There are many factors that lead to human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery that exists in the 21st century. Today, an estimated 24.9 million people worldwide are still forced into a world of captivity. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), factors that lead to human trafficking consist of three core elements: action, means and purpose. Action refers to how victims are recruited and transported. The means of trafficking includes deception, coercion and the use of or threat of force. The purpose of trafficking is always exploitation, including sexual services and forced labor.
Human trafficking is a global problem. Any nation in the world can be a country of origin, transit or destination for trafficked individuals. However, most trafficking occurs in developing countries where potential victims are vulnerable due to poverty or conflict. The problem is as widespread as it is complex and the factors that lead to human trafficking differ by country.
Factors That Lead to Vulnerability
Human trafficking is a complex issue, dependent on the social, economic and cultural spheres in origin, transit and destination countries. However, there is one commonality in every case of trafficking—traffickers seek to exploit their potential victim’s desire to move toward better opportunities. They use coercive measures to gain control and cooperation from the victim.
Victims of human trafficking often come from dangerous situations in their origin country and are falsely promised outcomes that will improve their quality of life. These factors of human trafficking are called push and pull factors. They either push people out of their origin or pull them toward their destination.
Push factors that provoke travel are often poverty, the lack of social or economic opportunity and human rights infringements. Other factors like political instability, internal armed conflict and natural disaster are also common. War creates major displacements of people, leaving women and children vulnerable to trafficking.
The pull factor is the need for slave labor, which is obtained by exploiting those in more vulnerable positions. When the origin country is devastated by war and destination countries are free of similar conflict, potential victims will be pulled toward stability. Those that desire to improve their quality of life by leaving their home countries can be deceived when trafficking offenders coerce and capture them. In the presence of conflict, the remaining vulnerable population can be exploited by offenders that deceivingly offer a better life.
Combating Root Causes
The UNODC operates on an international level and provides legislative assistance to address the root causes of human trafficking. This includes the review of domestic legislation concerning the protection of victims and the training of criminal justice practitioners to effectively prosecute offenders. Additionally, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2000. This legal instrument aims to combat and prevent trafficking, protect victims and seek international cooperation to meet these goals.
There are many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that address issues on a local level. Challenging Heights is an NGO based in Ghana that focuses on fighting child trafficking to Lake Volta, where an estimated 21,000 children are forced to work in the fishing industry. The organization regularly conducts rescue missions for trafficked children in the region. Recovered children are brought to Hovde House, a transitional shelter. At that point, the rehabilitation process begins, which includes education as well as medical, psychological and emotional care. Once children are ready to reintegrate into their communities, Challenging Heights continues to monitor their progress and provides services like health care.
NGOs like Challenging Heights that address regional needs distill international legal instruments like the UNODC into local efforts. By addressing the root causes of trafficking like poverty, these organizations hope to stop the cycle of and factors that lead to human trafficking.
– Andrew Yang