Human Trafficking – The Modern Slavery

Slavery may seem to be a long forgotten term, with no real relevance in this century. Unfortunately this is far from the truth, human trafficking is the phrase now used to describe modern slavery and it is more common than many of us may believe.

Human Trafficking; Prostitution at Malecon, Havana, Cuba on Mallory on Travel adventure, photography

Prostitution at Malecon, Havana, Cuba

Some will have seen films like Taken in which Liam Neeson plays an aging Jason Bourne like character who rescues his daughter who has been abducted to be sold as a sex slave. Human trafficking is also regularly portrayed on television in programmes such as ’Law and Order – Special Victims Unit’.

“United Kingdom is  not entirely innocent”

Human trafficking is not merely fictional however and it is not only about the sex trade. Whilst young women are the most common victims, abducted, tricked, threatened, often drugged and held in captivity there are other reasons for modern slavery.

It is not only third world or Eastern European countries which are involved either. These are often made the stereotypical scapegoats but the western democracies such as the United States or United Kingdom are not entirely innocent.

There are all too many cases of people from poor and often oppressive nations being lured with promises of a new life and improved standard of living to a life of servitude in the west. These unfortunate people have often lived in fear of their lives, in extremely dangerous regions only to be preyed upon by those with the means to exploit them.

“sold as commodities”

Many are refugees attempting to escape horrendous conditions in their own countries, often having to loan extortionate sums of money well beyond their means to repay. Known as ‘bonded labour’ they are then held captive and forced to work in ‘sweat’ shops producing goods in awful conditions for little or no pay, meaning they will never pay off their ‘debt’.

Human trafficking; Child porter in a stone quarry, Nepal on Mallory on Travel adventure, photography

Child porter in a stone quarry, Nepal

Some are sold as commodities, personal slaves to look after the households of the wealthy without integrity or compassion. The conditions they are forced to live under are little better than those they left behind, regular beatings, sexual abuse, mental cruelty or worse. Imagine having to sleep in a room that is not any larger than a wardrobe, again more common than might be imagined.

Forced labour is not restricted to women however, in fact men are equally at risk for all manner of unskilled labour. This can include agricultural work, household servitude, janitorial, general labour or even begging.

It is the sex trade however that gets the greatest amount of exposure; it is probably the most sickening form of modern day slavery. Young boys and girls often still in their teens are being forced into a trade which displays humankind at its absolute worst on a daily basis.

The vulnerable of society are often targeted, the homeless, refugees, drug addicts, runaway teenagers and as ‘Taken’ portrayed even tourists. The mere fact they are away from their home territory can make them powerless to human traffickers. Prostitution, escorting, exotic dancing and the pornographic industry are all possible forms of exploitation.

” 3 million people are being trafficked into 137 countries”

Large crime syndicates are involved it is estimated to be the second largest money earner for these organisations after drug trafficking. It is claimed that more than 3 million people are being trafficked into 137 countries, make no mistake it is a huge multi-billion dollar industry.

Human Trafficking; Woman used in prostitution in Torino on Mallory on Travel adventure, photography

Woman used in prostitution in Western Europe

It is of course also being strongly resisted by every law enforcement agency. However as some of the major western powers do not have a clear conscience with over 300 children being trafficked into the United Kingdom annually alone it is a battle which at present is being lost.

Whilst there is little many of us can do to assist directly, there are a few organisations which aim to raise public awareness. The Polaris Project, campaigns for a world without slavery, committed to combatting it and provides assistance to victims. The UK based Poppy Project provides support and accommodation to any woman that has been trafficked into exploitation.

Whilst it is difficult to completely defend against becoming a victim, it is possible to guard against it. It is unfortunate that one of our modern day most relied upon forms of communication is also the human traffickers greatest tool; the internet.

Seasonal agricultural work, online dating sites, hospitality job offers, childcare/nannies, domestic service and student travel schemes even educational opportunities can potentially be used to lure the unwary.

Human Trafficking; Immigrant worker in the United States protesting for his rights on Mallory on Travel adventure, photography

Lest we forget!

These are often offered online so if considering replying to such an offer be sceptical, and really do some thorough research into the  ‘agency’ involved. Never give out any details until their credentials have been confirmed, ask for verifiable testimonials. Thoroughly check out the website, ensure it has some history and did not spring up overnight, if there isn’t one be especially wary.

Traffickers will often be prepared to pay expenses to enable a meet and will offer an unrealistically ‘rosy’ picture to entice a victim. Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!

“human traffickers greatest tool; the internet”

Be careful when abroad, traffickers will be looking out for easy targets. Being friendly and becoming immersed in a culture is fine, but also protect yourself by avoiding being alone with a new found ‘friend’. Avoid informing anybody of the location of your accommodation and certainly not until you are completely sure they do not pose any threat.

