By ALLISON P. SMITH/Staff ReporterHuman trafficking can happen in any community where there are high profits and very low risks, and Texas is one of the largest areas of trafficking through the U.S., the speaker at Thursday’s Lifetime Learning lecture said here.
Human trafficking is a $9.2 billion industry where people can be sold multiple times for multiple purposes and prosecution is difficult due to the nature of the crime, said Kazuko Suzuki, assistant professor at Texas A&M.
“Traffickers don’t stay in one place, they move around to avoid the police,” Suzuki said. “Many of the victims die in the brothels and those who do escape are too scared to go to police.”
The most common form of human trafficking is the sex trade, but there are other forms of exploitation: labor, bride trafficking, domestic services and illegal adoption.The sex trade accounts for 46 percent of the human trafficking in the U.S. with domestic servitude coming in second at 12 percent.
“We don’t pay much attention to the nannies, maids or other forced labor workers,” Suzuki said. “We think they come here to work as maids but they might be trafficked people.”
The U.S. is one of the largest destinations of forced labor trafficking where not much thought is given to factory or agriculture workers being trafficked.
“In the U.S. the sex workers are always considered trafficked because the prevailing thought is no one would willingly submit to such an activity,” Suzuki said. “But we really have to look at those domestic services as well because they might be victims as well.”
There are more than 4 million people trafficked a year throughout the world, according to the U.N. report, but it is difficult to pin down an actual number because the definition of trafficking changes over the years, Suzuki said.
“Trafficking and smuggling can over lap and it is difficult to differentiate between the two,” she said. “But the U.N. adopted a resolution against human trafficking and President Clinton signed the Victim of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000 which increased the prison time to 40 years.”
The new trafficking protocol also introduced a universal definition to human trafficking to make prosecution easier. According to the new definition trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbor or receiving of a person by means of threats, force, abduction, drugs, deception, abuse of power or position of vulnerability to achieve the control of a person for the purpose of exploitation.
Human trafficking is the third largest underworld trade industry after drugs and weapon smuggling, and is looked at as a form of modern day slavery, Suzuki said.
“There is really little risk associated with human trafficking and the average prison time has been two to six years,” Suzuki said. “A lot of brokers get off with no jail time and make their way back to countries of trafficking origin to begin again.”
These brokers might deceive people with the promise of legitimate jobs in another country, people might be sold to brokers by family members or acquaintances, or the broker will kidnap people and put them into trades against their will, Suzuki said.
There are many factors contributing to human trafficking, including poverty or economic depression, lack of education and social inequality for women and children and political turmoil.
“Sex trafficking is correlated with the increasing marginalization of women especially where they are vulnerable,” Suzuki said. “We also need to look at the demand for the bodies of women and children and cheap labor in order to fight human trafficking.”
Demand seems to be higher in densely populated urban areas, military bases or where prostitution is flourishing or tolerated, she said.
Human trafficking can be fought by educating women and more economical development in origin areas like South Asia, China and Russia and awareness in destination countries like the U.S. Western Europe and the Middle East, Suzuki said.
The U.S. has special visas for victims of human trafficking where there will be major retribution if the victim returns to the origin country, and victims are also eligible for legal, medical and psychological services.
“They underwent a lot of trauma, and we as a community need to do everything we can to help rehabilitate them back into society,” she said.