As we bask in the glorious weather this summer, many of us planning holidays, arranging flights and booking hotels, imagine a different type of trip. Your accommodation is cramped and dirty; there’s barely any food and protests you make are met with threats to your life. To make matters worse you might not speak the local language, don’t even know where you are or have anyone you can go to for help. You’re completely powerless.
According to a report by the United Nations this is the grim situation that around 45.8 million people are in right now, and with 71% of trafficking affecting women and girls, it is very much a female issue.
The UN’s Refugee Agency reports that there are currently more displaced people globally than ever before, even surpassing the peak following the second World War. As conflicts in Syria and Yemen continue long-term and mass evacuations take place as in Rohingya, over 1% of the world’s population is now either an asylum seeker, internally displaced, or a refugee. The increased vulnerability and desperation provides a ripe hunting ground for human traffickers and is the reason the UN has designated today, the 30th of July, as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Human Trafficking is a serious violation of human rights whereby the victim is coerced into an exploitative situation, with no way out. It does not have to involve transportation or change in geographic location, but in all cases victims are trapped, whether it is through coercion, deception or physical force. Even in the UK modern slavery is worryingly prevalent according to the National Crime Agency, with the current Prime Minister, Theresa May, calling it ‘the greatest human rights issue of our time’.
The nature of trafficking means that it can take many forms and victims can be from any background. This variation makes tackling it a complex and multifaceted issue. Action has to be taken at government level in every country and through law-making and prosecutions, but increasingly the importance of creative action at community level is being recognised. Here are some of the amazing initiatives taken against trafficking.
Colombian Soap Opera La Promesa
In 2011 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) worked in collaboration with the Blue Heart Campaign against People Trafficking to produce a prime-time Colombian soap opera called ‘La Promesa’ The Promise. The show dealt with three different women seeking a better future but falling prey to traffickers. The series has aired across South America and is a very natural way of educating the population about what trafficking looks like in real life so that they can recognise it in their communities.
Technological Solutions through Thorn
Founded by actors Demi Moore and Aston Kutcher, Thorn has taken an innovative approach to tackling people trafficking. Recognising that modern technology has created an audience for child exploitation which drives trafficking, Thorn focuses on building technological solutions. Thorn’s products are used to share information, identify victims and disrupt platforms that abusers use.
Survivors Leading the Way
Nadia Murad, a survivor of human trafficking by Islamic State, was the first person to ever brief the United Nations Security Council on human trafficking. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism and has published a book dealing with her captivity and drawing greater attention to the issue. Another survivor, Maizidah Salas from Indonesia, created an NGO to work among vulnerable migrant communities. Called the Village of Migrant Workers, the organisation offers skills training and support to empower, the organisation and also raises awareness of human trafficking.
#HonourHer with Model Mariah Idrissi
Earlier this year Islamic Relief, the UK’s largest islamic-inspired charity, launched the ‘Honour Her’ campaign. Support by H&M model and public speaker Mariah Idrissi, the campaign emphasises trafficking issues such as domestic servitude, forced marriage and gender-based violence, calling on governments around the world to protect and empower women. Idrissi says “by bringing this to global attention, we are making a powerful statement about our collective power as women and as Muslims’.
Amazing progress has been made to tackle human trafficking but more work still needs to be done. To get more information and find out how we can help end this terrifying breach of human rights for good, visit the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons page.