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HUMAN TRAFFICKING (also referred to as trafficking in human beings -THB- and trafficking in persons) IS DEFINED BY THE UNITED NATIONS AS:

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

~ Article 3, paragraph (a) of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons

The act of trafficking in human beings is a gross human rights violation. Contrary to popular belief, human trafficking is not only about the buying and selling of human beings, nor is it particularly commonplace that men, women and children are abducted in the first instance. As the defninition above highlights there are five main components:

  1. RECRUITMENT – Vulnerable and marginalised individuals are targeted for recruitment by the trafficking networks in their home towns and countries, and also in second and third countries.
  2. DECEPTION – Most often, the recruitment of potential victims is achieved through deception. Vulnerable and marginalised individuals and/or their families are told, for instance, by men and women working in the trafficking networks, untruths about a more fruitful working life awaiting them in another location
  3. MOVEMENT – Potential victims of human trafficking are always moved from one location to another but not necessarily across a national border.
  4. COERCION – At some point, whether at the recruitment stage, during transit, or upon arrival at a destination, the trafficker uses coercion (i.e. force and threats) to get the victim to do what they want them to.
  5. EXPLOITATION – At some point, whether at the recruitment stage, during transit, or upon arrival at the destination, the trafficker underhandedly benefits from the trafficked person’s human resources (or lack thereof), most often financially.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING DOES NOT HAPPEN IN A VACUUM; THERE ARE DRIVING FORCES BEHIND THE PHENOMENON THAT CREATE THE PERFECT CONDITIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY TO THRIVE

Previously it was common to speak about the push and pull factors when explaining the complexity of the challenge of attempting to combat human trafficking: push factors (i.e. reasons that push them to leave) include poverty, lack of work opportunity, domestic violence and such; pull factors (i.e. reasons that pull or create a need for them to go to a destination) could include a shortage of cheap labour, a high demand for sex workers and such. As more is understood about human trafficking, there is recognition that a more dynamic approach to tackling the problem is needed, as the situation is extremely complex.

In a project funded by the European Union (2014-2016), a research group TRACE (Trafficking As a Criminal Enterprise) identified a number of driving forces behind human trafficking that can be grouped into three categories: socio-economic factors, political factors and global factors (see the diagram which is sourced from the handbook Traceing Human Trafficking). These three factors, or rather forces, are interrelated and work together to create favourable conditions for traffickers to recruit, deceive, move, coerce and exploit vulnerable human beings, and make human trafficking one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world.

In light of the numerous factors involved which, moreover, intersect and overlap, support and undermine one another, HopeNow believes it is an insurmountable task for grassroots organisations like ours to combat human trafficking. However, we are in a position to give support to and empower victims of trafficking, whether they are identified as such or not. We can also share our knowledge and experience with authorities, business and the wider population, thus supporting policy and behavioural changes which, in turn, can disrupt this thriving industry.

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