The intention of posting this is not to unnecessarily cause alarm, but to raise awareness and to remind there is a need for caution. Independent travellers are potential targets, fortunately the odds are still in our favour, most will remain safe and most are sensible enough not to take unnecessary risks.

A world without slavery would be of course be a much better place for us all. At present this is not the case, but with a little care it is possible to at least avoid becoming a statistic.

Further useful sites –

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The U.S. Department of State

BBC Quick Guide – UK Human Trafficking


Comments 17

  1. Justin

    A topic that drives me crazy! I can’t comprehend. 3 million people.

    I can’t get off the idea of this issue. I hope while traveling we will be able to expose some of this world to the rest of the world.

    “Trade” is also a movie worth watching on the subject.

    Thanks! Great, meaningful post!

    1. Post

      It is an extremely important issue Justin which really needs pulicising and making people aware of. being aware of the risks and hopefully taking some precautions will prevent anybody I know becoming a victim.

    2. Post

      It is an awful topic Justin, made much worse because it is a fact, a terrible truth that is happening all over the world on a daily basis.

    1. Post

      I totally agree Anabela and think it important that such issues are brought to the attention of readers, whilst they maybe aware already, keeping it in the public domain will hopefully increase awareness. Its a sad indictment of mankind that we can still treat each other in this sorry manner.

  2. Anthony @ Culture-ist Mag

    Nice post. Human trafficking is a horrible issue that many countries face and you’ve done a great job of bringing to light that even the “developed” countries have a hand in the atrocities associated with the trade.

    1. Post

      Thank you Anthony, it is that very point I really wanted to highlight, people think this kind of thing only happens in the poorer parts of the world, but unfortunately not!

  3. Mike Huckaby

    Thought provoking post. And it seems nowhere is immune. Here in AZ; vigilantes, border patrol, national guard can’t secure the border because the business of human trafficking is too lucrative. Human drug mules, girls for prostitution, ransoms and land extortion and unreportable rape for illegal crosser. Yeah, we need to protect our borders but a fence isn’t the answer.

    1. Post

      It is really interesting to hear about it from the perspective of somebody that is in the ‘thick’ of an region which is strongly affected by it and your thoughts about the border fences too.

    1. Post

      Very welcome Emme it is such an important subject, it will not be resolved quickly but hopefully one day it will truly be consigned to history.

    1. Post
  4. Marina K. Villatoro

    First of I can’t believe you posted this. It’s such a tough subject to even begin to wrap your mind around, and so controversial. I think about it all the time. Living in guatemala, it’s not in your face, but you know it exists. Especially when you cross borders and there are huge posters talking about this very problem.

    It’s soooooo sick, soooooo sad, and soooo difficult. What gets me even more, that sometimes the parents are the ones to sell their own kids into this slavery.

    Im a bit surprised to find out that the internet is now part of this, since most of the people who are trafficked (probably over 50%) are illiterate.

    The scariest thing of all, I highly doubt it will ever end. Like you said, it’s a MULTI BILLION $$$$ industry. It is only going to get worse.

  5. CRA Adventure Travel

    This is a pretty devastating read, but thanks for sharing and bringing it to the light of day. I can’t believe that this is still and will probably be for a while a global issue. Just a travesty. Exposure is a great way towards change. -Daniella

  6. Linda

    Biggest congratulations on posting this, Iain, and for retweeting it today (assuming it was no coincidence that it is International Women’s Day, although I do realize, and you point out, that people trafficking isn’t limited to women and children), as I, for one, had missed it the first time around. Athough I was aware of the issue, even having met two women who had been victims, in different ways, it was Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky” which really brought it home to me. Personal opinion is that every single person in the world should have to read it. The world will never seem the same again.

    There are so many levels and complcations within the issue, it’s difficult to separate one from another sometimes, and we should try not to generalize or stigmatize people. Not all people who are “trafficked” are sold into slavery, for instance. Some pay enormous sums, which they have spent years saving, for someone to transport them to (usually) “the West,” in order to find a better life.

    Some cross borders quite openly to work as slaves in the West, too frightened to reveal to authorities what is happening to them. It’s just beyond words that in this comfortable world we criss cross so freely this still happens.

    1. Post

      Thank you Linda I’m appreciate your support. I have done a seperate post for International Women’s Day and as I was writing it a couple of other suitable posts came to light.

      You introduce some very relevant points yourself and emphasise what a complicated issue it is. This post is only capable of scratching the surface but I did feel it was necessary to highlight some issues.

      I totally agree with your final point these people exploiting many of the victims of human trafficking also exploit their fear of being deported. It is an evil trade.

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