SO WHAT DO THOSE TRAFFICKERS LOOK LIKE?! I turned on my T.V. to see a report of someone I knew well…
Okay, so I’m new to the family of STOP THE TRAFFIK, and armed with many unanswered questions in my head. I’m on a quest to try to discover some valid answers to those questions…what happens when a victim of human trafficking is rescued? What can we really do to make a difference? What’s my role in all of this? Who are the traffickers?
It’s this last question which has really been bouncing around in my mind. At STOP THE TRAFFIK our goals are to PREVENT the sale of people, PROTECT the trafficked and PROSECUTE the traffickers.
So, how do we PROSECUTE those traffickers?? To prosecute, someone needs to be found guilty. To be found guilty, someone needs to be caught.
We hear stories of members of trafficking gangs being prosecuted, which is encouraging in some respects – occasionally traffickers are caught and punished. Wouldn’t it be better if it wasn’t happening in the first place? Statistics of global convictions and prosecutions for human trafficking show that 1 person is convicted for every 800 persons trafficked. It’s known to law enforcement across the world that it is hard (understatement!) to prosecute traffickers. Often there is not enough evidence…due to the nature of the issue we’re talking about, it’s very difficult to get a victim to talk. But why? It may be because the victim is still living in fear of their trafficker. Perhaps their friends and family don’t know what’s been happening, and they’re not prepared to stand up in court. Or is it they still have a sense of loyalty towards their trafficker?
So who are they?? A friend from school, a colleague at work, that man in a suit who gets your train every week? Could you point out a trafficker in the street? The answer to this is probably not. The point is that it could be anybody. There’s no tick-list description we can work our way down, there’s no set criteria to base our judgement on. It could be anyone. So, does this mean there’s no hope? No. If we know the signs, then we can spot suspicious activity, regardless of what someone looks like.
But what do we know to be true?
Fact: Often the trafficker is familiar with the victim. They could be a family friend, neighbour, relative or boyfriend.
Fact: Human Traffickers can be both men and women, with men comprising of about 55% and women comprising of about 45% of the recruiters.
In a previous job I worked alongside a colleague for a couple of years. One day I turned on my T.V. to see a report of how he had been discovered as part of a local trafficking ring, and was due to be prosecuted. How shocked was I. How did I not know? How could this be going on without everyone seeing? It’s a hidden business, but I can’t help but feel that if I was more equipped with knowing the signs then I may have been able to cry STOP! sooner.
What’s the difference between a strapping male from the U.K luring girls into sexual exploitation by whispering “I love you”, and Mr. Gangster from Mexico beating and forcing children to work against their will? Not a lot, other than what they look like. The second example may fit better with our perception of what human trafficking is, but we need to break out of this tunnel vision; it’s happening in all sorts of ways, involving all sorts of recruiters.
Together we want our communities to be places where there’s no room for trafficking at all. So the lesson here is about spreading the word of what signs and suspicious activity to look out for, seeing as we can’t rely on a stereotypical physical profile. That’s what we aim to do at STOP THE TRAFFIK. You can play a part by making your communities aware using our GLOBAL TRAVEL ALERT! campaign. Take a look at this door hanger, which lists risk factors and what to do if you want to report any suspicious activity. Why not see if you can get one of these on every door of every hotel room in your area??
We want to live in a world where trafficking ceases to exist. Until such a time, we need to continue to SPOT the signs and ACT accordingly.
It’s my responsibility. It’s your responsibility. Know the signs.