Screen shot from the NewsHour report on human trafficking in the Philippines.
After a report aired on the NewsHour about what’s being done to counter human trafficking in the Philippines, we invited you the viewers to send us your questions about the problem in the United States and abroad.
Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro and Beth Klein, a Colorado lawyer who helps victims of human trafficking, answered your questions (edited for clarity):
Twitter user Civilized Civilized asked a question that’s probably on a lot of people’s minds:
— Civilized Civilized (@CCivilized) October 17, 2012
Fred de Sam Lazaro: For the very same reason that drug mafias still exist, despite massive law enforcement efforts. Human trafficking is a highly sophisticated, organized crime and it is very lucrative. Seasoned traffickers dangle the only shred of hope that many people, living in desperate poverty, will cling to, even if it is a false hope. The U.S. Department of State, marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 2012 in its latest Trafficking in Persons, or TIP, report, notes that 27 million people across the world, including the United States, are victims of human trafficking. (You can view the report here.)
Beth Klein: The answer is simple — because greed has not been eradicated, and the destruction of economies in war and the displacement of people is at a high level. In the United States, sex slavery exists because we have ignored how prostitution works, and most people have no idea that the average age of entry into prostitution is between 12 and 14.
Twitter user El Melech Voed noted that the way to halt trafficking is to stop “buying the products”: How much attention is given to halting trafficking at the source, not just helping the victims?
— El Melech Voed (@ELMelechVoed) October 21, 2012
Fred de Sam Lazaro: I think most experts agree that a three-pronged approach is needed. The State Department calls it 3P: prevention, prosecution and protection, all closely linked. Take people apprehended in sting or rescue operations as we saw in our story from Manila. Trafficked people often do not understand that what happened to them is a crime. They themselves are in crisis at various levels. They are often arrested along with their traffickers on prostitution or illegal immigration charges. Often, through corruption the latter will spend less time in jail.
It takes laws that view trafficked people as victims and trained law enforcement officers who allow those victims time and resources to recover from their trauma, and assure them of protection from their traffickers. Only then can crucial evidence be gathered and used against the traffickers. Even then the judicial process can be complex and inadequate.
On the forced labor front, there is a growing awareness and sensitivity in the corporate world, for which a lot of credit goes to non-government sector. NGOs have drawn attention to the problem of involuntary servitude in the supply chains that convey all manner of material goods to the kitchens and closets of the rich world. Several large corporations, particularly in the image-sensitive garment sector, have pledged to address the issue in their supply chain.
Beth Klein: I have been on the cutting edge of demand-side legislation and awareness in the United States. My state, Colorado, was the first to enact statewide demand-side policies, and the fine for solicitation is up to $5,000. This money goes to a state fund, and grants to law enforcement and rescue operations can be made from that fund. Texas followed our lead.
The awareness that addressing and charging the buyers with crimes that carry penalties serious enough is growing. The concept that fines from buyers can and should be used to help police and victims is also growing.
Another viewer asked, “What should I do if I suspect my neighbor is trafficking in baby boys?”
Fred de Sam Lazaro: Here’s what the FBI suggests: “You can report trafficking crimes and get help by calling the Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line at 1-888-428-7581 (voice and TTY). New laws provide options for trafficking victims regardless of immigration status. Operators have access to interpreters and can talk with callers in their own language. The service is offered on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. After hours, information is available on tape in English, Spanish, Russian and Mandarin.”
Another option is the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at: 888-373-7888 or the Polaris Project, an international organization fighting human trafficking. Another resource I came across from just cursory checks is Trucking Against Human Trafficking, which was featured in this recent NPR report.
Beth Klein: This type of statement cannot be ignored. The FBI Innocence Lost Project should be contacted wherever you are.
What question(s) do you get asked the most about human trafficking?
Fred de Sam Lazaro: Many people are concerned because they associate human trafficking with prostitution and the victimization of young people in general, carpet weaving, for example. And they have a sense that corporate social responsibility programs are somehow dealing with the problem. Many people are surprised at the sheer number of adults who are enslaved in various aspects of the modern global economy.
Beth Klein: The question that I get asked the most is “what can I do?” I like to counsel people one-on-one to help them find the best path for them. There are not enough pages to describe all of the organizations with whom to work or all of the things you can do.
View more of our World coverage.