It’s a NZ $230 billion dollar a year business. It has the power to destroy a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. And it’s the fastest growing criminal industry on the planet.  
 
Slavery is among the most lucrative and destructive forms of human oppression in our world today.  And it happens everywhere, even here, in New Zealand. Just last week a Hawke’s Bay man was jailed on human trafficking charges.  The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that right now there are over 40 million victims of slavery across the globe. 

At Tearfund, we have a deep compassion for the oppressed and a yearning for justice. We believe the exploitation of poor and vulnerable people is a gross injustice that must be confronted. And it starts with knowing the facts. 

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One of our partners, LIFT works in this area training police/gathering data and intelligence and advocating for legal change.


The 30th of July is the UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Here are five surprising facts: 
 

1. The number of people trafficked is going up, but it’s complicated 

The number of victims detected has gone up, but that doesn’t mean that more trafficking is taking place. Rather, it could reflect that countries are more equipped and making better use of tools and procedures to identify trafficking victims.  
 
In 2009, only 26 countries had systems in place to track human trafficking. By 2018, that number rose to 65. While it is good news that more countries are proactively gathering and acting on this important data, it still means that roughly two-thirds of the world have not done the work to build the systems and legislate to tackle this destructive force.  
 

2. Victims are often misidentified as violators of the law 

If local law enforcement is not sufficiently trained to identify human trafficking, the crime can be easily overlooked. That’s because victims of human trafficking are often mistaken for violators of the law—particularly of migration, labour and prostitution laws—rather than victims of a crime.  
 

The psychological toll human trafficking has on its victims further complicates the matter. Victims are often too terrified to speak up out of fear of retaliation and lack of trust in authorities, which only helps to hide the problem and keep victims enslaved. One of our partners, LIFT works in this area training police/gathering data and intelligence and advocating for legal change. 

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Women and girls account for 99% of victims, but men and boys are also trafficked. 



3. Victims are trafficked for numerous reasons besides sexual exploitation 

Men and women alike are trafficked for many purposes, including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, involuntary domestic servitude, forced begging, illegal adoptions, organ removal, and child soldiers.  
 
Nearly 5 million people are trapped in forced commercial sex exploitation. That’s more than the current population of New Zealand. Women and girls account for 99% of victims, but men and boys are also trafficked.  
 

4. More people are being trafficked in conflict zones  

Conflict creates chaos and leaves States in disarray. It puts people in desperate situations where their basic needs are not met, compounding their vulnerability. All this gives traffickers fertile ground to carry out their heinous crimes. Armed groups even use the threat of human trafficking as a weapon of war to control civilians and force their cooperation. 
 
Traffickers target the most vulnerable people—including children—within conflict zones, as they try to flee, and in refugee camps and informal settlements. They traffic civilians for sexual slavery, forced labour, armed combat, and forced marriage. Refugees and displaced people are lured by false promises of jobs, marriage proposals, and opportunities for “a better life” somewhere else. 
 

5. Victims are often recruited domestically and through relationship.  

Human trafficking does not always involve moving victims across borders or seas. In fact, traffickers frequently recruit nationals of the same country. And if you can believe it, even within the same town or under the same roof.  
 
Victims—especially of sexual exploitation—often start by building a relationship with a predator masked as a “friend”. This “friend” builds trust by meeting the victim’s physical or emotional needs and appearing as a “nice person”.  
 
Another tactic used by traffickers mirrors that of a multi-level marketing scheme, encouraging young women into perceived “opportunities” and telling them to, “come along and bring a friend”. This psychological game of building misplaced trust eventually leads vulnerable individuals into dangerous situations they never imagined.  
 

What can you do? 

On this global Day Against the Trafficking of Persons, let’s remember those trapped by modern slavery. Let’s act on their behalf and continue to fight for their freedom.  
 
Learn more about Tearfund’s work to protect vulnerable people from trafficking and exploitation. Or consider making a gift of $30 to prevent human trafficking, prosecute perpetrators, and provide a better future for survivors. 

 


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