. That is why we are also taking steps to forge partnerships across borders. ... We continue to work with ... the State Department to engage a wider number of international partners on this issue, and to ensure that they, too, are pursuing aggressive enforcement efforts against traffickers, and have the tools to do so.”

We know that lives have been irreparably harmed and that justice alone cannot undo the harm, said Deputy Attorney General Cole. “That is why, above and beyond all else, our various partnerships must focus on prevention.

“The efforts we all make in this area are of critical importance. They are of critical importance to the victims, to their families and friends, and, frankly, to the fabric of our entire nation. These are truly among the most vulnerable members of our communities and are in desperate need of our help.”