"Europeans believe that slavery was abolished centuries ago. But look around - slaves are in our midst. We must do more to reduce demand for slave-made products and exploitation," said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.
(Photo by Dean Ayres)
A brand new report delivered by the United Nations shows that human trafficking is one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in Europe. Criminal groups in the old continent are making around €2.5 billion per year through sexual exploitation and forced labour.
Annual flow of new victims: About 70,000 victims (based on two-year turnover)
Volume of market (stock): About 140,000 victims
Value of market (stock): US$3 billion per year
Groups involved: Western European, Balkan, Eastern European,
North African, Turkish, Nigerian and Chinese groups
Residence of traffickers: Origin and destination countries
In Europe over half of the victims come from the Balkans (32%) and the former Soviet Union (19%), with 13% originating in South America.
Over 140,000 victims are trapped in this vicious cycle of abuse, with no clear sign of the overall number of victims decreasing.
The vast majority of victims – generally duped, misled or forced into the service – are young women who are drugged, imprisoned, have debt imposed on them, have their passport confiscated, amongst other pressure tools.
Violence is frequently used to control victims. Russian organized criminal gangs engaged in human trafficking are reported to adopt particularly harsh methods of control. Often, before being presented to clients, women are raped by the traffickers themselves (!).
Prosecutions for this recurrent breach of human rights in Western Europe still remain relatively low.
In 2006, the entire Western Hemisphere only recorded some 150 convictions for human trafficking, which is about the same number as Germany alone. It is difficult to say to what extent this is indicative of a greater problem or whether it is simply a matter of greater vigilance.
Most of these human traffickings are characterized by recruitment conducted by victims’ acquaintances. According to the UN report, based on studies conducted in the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania, the majority of victims are recruited through friends or relatives. More, studies from Ukraine indicate that 11% of victims were trafficked with the active cooperation of their husbands.
As a counterstrategy, a major campaign was created to raise awareness on this issue amongst decision-makers and the general public. It is called the Blue Heart Campaign.
And Spain has come to be the first country in Europe to join the Blue Heart Campaign. Truly, a feather in its cap!
(Featured image by Dean Ayres)