Friday, July 07, 2006

Human Trafficking

Trafficked Women and Girls: Questions and Answers

Is there a difference between smuggling and trafficking?

Smuggling and trafficking are different. However, the two terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Each describes a form of migration. Smuggling is the illegal movement of a person across a border.

Trafficking of people violates these basic human rights:

To physical and mental integrity.
To life, liberty and security of person.
To live without slavery or servitude.
To live without cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment.
To just and favorable remuneration.

To work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work.
To a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of herself.
To social security. A person pays a smuggler a fee to help them travel across a border illegally. In this case, the smuggler is providing a service to an individual. Smugglers usually don’t continue to profit from their exchange with the person smuggled after they arrive at their destination.

Violence, including sexual violence, does not take place in the context of smuggling. A person being smuggled is vulnerable to the power that the smuggler has over them to get them to their desired destination. As a result, human rights violations may take place during the smuggling process.

Sometimes smuggling arrangements turn into trafficking. Initially, a woman may enlist the services of a smuggler to cross a border, but she later finds herself in a location or situation to which she has not consented. Significant details such as payment for lodging etc. might be completely different than promised, and she may be forced to work to pay her smuggler's expenses. A smuggler may take advantage of his or her power over the person being smuggled, and lure them into forced labor or sell them to another individual for forced labor.

Is trafficking a new issue?

No - The sale of human beings has existed in almost every continent throughout history. The type and degree of this problem is closely linked to social and economic factors. Increasingly, economic necessity, environmental disasters and wars have driven people to cross borders. It is in this context that trafficking has become a larger industry than ever.

Why would a woman allow herself to be trafficked?

Women can be introduced into trafficking by various means. As there are very few options for women legally to move on their own from one country to another, women look to any means to escape violence, Violence Against Women in Migration discrimination, or find employment. Case studies have revealed that some victims are kidnapped or sold into the trade. For those who agree, in some form, to be 'trafficked,' the choice arises out of the desperation. Traffickers promise a world of opportunity to women who are affected by poverty, discrimination, and violence. If a victim's consent is not received or continued, violence, withdrawal of basic needs, confinement and threats often are used to impose consent.

Is trafficking a crime?

Yes. According to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, trafficking is a crime in international law. As a supplement to this convention, the Palermo Protocol calls for action against human trafficking. The US has ratified these treaties and has U.S. legislation that also makes trafficking illegal.

What is the scale of this problem worldwide?

The illegal, organized and clandestine nature of trafficking makes it impossible to accurately pinpoint the full extent of the trafficking industry. However, the UN estimates that four million people every year are trafficked. Every year, close to 500,000 women are trafficked to Western Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 50,000 women are trafficked to the U.S. every year. This problem also exists in India where almost 200,000 Nepalese women are trafficked into brothels. Trafficking occurs in many other parts of the world. It also occurs inside countries, which makes the scale of the problem almost impossible to quantify.

Is this a U.S. problem?

The United States is a destination and transit country for trafficked women. The U.S. government estimates that the U.S. government now estimates that 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually. Without any proper action, these figures will only continue to grow.

Based on material from Amnesty International Canada (2005).

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