Human Trafficking Victims: 2.4 Million People Across The Globe Are Trafficked For Labor, Sex

Romanian students dressed as caged brides attend an event to raise awareness to the risks of human trafficking and sexual exploitation faced by young girls lured by the prospect of a better paying job abroad, in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011.

The U.N. crime-fighting office said Tuesday that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited as sexual slaves.

Yuri Fedotov, the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told a daylong General Assembly meeting on trafficking that 17 percent are trafficked to perform forced labor, including in homes and sweat shops.

He said $32 billion is being earned every year by unscrupulous criminals running human trafficking networks, and two out of every three victims are women.

Fighting these criminals “is a challenge of extraordinary proportions,” Fedotov said.

“At any one time, 2.4 million people suffer the misery of this humiliating and degrading crime,” he said.

According to Fedotov’s Vienna-based office, only one out of 100 victims of trafficking is ever rescued.

Fedotov called for coordinated local, regional and international responses that balance “progressive and proactive law enforcement” with actions that combat “the market forces driving human trafficking in many destination countries.”

Michelle Bachelet, who heads the new U.N. agency promoting women’s rights and gender equality called UN Women, said “it’s difficult to think of a crime more hideous and shocking than human trafficking. Yet, it is one of the fastest growing and lucrative crimes.”

Actress Mira Sorvino, the U.N. goodwill ambassador against human trafficking, told the meeting that “modern day slavery is bested only by the illegal drug trade for profitability,” but very little money and political will is being spent to combat trafficking.

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In Lagos, Nigeria, marginalized children face exploitation, trafficking and abuse

Sex and drugs are readily available on Kuramo Beach, a stretch of sand along the Gulf of Guinea. Children play in the sand, not far from sex workers. Nearby, tough young men known as ‘area boys’ sit under battered beach umbrellas.

It is also home to children living and working on the streets of Lagos.

Deprived of opportunities, Lagos, a chaotic and polluted mega-city built on swamps and reclaimed lagoons, is an economic draw for all of West Africa. UN agencies estimate that 10.2 million people live in the city, and 49 per cent of the country’s population is under age 18. This means a staggering number of children live in the dense metropolitan area.

Though the city presents a variety of opportunities, many children do not benefit from them. Some live in slums, others are victims of trafficking. Still others have been forced onto the streets by abuse or poverty. These marginalized children are vulnerable to exploitation, violence, drug use and recruitment into gangs.

“More and more children are running away,” said Ngozi Ekwerike-Okora, a coordinator with Child-to-Child Network and the Lagos State Child Protection Network.

“Many come from broken homes, which makes them vulnerable to peers who recruit them in their villages and sell them to be trained as pickpockets,” she said, describing rural children brought to Lagos by traffickers and sold to the ‘area boys’, who employ them as petty thieves and take their earnings.

 

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