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What is Trafficking?

"The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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.” - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Human Trafficking = Modern Day Slavery

The U.S. State Department defines human trafficking as persons subject to (1) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such acts is under age 18 or (2) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.  Trafficking occurs for a number of purposes, including commercial sex (prostitution, stripping, pornography and live-sex shows) and labor exploitation (domestic servitude, sweatshop factories, or migrant agricultural work).  Human trafficking is not the same as people smuggling. People smuggling means that someone is attempting, for a fee, to bring people illegally into another country. Although this is dangerous, it does not (necessarily) lead to slavery. Human trafficking always leads to conditions of slavery.

US State Department figures:
  • There are an estimated 27 million people in some form of modern slavery
  • Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year; around 80% are women and girls, and up to half are minors
  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the US from overseas and enslaved every year.  This does not include the many children, women and men trafficked within the country such as the estimated 100,000 American children in prostitution. This does not include the many children, women and men of US nationality who are also trafficked within the country.
  • About the same number are murdered in the US every year; but the national success rate for solving murders is about 70% (11,000); in comparison, in 2006, only 111 were charged and only 98 were convicted, which is less than 1% of total trafficking cases in the US.

In Western Africa, one of the problems with trafficking centers around farming of cocoa beans used by Western companies to make chocolate. 43% of the chocolate consumed in the world is made from cocoa beans harvested in the Ivory Coast.  There are an estimated 12,000 trafficked children working on farms in that country.[1] In June 2009 Interpol rescued 54 children aged 11 to 16 working as slaves on cocoa and palm plantations in the Ivory Coast. [2] Through Oasis campaigns from Oasis and other NGOs, consumers have influenced corporations such as Hershey, Mars and Nestle to make commitments at least to work on providing chocolate that is guaranteed to be free of child and slave labor.  We still have a long way to go, but progress is being made!

Further information:

[1] International Labour Organization, "International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour Safety and Health Fact Sheet Hazardous Child Labour in Agriculture Cocoa", ILO Geneva, March 2004

[2] Interpol News Release August 3, 2009  -  (Searched December 14, 2009)