Following the successful release of the action-drama Sound of Freedom, many Americans have been shocked to learn from the film that human trafficking and slavery are present and much worse in the 21st century today than decades ago.
According to a recent estimate by the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are 25 million victims (about the population of Texas) of human trafficking internationally, with women and children making up the largest proportion of victims. According to the ILO, around 10 million more people were trafficked compared to 2016 global estimates.
Nonprofit organizations that handle national human trafficking hotlines, like Polaris, say that human traffickers can conceal their activities via the private sector by using financial institutions to deposit and launder money via planes, buses, and taxi services to transport their victims. Traffickers also book hotel rooms to house their victims and use different social media platforms to recruit and promote their victims.
Polaris notes that traffickers choose their hotel locations based on convenience, buyer comfort, price, hotel policies, and procedures.
According to the US State Department’s website, human traffickers in America force victims to engage in commercial sex and work in legal and illicit industries, including hospitality, traveling sales crews, agriculture, janitorial services, construction, landscaping, restaurants, factories, care for persons with disabilities, salon services, massage parlors, retail services, fairs, and carnivals.
Traffickers also peddle their victims via drug smuggling and distribution, religious institutions, childcare, and domestic work.
With the ongoing illegal immigration crisis at the US-Southern border with Mexico, border patrol officials and lawmakers note that the drug cartel has been able to engage in human trafficking because of the lack of border security. Officials also note that US employers have hired undocumented workers in farms and other businesses, relying on trafficking organizations to provide them with transportation to work sites.
In the Middle East, many Muslim countries have openly engaged in slavery and human trafficking, despite facing condemnations by human rights groups and the United Nations.
According to a 2021 report by the US State Department, the Islamic Republic has facilitated commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of adults and children throughout the country via Iran’s police, IRGC (Revolutionary Guards), Basij, religious clerics, and parents of victims are allegedly involved in or deliberately ignore sex trafficking crimes.
During the construction of the Khalifa Stadium in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International released a report outlining how migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal were exploited, living in unsafe accommodations, not receiving salaries, and facing serious injuries on the job site.
Workers who complained about their conditions were intimidated and threatened by their employers. Those who refused to work because of the terrible conditions faced threats, had their pay deducted or were given to the police for deportation without receiving payment.
Even after a trafficked person is rescued, experts note that they lack self-confidence and have limited access to resources, ending back in situations of exploitation if they cannot turn to strong support systems.
In the West, banks from Austria, Canada, the UK, and the US have offered survivors of human trafficking financial service products, providing survivors with a lifeline even if their captors have stolen their financial identity or ruined their credit.
In Congress, lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to crack down on child trafficking in the US by securing the southern border and helping state and local law enforcement with anti-human trafficking operations.
In Hollywood, actors like Ashton Kutcher and others have raised the issue of child trafficking, creating organizations like Thorn: Digitial Defenders of Children, an organization meant to combat human trafficking and the conditions that promote it.